Sunday, May 9, 2021

Will the Rioni Valley protest find another place and form after Namakhvani

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Today, part of the citizens will spend the night in cars near the “Enka” base, part will still guard the only surviving tent in the valley near Gumathes.

Restrictions on movement continue in the valley. Law enforcers warn protesters that they may use force against them. Protesters sometimes try to open the road, sometimes to close the bypass roads. The government is still not taking steps to defuse the situation. The director of the company Enka invites the prominent leader of the protest, Varlam Goletiani, in a public debate. Activists say they have questions with the government and not with the director of a private company. The Minister of Economy, Natia Turnava, calls the restriction of the right to move and protest in the Rioni Gorge an “engagement”, while the defenders of the Rioni Gorge say that the dialogue with Turnava is exhausted and at this stage they want to meet with the Prime Minister.

Statements by activists, government and company representatives about dialogue, discussions and the future of the gorge do not create the necessary environment to emerge from the crisis – the government says there will be no dialogue amid ultimatums, the company is not going to discuss the terms of the agreement amid tents. The protest may move to Tbilisi and expand.

At this stage, the citizens united around Namakhvani HPP do not want to leave the Rioni Valley – they believe that by being there they will physically stop the construction of the HPP and from there better show the vicious nature of the government.

The problem of communication, the illegally blocked roads, the large number of law enforcers and citizens in search of a solution in the open air, in the rain with police cordons are the shots that people see when they watch the protest of the Rioni Valley guards.

‘It is our duty to make the public see that it is forbidden for peaceful people who want to move. They do not even make an explanation for those who stand in these difficult climatic conditions [აქციაზე], Why not be allowed to move. Went to complete absurdity. These rallies will move to Tbilisi and it will be more difficult for everyone – we will not move, the organizers will move the rallies themselves. “Their illegal actions will lead to this.” Varlam Goletiani told the citizens gathered at Gumathes today when he called on them to go to the Enka base of the company and block the bypass roads through which the law enforcers and the company vehicles move.

Will the protest extend beyond the Rioni Valley?

RFE / RL asked Mirza Nozadze, one of the active participants in the Namakhvani HPP protest, whether the protest movement that was forcibly relocated from Namakhvani to Gumati would change its location and whether it would become more large-scale, even in cooperation with other activists. He says that according to the dynamics of the relationship between the residents of the gorge and the government, it is no longer possible for the protest to change place and move to Tbilisi, for example, although he emphasizes that the guards of the Rioni gorge do not want to do that.

“We consider the responsibility that follows to move this rally to Tbilisi. In Tbilisi, this action will definitely go beyond the Namakhvani protest and those specific demands. We do not want to aggravate the already difficult political crisis and we do not want to aggravate all this true, real, untrue civic circle because the government is acting recklessly. We do not want to do that, we will continue this process as much as possible “- Says Mirza Nozadze and explains that they distance themselves from political parties and calls, party symbols, but they do not close the door for anyone and everyone, regardless of political taste, can become an accomplice of the protest.

Who can I have a dialogue with?

“Activists believe that there is no space for conversation, they are setting conditions. “As I understand it, they do not want to talk to people of lower rank than a member of the government, and finally the Prime Minister was mentioned.” Said the Minister of Economy Natia Turnava today, speaking at the protest in the Rioni Valley. He has failed experience of communicating with activists. When he arrived in the valley, he was told that there were special forces twice before he arrived there. He himself left the meeting, where the terms of the contract were to be discussed, without discussion for a few minutes.

“It seems that from our side that format was understood as a business meeting, while from the other side there were other expectations in this regard. “But if the activists sincerely want to get answers from the ministers, from our specialists, our door is open for them.” Says the Minister of Economy, but the protesters themselves do not want to talk to him. Their demand is the resignation of Natia Turnava and a meeting with the Prime Minister.

“We do not see a space to talk to Turnava. We will not have a dialogue with Turnava “- Varlam Goletiani told Radio Liberty. He was provoked in a public dialogue today by Merab Lominadze, the director of Enka.

“I call on Varlam and his friends to meet, to sit down, you want, with cameras, you want, without cameras. It does not mean stopping the protest, but it is necessary to start a dialogue, it is necessary to listen to the parties and say directly, I have questions with Varlam, if he does not have me, I have questions with him… ” – This message was sent by the director of Namakhvani HPP construction company. “Varlam and his friends” believe that the respondents to their questions are not private companies, but public officials who, in their opinion, signed a contract with a private company that was detrimental to the interests of the country and failed to communicate successfully with the local population.

“If these are questions about the environment, seismology, the social package, then I’m telling you directly that these are questions with us and not with the state, but if their agenda is to bring a political tinge to these processes, then we can do nothing. This explains why we should not let Varlam and his entourage go and go through all the technical details. ” Says Merab Lominadze.

“We do not ask questions to Enka. Has the director of Enka been appointed director of Enka or a representative of the state? ” – reads Mirza Nozadze, a participant of the protest.

“Let us all open it and sit only in Lominadze’s dialogue, it would not give anything. We have questions about the documents, therefore, the addressees of the questions are the people who sign these documents, make the decision and are responsible “- Says Varlam Goletiani.

No one from the Prime Minister’s Office, with whom they wish to meet, contacted the protesters. The protesters have the most intense communication with the law enforcers – the head of the regional police warns the residents of Rioni gorge in front of the cameras the next day that if the law enforcers do not obey, the police will use proportional force against them.

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