EVERYONE thought it would have been routine procedure at the Supreme Court yesterday when the Attorney-general filed his application for the lifting of parliamentary immunity of EDEK deputy and former Paphos mayor Fidias Sarikas, who had been the subject of allegations linking him to the Paphos Sewerage Board scandal. After all, Sarikas had twice written to the Attorney-general insisting that his immunity be lifted, because he had nothing to fear and wanted the truth to shine.
But Sarikas’ lawyer surprised everyone at the Supreme Court by objecting to the application on the grounds that documentation that accompanied it, in relation to his client’s alleged involvement in the scandal, was inadequate to justify a positive answer from the court. And to add a note of mischief to the proceedings, the lawyer pointed out that it was the ‘obligation’ of the deputy to ‘protect institutions’.
Surely, the deputy had made a mockery of the institutions by vociferously demanding that his immunity was lifted so he could clear his name, but as soon as this was about to happen he instructed his lawyers not to agree to it. Was Sarikas engaging in theatre when he publicly claimed that he was waiving his right to immunity, as soon as his name was first linked to the case? He was subsequently informed that no deputy could voluntarily lift his immunity and only the Attorney-general could initiate such a move that required the approval of the Supreme Court.
The Attorney-general, who believed his documentation was adequate, will submit additional material to the court in a week’s time. Sarikas’ lawyer said he would then submit his objection in writing, indicating that his client’s initial offer to have his immunity lifted may have been a bluff. The deputy had the legal right to fight the lifting of his immunity, despite his pronouncements, but it will not do his public standing much good. People would interpret his volte face in an unflattering way, seeing it as an attempt to hide behind his parliamentary privilege. He might have done nothing wrong, but his behaviour will spark all sorts of rumours.
Everything now depends on the Supreme Court and how it will view the arguments of the two sides. It is to be hoped that the judges would not be overly influenced by legal technicalities and make a decision based on the principle of equality before the law. A deputy is given immunity by the constitution so that he would freely perform his parliamentary duties and not to use this privilege in order to protect himself from possible prosecution when serious allegations are made against him. This is the issue and not Sarikas’ ‘obligation to protect institutions,’ as his lawyer argued.