By Angelos Anastasiou
IN THE wake of public outcry following his refusal to consent to lifting his immunity in connection with allegations implicating him in the Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA) scandal, EDEK deputy Fidias Sarikas on Friday voluntarily suspended his party membership pending the court’s ruling.
On Thursday, Sarikas had made a surprising U-turn when his lawyer informed the Supreme Court, which had convened to examine a request by the attorney general to lift the deputy’s immunity so that the claims against him could be investigated, that he would be filing an objection to the request as the evidence gathered against him did not warrant lifting his immunity.
Earlier, Sarikas had offered to give up his immunity on two occasions in connection with the case, only to be told by the attorney general that immunity was not his prerogative to waive and that its lifting could only be ordered by the courts.
But when the AG’s office filed a request with the Supreme Court to do so, Sarikas’ lawyer Chris Triantafillides told the court his client would contest the request as he “has an obligation to safeguard the office of parliamentarian”.
In a statement on Friday, Sarikas denied having changed his position, and pinned the objection on his lawyers.
“In no way have I changed my position,” Sarikas said. “From the beginning I stated that I am at the disposal of the investigators and forwarded my bank accounts for full scrutiny.
“With regard to lifting my immunity, my lawyers settled on a specific legal handling of the case, on the premise that the immunity afforded by the Constitution to members of the House of Representatives is a matter of public interest, and not a personal matter of individual deputies.”
Sarikas was elected to the House with EDEK in 2011, after serving two terms as Paphos mayor from 1996 to 2006.
In a letter to EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou, Sarikas announced the suspension of his party membership until the “issue of the unfounded allegations relating to the SAPA scandal is cleared up”.
“With my decision I wish to protect EDEK from any malicious attempt to connect it to the case under investigation,” Sarikas wrote.
“I have full confidence in state institutions and am certain that the prompt investigation of this matter my slanderers will be irreparably exposed,” he added.
Traditionally priding itself of its integrity and invariably admonishing those embroiled in scandals, EDEK was quick to make the letter public, along with a short statement reiterating its no-tolerance rhetoric towards corruption and implicitly accepting Sarikas’ suspension.
“It has always been, and remains so, the party’s unwavering position that any charges brought against any party member will mean the immediate suspension of party membership, and conviction by a court will mean expulsion,” the party said.
As deputy, Sarikas serves as chairman of the House ethics committee, but it remains to be seen whether the suspension of his party membership will impact either capacity.