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Our View: New Attorney-general has his work cut out for him

New Attorney general Costas Clerides

FORMER Supreme Court judge, Costas Clerides was sworn in as Attorney-general yesterday. He is the second Supreme Court judge to be appointed to this post, after the late Solon Nikitas, who had a brief but successful tenure of two years, eventually resigning over an issue of principle. Reports at the time suggested he could not tolerate any attempts of political interference in the execution of his duties.

The new Attorney-general, aware of how things operate, also issued a diplomatic warning in yesterday’s acceptance speech, noting that in his 25-career at all levels of the judiciary he had never experienced any attempt at interference in the way he performed his duties. “I hope the same would happen in the performance of my new duties and everyone would respect the independence and autonomy of the institution.”

Clerides was fully aware of the difficulties he would face pointing out that the country was not just confronted with an economic crisis. “There is a crisis relating to institutions, decay of values is dominant and corruption is no longer a rare phenomenon of public life. The trust of the ordinary citizen in almost all institutions has fallen to a worrying level.” He would do everything in his power to ensure equality before the law, the restoring of trust in institutions and establishment of the rule of law.

It is reassuring to see that the new Attorney-general has identified the main problems plaguing our society. Of course tackling them and establishing rule of law would be a long and arduous task which would depend, to a large extent, on his commitment to the cause. He will have to wage many battles, alienating countless people and making many enemies, to achieve his objectives in a country in which rule of law, for a variety of reasons, has never been an absolute.

Imposing rule of law may be too much to ask of a single state official, but the Attorney-general has the constitutional power to make it happen. In this respect, Clerides’ predecessor failed, not because he was a dishonest man, but because he did not have the resolve and determination needed to change things. Many important decisions he took were seen as compromises aimed at keeping interfering politicians happy. The low level of trust in institutions that Clerides spoke about does not reflect well on his predecessor.

People’s hopes of change rest with the new Attorney-general and there was no hint of exaggeration in president Anastasiades’ remark, during the swearing in ceremony, that “the burden you (Clerides) are undertaking in immense.”

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