PM Irakli Garibashvili said late on Tuesday evening that he has dismissed Defense Minister Irakli Alasania.
Mindia Janelidze, who is a secretary of the state security and crisis management council at the PM’s office, will replace Alasania on the post of Defense Minister, the PM said.
Garibashvili’s announcement about firing of the Defense Minister came less than four hours after Alasania said that recent developments involving arrests of MoD and general staff officials, as well as newly filed charges against army medical officers are “obviously politically” motivated and represented an “attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice.”
PM Garibashvili slammed Alasania’s remarks as “completely irresponsible” and said that Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration is “irreversible.”
“Violations revealed in the Ministry of Defense and related investigation have become a topic of active discussions in the public in recent days. Issue of procurements in the Ministry of Defense became topic of discussion of our government more than once over which ex-Defense Minister Alasania has been given censure and instructions. Despite of that investigative agencies have exposed whole set of violations and relevant legal reaction was made through launching criminal investigation. In recent days an obvious confrontation by the Defense Minister is being observed against the investigative agencies and there is an attempt to politicize the issue,” PM Garibashvili said.
“Instead of contributing to the investigation in order to help establish objective truth into the case, Irakli Alasania’s actions are causing politicization of the Defense Ministry and of the armed forces, which is categorically inadmissible for me and which affects negatively on our country’s security and government’s efficient work,” he said.
“We have stated for multiple times that fighting corruption is one of the priorities of our government and we are and will be uncompromising in case of exposing such facts no matter which agency or minister is involved – this is our principled position,” Garibashvili said.
“In order to avoid politicization of the Georgian armed forces and the politicization of the Georgian Ministry of Defense and in order to provide relevant conditions for an independent investigation, I have decided to dismiss the Defense Minister,” he said.
“Alasania’s irresponsible statement that this investigation in the ministry is an attack on country’s Euro-Atlantic choice, is completely irresponsible.”
“I want to reiterate once again what I have said for multiple times already that our country’s Euro-Atlantic integration is the choice of not only of our government by the choice of our people and this process is and will be irreversible,” the PM said.
“Georgian government’s foreign policy course, which involves the Euro-Atlantic integration does not and will never depend on any single minister’s position or opinion. So [Alasania’s] statement was completely irresponsible,” Garibashvili said.
“I had a meeting yesterday with [lawmakers from Alasania’s] Free Democrats faction, which is a member of the [GD ruling] coalition. I had a very open conversation with them and in their presence I asked Alasania questions, which were coming from the prosecutor’s office, and which I, as the Prime Minister, also have, but I have not yet received any reasoned answer, except of his abstract opinions and groundless responses,” Garibashvili said.
“I also want to state that our country’s Euro-Atlantic integration does not mean that alleged misspending of GEL 4 million should be taking place in the Ministry of Defense,” he said, referring to charges which have been filed against one former and four serving MoD and general staff officials, who were arrested on October 28.
Then referring to newly filed charges against other general staff officials from the medical service, who are accused of alleged negligence in cases of servicemen’s foodborne illnesses last year, Garibashvili said: “The minister who fails to solve the issue of food for soldiers for two years [since Alasania was the defense minister] of course cannot be considered as an efficient minister and he would have definitely been dismissed anyway even for that reason only.”
“And the minister, who purportedly was awarding his friends with tender and procurement [contracts] of course could not have stayed on this very responsible post,” Garibashvili said.
The PM said that the Georgian Dream ruling coalition will hold a meeting of its main decision-making body, political council, on Wednesday, and also invited at the meeting Alasania and his Free Democrats party, which formally still remains part of the GD coalition.
“Alasania and his party, as a member of the coalition, have all the rights to attend the meeting of political council and I want to say that I want to also convene an expanded meeting of the political council and I want Free Democrats parliamentary faction members to also attend this meeting,” Garibashvili said.
Alasania said late on November 4 that he would be attending GD’s political council meeting on Wednesday.
Mindia Janelidze, 36, whom the PM said would replace Alasania on the post of the Defense Minister, is not a political figure and is relatively little known to wider public.
Janelidze, who is currently secretary of the state security and crisis management council, was director of the counter-intelligence department at the Ministry of Interior since late 2012 when now PM Garibashvili held the post of the Interior Minister.