By Constantinos Psillides
ATTORNEY General Costas Clerides and DISY MP Rikkos Mappourides argued in parliament yesterday over a bill forbidding the seizure of certain government property, with the state official accusing the deputy of unethical and unjustifiable attacks.
The DISY MP had said in a previous session that the only reason the AG’s office was interested in promoting a bill making it impossible for creditors who are owed money by the state to seize state property, was to ensure that Clerides’ service vehicle won’t be seized again.
The AG’s limo was seized on March 26 and towed away on the strength of a court order that ruled in favour of a citizen whose land, around 10,000 square metres, had been initially expropriated – but never paid for – by the government, which then decided it didn’t need the land and revoked the expropriation.
“One should be extremely careful when mentioning the Office of the Attorney General. I wish that Mr Mappourides’ remarks are stricken off the record,” Clerides said during a session of the House Legal Affairs Committee.
He pointed out that the bill did not originate from his office neither did the Law Office have anything to do with it. Clerides clarified that the bill is not about seizing his vehicle and that it should aim at preventing anyone from seizing public property that is vital to the state or of cultural and historical value.
A few days prior to seizing the AG’s limo, a bailiff had visited the state gallery demanding to be given some of the paintings held in store there. Speaking to the public broadcaster CyBC, Clerides had said that he would “chop their hands off”.
Mappourides apologised to Clerides, adding that his concern was that the bill protected all vital state property and not just limos. The DISY MP also said that his aim was not to belittle the AG and that the comments were impulsive.
Committee chairman, DISY MP Sotiris Sampson agreed with Mappourides’ recant and said the MP’s comments would be stricken. Sampson praised the Attorney General for his work, adding that a flawless relationship between the two institutions is beneficial for the common good.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, who was also present, asked the MPs to be extremely careful in their remarks, “so as we don’t reach a point where comments and bad relationships are damaging to one another. The House should consider the AG as a partner. I ask that behaviours like this one aren’t repeated.”
Regarding the bill, the AG and the Ministry think that the proposed legislation is not comprehensive enough, since it only protects state property deemed as “vital” and items of cultural importance. The committee chairman said that MPs are worried that not specifying which property is vital will leave the state vulnerable to court orders, if the creditors should take their claim to court.
“Another concern is that we also have to include military equipment in the bill, since we don’t want a creditor showing up at an army camp, demanding that a tank, an anti-aircraft gun or a missile be seized because the state owes him money. Additionally, we wouldn’t want anyone showing up at a state hospital demanding to be given an MRI machine,” said Sampson.
The House Legal Affairs committee is expected to amend the bill and put to a plenary vote as soon as possible.