Cyprus Mail

Fireworks as Christofias breaks his silence

By Stefanos Evripidou

FORMER PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias has attributed the government with a “fascist mentality” for attempting to “gag” him in a spat over who is to blame for the current economic woes of the country.

The government, opposition party AKEL and former president spent the whole of Sunday squabbling over who has the right to speak and who doesn’t after Christofias criticised the policies of President Nicos Anastasiades in a speech in Paphos.

The spat spilled over to yesterday, with other parties joining the fray.

It started on Sunday morning during a memorial for a victim of the 1974 Greek-inspired coup. After months of relative quiet, Christofias gave a speech during which he spoke about developments in the Cyprus problem and the economy.

Christofias referred to the “catastrophic consequences brought by the agreement between the Anastasiades government and the Eurogroup in March on the economy”, noting that with the economy in dire straits, the dangers of attempts to force a bad solution to the Cyprus problem had increased.

He also criticised Anastasiades for pledging to withdraw his proposals that were tabled in the peace talks during 2008-2012 and appoint a negotiator to represent the president in the talks.

The words may have been spoken in Paphos, but the easterly wind ensured they were heard loud and clear in the capital.

Within hours, the government responded through its deputy spokesman, Victoras Papadopoulos, who said Christofias could voice his opinion on the peace process at the National Council.

Regarding the “catastrophic consequences” of the memorandum signed with the troika, he said: “The reply to Mr Christofias is simple: if the former president had the slightest sense of responsibility for the tragic governance which led the country to painful dead ends and the coercive decisions of March, he would keep silent.

The government spokesman added: “Mr Christofias had all the time to negotiate a better memorandum if he wanted, or take decisive measures to save the economy. He did neither, allowing the country to reach near bankruptcy.”

Papadopoulos advised the former president and AKEL to keep their thoughts to themselves.

Soon after, Christofias released a written statement saying that especially during these days when the memory of the “double crime” of the 1974 coup and invasion comes alive, “it would certainly be wiser for some not to say too much”.

He accused the government of trying to gag him, adding: “This fascist mentality must stop.”

Somewhat undermining his earlier allegation, Christofias said it was the government that needed to sit quiet, not him, arguing: “Throughout our administration we defended the dignity and sovereignty of our country. We did not sell out overnight in the name of preventing bankruptcy.”

AKEL spokesman Giorgos Loukaides accused ruling DISY of having a very funny interpretation of democracy, which would explain why they kept asking the opposition not to talk or question the government’s handling of anything.

By afternoon, the presidential palace bit the bait and sent Papadopoulos out for a response: “No one is gagging them. We’re just asking they don’t provoke public sentiment. The jokes and whining about AKEL being hunted and lack of democracy only make one laugh.”

Yesterday, DIKO MP Nicolas Papadopoulos waded in saying the last people to criticise should be the former governors.

They must “respect the sensitivity of the people and the difficult times they are going through as a result of the economic conditions created in the last five years of the previous government,” he said.

Spokesman for government partner DIKO, Angelos Votsis, said he would have expected the former president to act with political responsibility and maturity, self-awareness and self-critique, instead of trying to lump the blame on others.

If Christofias “did not put party above country, we would certainly not be in this tragic economic situation today nor would we have before us the unacceptable unilateral concessions in the Cyprus problem”, said Votsis, whose party shared power with the Christofias government for a number of years before withdrawing from the coalition near the end of its term.

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