By Angelos Anastasiou
Citizens’ Alliance leader Giorgos Lillikas on Tuesday denied a report in daily Politis that he was not content with a Council of Ministers decision from last week to second two police officers for his protection and subsequently requested an extra two.
Tuesday’s Politis ran a story citing police sources who claimed that following last week’s cabinet decision Lillikas asked for two more officers, one with the rank of sergeant.
The request was denied by the police ‘security committee’ – the competent body approving secondments to protect individuals.
Party leaders, government ministers, former House presidents and former presidents of the Republic have traditionally been assigned police officers for their protection by virtue of political decision.
Former president Demetris Christofias and former House president Vasos Lyssarides have both been assigned eight officers each, more than any former official.
The paper reported that each seconded officer costs taxpayers approximately €2,500 per month.
Politis’ piece prompted a statement by the Greens, who deemed the practice of offering protection to incumbent and former political officials “obsolete and outdated.”
“It is provocative and unacceptable that Cypriot taxpayers, who have entered a pitiless storm of financial destruction, are forced to pay from their meagre income for the protection of political leaders and former presidents, as if we live in other times,” the statement said. “The government must immediately stop this senseless spending when it cuts pensions and allowances and employees’ incomes have been slashed.”
But Lillikas promptly issued a categorical denial that he had requested the protection of the two initial officers, let alone the two additional ones.
“The report is completely baseless,” he said in a written statement. “I did not ask for two, let alone two additional, officers to guard me. Following some incidents, the president took the initiative and informed me that I would have two officers like other parliamentary leaders.”
Lillikas said that the report focused on what a seconded officer costs the taxpayer but failed to touch on the issue of security.
“Mytakeisthatthe state offers, as it should, security for officials,” he said. “If two officers suffice to adequately protect ministers, then the same should apply for parliamentary leaders. Bywhatlogicdosomeleadershave two, others four or six, or yet others eight?”
Lillikas signed off his remarks with a reference to the issue of high-ranking police officers being assigned to political leaders. While he denied asking for a police sergeant in his security detail, he claimed that “in some cases” sergeants and inspectors are seconded to such posts.
“How do they justify focusing on me instead of those who have them?” he wondered.
Later on Tuesday, House President Yiannakis Omirou also weighed in.
“These matters are handled by the executive branch of government,” he said. “They are security matters, in which we should not interfere.”
He said that upon taking over as House President, he personally saw that his security detail was reduced.
“Let each of us lead by example,” Omirou said.