IT MAY sound perverse, but the surprise was not that an explosive device had been placed in the car of the mother of the Paphos mayor, but that it had taken so long for this type of intimidation, which is quite common, to take place. Outspoken mayor Phedonas Phedonos has made many enemies – more than any other politician – with his frequent revelations about corruption and the activities of organised crime that, sooner or later, he was certain to become a target of the gangsters.
Phedonos is the only politician not afraid to stick his neck out, having publicly taken on big business, state contractors and government departments as well as organised crime in his campaign to clean up his district. His most recent targets have been illegal gambling, the activities of an unnamed drug baron, allegedly known to police, the illicit trade in antiquities, wheeler-dealing involving Town Planning and corruption in football, among other things.
This has made the list of possible suspects very long, even though the police brought in 12 people, connected to cases of electronic gambling and drug trafficking, for questioning on Wednesday. Whether the police command was acting on information or merely rounded up a bunch of usual suspects to show that it was doing something, nobody can say. Phedonos, who on more than one occasion criticised the police for failing investigating the allegations he made, said he had given more than ten names to the police. In the past, he had also accused the police of ineffectiveness, not knowing, as he said, whether this was down to incompetence or corruption.
As a result, Paphos police were on the defensive on Wednesday, issuing an announcement declaring it “unacceptable for public persons to tarnish the work of the police with such accusations and baseless claims.” Then again, Phedonos’ allegations about ineffectiveness were not unjustified. How many car bombing cases, of which there have been scores in the last few years, were cracked and how many perpetrators charged? But now that a politician was targeted – one who, quite rightly, is unlikely to let the matter go – police will have to look into the widespread practice of car bombs.
The number of men in Phedonos’ security detail will be increased and his family, including his mother, whose car was the target of the Christmas Day attack, will be offered 24-hour protection, but that is not enough. The police need to find the cowardly attackers and bring them before justice, if this vile intimidation tactic is to stop. No democratic state with rule of law could sit by and watch the criminal underworld intimidate a good, honest politician with impunity.