Ministry of best reforms guarding Saakashvili’s regime05.05.2009 | 15:34
According to public-opinion polls in №1 reformer country (i.e. Georgia) the police have been reformed best of all. This is logical: the authorities will not be able to stand against opposition without support of power structures.
On May 6, the day of Commemoration of St. George after the church service the Georgian opposition is planning to hold a picket near the Interior Ministry as stated by For United Georgia Secretary General Eka Beselia at the open-ended demonstration near the parliament. The picket outside the Interior Ministry and tomorrow's block of roads must provoke the police which will help protesters achieve their goal - Saakahsvili's resignation - sooner.
Can the confrontation with the police be considered a "peaceful method" of protest? Maybe yes, up to the moment when a protester blocks the way to a law-enforcement officer which will be qualified as disorderly conduct. Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and his subordinates have been patient for almost a month except for minor episodes with Why? protest action dispersion - without shooting and tear gas that time.
After November 2007 the police have learned to keep "neutral". Taking into account that the authorities managed to exterminate corruption among police patrols and traffic policemen with rough if not ruthless measures, it is clear why Georgians consider the Interior Ministry reforms the most efficient ones over the recent years. Most respondents on Kommersant radio site (almost 45%) believe no reform of the government has had effect. The Ministry of Health Care and Social Protection has the lowest index. Only 0,3% readers believe there have been changes for the better. The judicial reform was positively evaluated by 0,7% respondents only. The attitude of Georgians to reforms of Defense and Education Ministries is a bit better, as well as to changes in economy. The developments in the Interior Ministry are beyond competition: 37% respondents confirmed that.
As early as in 2004 Georgia declared war with "pot-bellied policemen" - the nickname given to patrol officers and traffic police fattening on bribes by then Interior Minister Georgy Baramidze. Almost all State Traffic Inspection employees were dismissed and the authority dissolved. For preservation of order on roads and in town a unique patrol service by the American model was created. Physically fit and well-educated young men were employed there (speaking a foreign language is a must to work in the patrol service). Selection was contest-based. Newcomers are equipped with newest cars, radio sets, modern special means. They are trained to preserve order and rescue people in emergencies. Patrol officers can even deliver a child. They are also supposed to provide technical assistance to drivers. Due to high salaries (for Georgia) and a fear to lose a prestigious job bribery on Georgian roads was exterminated.
It was impossible to dismiss everyone in the criminal police: professional investigators with a solid track record are indispensible. That is why even now and then people learn about cases of forced evidence, beating and bribes. But the Georgian investigators stopped patronizing criminal structures: the authorities started fighting against "mafia bosses" and business people "with a notorious past" especially against those who were not happy about Mikheil Saakashvili's regime.
The police reform was carried out with the OSCE's assistance. It helped to implement STAP program in order to improve the level of preparation of policemen and reinforce the system of staff management, as well as "Police Assistance" program, Civil.ge reported. The USA were actively supporting Georgia in reforming its police system. The US government appropriated huge amounts for that and the American instructors gave classes to the Interior Ministry staff.
The ranks of Prosecutor's Office, advocates, judicial instances, penitentiaries, and customs underwent "cleaning" too. It was ambiguously received by the people as many groundlessly lost jobs and even freedom as victims of the principle: better to condemn an innocent man than to acquit a guilty one. "Everyone goes to jail. And these are people I know. And those whom I don't know must be rotting, poor fellows". - an Internet-forum visitor was sharing his impressions on Georgia. "On the day of my stay in a customs office in Georgia 50 people were arrested: 10 customs officers and 3 acquaintances.
Everyone who was in the customs office then was arrested! They were made to testify against customs officers for bribery! Another friend of mine (he is a diplomat) said his sister's husband had been detained. He had worked in a customs office. The evidence was framed up and he went to jail for 2 years. It's a real nightmare, - the apolitical Georgian continues. - The only thing is that the policemen do not take bribes during raids. You give - they don't take!!! Out of fear, I guess".
Extermination of corruption in Georgia's law-enforcement authorities was a success. It became unreal to bribe a policeman. Though the authorities and loyal power structures intensified pressure on civil society. In order to suppress nonconformity framed-up videos and cases are in use.