By Stefanos Evripidou
CABINET WILL decide on Friday what to do with the Committee of Inquiry, initially set up to investigate the financial debacle that hit Cyprus, including in its options disbanding the panel and replacing it with a new one.
Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said the government had a number of options before it including dismissing the three members of the committee and replacing them with new ones.
Earlier this week, Nicolaou criticised a unilateral decision by the committee to carry on with its public hearings without cabinet’s go-ahead despite the panel backtracking on its remit.
The three-member committee of inquiry decided in its majority last week to leave alone any matters subject to court proceedings. The panel – all former senior judges – were sworn in on a mandate to investigate criminal, civil or political responsibilities over the near collapse of the country’s economy and banking sector.
The committee’s decision effectively made it toothless as some of the most controversial aspects of the events that led to Cyprus’ current economic misery are the subject of parallel court proceedings.
Following its decision, Attorney-general Petros Clerides, with encouragement from the government, ordered the police chief to launch criminal investigations into the latest economic saga to befall the country.
The committee was initially expected to hand over their findings to police to study, after which they would have launched their own investigations. But the government felt that criminal investigations could no longer be delayed given the inquiry’s decision.
On Tuesday, the committee announced it was pushing ahead with public hearings on the banking sector since cabinet had not responded to its request for clarification on its future mandate.
Attending a session of the House Legal Affairs Committee, Nicolaou said in parliament on Wednesday that the government would examine a number of options in tomorrow’s cabinet meeting.
Apart from terminating the services of the current committee and replacing it with a new one, another option includes instructing the committee to carry on its work in the context of its recent decision to change the terms of its remit, he said.
A third option is to change the committee’s mandate and a fourth is to insist on full compliance with the original mandate, in other words, for the committee to put aside last week’s self-imposed restrictions.
The minister said the list was not exhaustive.
“There are many scenarios,” he said.
Nicolaou once again called on the committee not to proceed with public hearings until cabinet makes its decision tomorrow.
The committee is due to hold a public hearing this morning.
Chairman of the House Legal Affairs Committee, DISY MP Soteris Sampson gave the view that the committee still had a role to play as it could look at the political and civil responsibilities of those involved in the events leading up to the crisis, while police should examine any possible criminal offences.
On the other hand, opposition AKEL deputy Aristos Damianou argued that the committee’s credibility has been seriously damaged by recent events.