Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 2007-06-21 17:37:40
Bezhan Gunava, an opposition lawmaker from the Conservative Party, was accused of inciting ethnic hatred after his remarks about Meskhetians on June 21.
“These people [referring to Meskhetians] were killing babies in their cradles… These people used to say while drinking water, if only we were drinking the blood of Georgians now. And you say today that these people are Georgians?” Gunava asked lawmakers from the ruling majority in Parliament on June 21.
The Committee for Legal Issues had been discussing a draft law envisaging launching procedures for repatriation of Meskhetians next year.
“A statement of this kind is an incitement to ethnic hatred and is an action directed against the state,” MP Giga Bokeria of the ruling National Movement party said.
“This hysteria is, at best, ignorance and political stupidity or, at worst, a deliberate provocation,” he added.
“Statements voiced here by lawmakers from the Conservative Party were deeply insulting,” Iso Moladze, who represents a small community of Meskhetians already living in Georgia, told reporters on June 21.
He also said that privately lawmakers from the Conservative Party had said they were not in fact against repatriation. “However, they say, they have to publicly make anti-repatriation statements because they want to oppose the authorities and in particular Giga Bokeria,” he said.
The Conservative Party is at the forefront of opposition to the return of the Meskhetians. Lawmakers from other Opposition parties, including New Rights and Industrialists, have shown more moderation in their stances.
The opposition Republican Party is in favor of the repatriation. They, however, criticized the authorities for failing to provide a proper public awareness campaign, so as to bring the population on board behind the proposal.