WHAT WAS Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos thinking, going to Limassol port on Tuesday and chairing a meeting for supposedly tackling the port’s problems? In what capacity had he gone to the port, as future president, future minister of transport or as someone who has started his campaign for the presidential elections already?
The meeting he presided over was attended by Cyprus Ports Authority directors, the deputy port-master, managers from Eurogate, representatives of Limassol Chamber of Commerce, union officials and other interested parties. After the meeting, he called for the resignation of the transport minister Marios Demetriades, who, admittedly, must take responsibility for the chaotic mess that has resulted from last month’s handover of the port from the state to private companies.
Long delays in procedures led to a strike by lorry drivers that was called off only after the weekend intervention by the president, which, was a vote of no confidence in the minister. But this did not justify Papadopoulos showing up at the port on Tuesday, posing as some expert problem solver and chairing a meeting of interested parties. He is not a member of the executive and therefore does not have the authority to take any action at the ports.
The transport minister was furious about what happened and issued a statement saying that Papadopoulos action was “a flagrant insult to state institutions and constitutes disrespect to the minister of transport.” Diko responded in the childish way that is its style. “Institutions are insulted by those who, with their stance and incompetence insult the public,” it said trying to cover up the gaffe of its leader in chairing a meeting of port officials. He was entitled to visit the port and talk to workers, managers and customers as a deputy but to take charge of a meeting was out of order and he should have known it.
Demetriades, on the other hand, is not in a position to give lectures about correct behaviour to anyone. This is the minister who had known about the vandalising of the equipment at the ports before the handover and said nothing, except to report that the new operators had ordered new bridge cranes. Four of the six bridge cranes were in simultaneously in disrepair, something unprecedented. The minister spoke about the possibility of sabotage by port workers, for the first time, on Monday, presumably to deflect attention away from his responsibility for mess at the port.
He also said that he had asked the Cyprus Ports Authority to investigate the matter. Why had he not asked for the investigation a month ago, when he first heard about the four broken bridge cranes, and only thought about it now that his inadequate handling of the handover has become big news? He has handled his PR as badly as the handover and, under the circumstances, Papadopoulos is not unjustified in urging him to step down.