AS A SOCIETY we have always had a very dubious approach to the concept of the law. We often treat the law as something flexible, a bit like a general guideline that we can ignore when it interferes with our plans or inconveniences us. This is too small a space to explain how this attitude developed, but it does not help that law enforcement is often random and dependent on who is breaking the law.
Neither does it help that lawmakers have consistently abused their parliamentary immunity, to violate the law with impunity or ministers and presidents behave as if they are above the law. And what kind of example is set by an Attorney-General (not the current one) who orders the police not to charge a young man that committed several serious traffic violations because he was his son? The general message is that obeying the law is optional.
It is in this context we should view the preposterous request made to the chief of traffic at police HQ by the mayor of Engomi Zacharias Kyriakou. He wants the speed cameras, installed on Nicosia’s Grivas Dighenis Avenue to stop young drivers from using this stretch of road as a car-racing strip, be switched on only at night-time. The justification was that too many residents living in and around the area were being fined for ‘absent-mindedly’ exceeding the 50kph speed limit; some had been reported as many as five times and now risked losing their licence.
It is quite astonishing that the mayor could make such a ridiculous request, thinking that it was perfectly reasonable. This is indicative of our dubious approach to the law. A mayor is advocating that drivers should be allowed to violate traffic laws in the day, and that there should be enforcement of the speeding law only at night – from 11pm to 5am when the youngsters are racing. It is as if there are fatal car crashes only between these hours, outside of which, according to the mayor, drivers are entitled to exceed the speed limit.
It gets worse. The chief of traffic told the mayor that he would submit the proposal for switching the cameras off during day-time to the Minister of justice. And nobody would be surprised if the minister adopts the mayor’s proposal that enforcement of the speed limit would take place only at night time. And then we wonder why for ten years now successive governments have been finding excuses not to install traffic cameras. It is because the enforcement of traffic laws has been suspended by popular demand.