PRESIDENT Anastasiades did the right thing in sacking the Chief of Police Michalis Papageorgiou yesterday. Papageorgiou had proved an ineffective chief, failing to provide the strong leadership required by the force and was often absent from his office when trouble was expected.
A few weeks ago, after SGO workers had rioted at the House of Representatives, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou ordered the Chief to cut his holiday short and return to work. The minister was furious that he had gone on holiday knowing that a big protest was planned. Protestors ran riot, smashing windows, invading the building and cutting the electricity supply because of the small police presence at the House.
Papageorgiou seemed more interested being holed up in his office dealing with paper-work than planning or directing police operations. The president did not pull his punches in the strong-worded letter terminating the Chief’s services, noting that his decision was determined by the “inadequate way in which you (the chief) performed your duties, in relation to the clampdown on serious crime and the promotion of real security of citizens.”
The poor policing, at the Limassol venue at which Mehmet Ali Talat was scheduled to speak, that led to a storming of the building by ELAM thugs was, quite rightly, the final straw for Anastasiades. Not only was there not an adequate number of officers to prevent the episodes, but the Chief had been at home on the day of the gathering, showing no interest in the security operation. By sacking the chief, the president showed that he wanted a zero-tolerance approach to extremist nationalists resorting to violent and intimidating behaviour.
The strong condemnation of the violence by all the political parties was also welcome as it sent a clear message that society would not tolerate this appalling behaviour by extremists. Perhaps the authorities should also consider rounding up the leaders of ELAM and charging them for inciting hatred and encouraging violence, which are not democratic rights.
Hopefully, under the new Chief of Police, appointed by the president yesterday, the police would become more forceful in dealing with troublemakers. It was incredible that during Wednesday night’s episodes not a single thug was arrested and charged; some arrests were made later. The same happened during the riot by the SGO workers at the House. Not a single troublemaker was arrested by the police even though many were quite blatantly breaking the law.
Under Papageorgiou the police always adopted the softly-softly approach to law enforcement, which was not good enough and a strong reason for his sacking.