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Calls for Tbilisi mayor to resign after 13-year-old dies in newly re-opened park

13 October 2022
Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze reopening Vake Park on 12 October. Photo: Tbilisi City Hall.

Calls are mounting for Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze to resign after a 13-year-old girl died from being electrocuted in a fountain in Vake Park.

On Thursday, three children were injured after entering the fountain in the newly renovated park, which was officially opened by Kaladze the previous day. One child passed away before reaching hospital while another remains in serious condition. 

One of the children reportedly entered the fountain to retrieve a ball, with the other two, receiving electric shocks while attempting to save her.

Renovations of Vake Park began in October 2020 and ended on Wednesday with a ceremonial opening attended by Kaladze.

Kaladze insisted that the project had been inspected, and noted that a contractor, the company ‘Green Service’, was responsible for work on the park. 

According to Netgazeti, in 2014, the company’s two majority shareholders were convicted of money laundering related to fraudulently winning government tenders amounting to ₾21 million ($7.6 million). One was released with a fine and another sentenced to two years in prison.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs told OC Media that they had launched an investigation into violations of safety regulations resulting in bodily harm. Pirveli reported on Thursday evening that one of the company’s shareholders, Lasha Purtskhvanidze, had been arrested.


Calls for Kaladze to step down

Since the incident, a number of opposition politicians and human rights activists have called on the mayor to resign.

‘All responsibility for the tragedy — political, human, moral, legal — rests with the City Hall and Kakha Kaladze personally’, opposition party Strategy Aghmashenebeli said in a statement.

‘Strategy Aghmashenebeli demands that Mayor Kaladze not flee responsibility and immediately resign from his position.’

Giga Makarashvili, one of the leaders of the liberal Shame Movement, wrote on Facebook that ‘the mayor must take responsibility’.

Human rights activist Tamara Gurchiani also called for Kaladze to resign, saying ‘now this is the only right thing to do’.

Nika Melia, the chair of Georgia’s largest opposition party, the United National Movement, also made a statement accusing Kaladaze of being ‘the personification of corruption’.

‘Where there is corruption, not only are safety norms not observed, but the work performed often does not meet even elementary standards.’

Giorgi Amilakhvari, an MP from the ruling Georgian Dream party and chair of the Education Committee, initially blamed the children’s parents for the incident, saying ‘a child should have a guardian so that they do not go to a place where reconstruction is ongoing’.

Several Georgian Dream officials have suggested that the park renovation was not fully complete, and the City Hall deleted an article on their website and posts on social media related to the opening ceremony.

Amilakhvari later apologised and offered his condolences to the family of the deceased.

Kaladze, meanwhile, told journalists that an investigation had been launched and that ‘all relevant agencies are involved’. 

‘It is clear that everyone will be punished according to the law’, he said.

‘Of course, it is the most difficult topic, we are all worried, it is a big responsibility for everyone, and everyone will be given an appropriate answer.’

Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili expressed his condolences to the family of the deceased in a post on Facebook, and said that ‘the causes of the tragedy will be determined and the strictest response will be taken’.

President Salome Zurabishvili also expressed grief over the incident and offered her condolences to the family.

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