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Our View: Removal of migration head brings down a personal fiefdom

Annie Shakalli acted like she was a law unto herself

THE ALL-POWERFUL head of the Migration Department, Annie Shiakalli, has been removed from her post. Interior minister Socratis Hasikos received the approval of the Public Service Commission for her transfer to another department that finally ended her autocratic rule of migration.

Hasikos and the presidential palace were very unhappy with the way she ran the department and her arbitrary, heavy-handed decisions, which were often embarrassing for the Republic, and decided she had to be replaced. Shiakalli had turned the department into her personal fiefdom, which she ran like a dictator, ignoring its rules and regulations, taking legally unjustified decisions and generally acting like she was a law unto herself.

This behaviour was evident throughout her tenure, which lasted well over a decade, but no government was able to have her removed. Former interior minister Neoclis Sylikiotis had a big public row with her over policy issues during the Christofias presidency, but Shiakalli remained in her position, as she was untouchable. Transfers within the public service were not permitted by collective agreements PASYDY had imposed on the state, making it impossible to remove a senior official from his or her post without the latter’s consent.

No matter how unsuitable or incompetent an official was he or she was untouchable. The knowledge they could not be removed from their post made them arrogant, dictatorial and unaccountable. While several of Shiakalli’s decisions had been overturned by the Supreme Court she often defied the ruling. She also refused to give access to files to the Ombudswoman investigating complaints and frequently took decisions that were in violation of basic human rights. Shiakalli obviously did not recognise the principle of accountability of state officials because she was untouchable.

Hasikos’ initiative was commendable as he was also testing the new agreement reached with PASYDY, at the behest of the Troika, for the transfer of civil servants. Although PASYDY had in principle agreed to this, it was placing obstacles to its implementation. Perhaps now that the government has transferred one top official – Hasikos, to his credit, also had officials removed from the service administering Turkish Cypriot properties – it would embark on more such moves because it is unhealthy and dangerous having a civil servant in charge of the same service for decades.

The next target should be the head of the state pharmaceutical services who was recently acquitted of charges of irregular dealings and returned to his department. He should also be transferred instead of returning to the same service as if it were his family business. In fact, the government would do well to pass a law limiting the number of years an official could remain in the same post. This would ensure against the abuses of power and lack of accountability that Shiakalli had made her trademark.

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