THE SYSTEMATIC abuse of parliamentary immunity by our deputies appears to have become a major concern for Attorney-general Costas Clerides and not before time. Speaking on television, after Monday’s story in Politis about the many cases of deputies being caught driving over the speed limit, Clerides said he was considering prosecuting deputies for traffic offences because of incidents of “extreme behaviour”.
He said he would prosecute because “there have been incidents of very extreme behaviour, with respect to the nature of the offence – for example exceeding the speed limit at speeds that were frightening both for their safety and that of other users of the road – and I am saddened by the disgraceful attitude they displayed towards the organs of the law.”
Deputies violating the speed limit and refusing to pay their fines (as well as for illegal parking) is nothing new. It has been happening for years, because as Clerides said, the practice of the AG’s office had been to serve law-breaking lawmakers with fines for such offences after they ceased being deputies. Presumably, passing a law by which immunity would not apply to traffic offences was not ever examined as it would have to be approved by deputies.
Not that this is the only abuse of immunity. A couple of weeks ago a DISY deputy posted a picture of himself on his Facebook page about to devour a plate of ambelopoulia (an illegal act), knowing that he could not be prosecuted. A few months earlier, another DISY deputy was smoking in the legislature, showing utter contempt for the law and when a female deputy photographed him he turned aggressive. Both cases were deemed too trivial by Clerides to justify an application to the Supreme Court for the lifting of parliamentary immunity.
His reluctance is understandable, to an extent, because his office would end up doing nothing else than applying to the Supreme Court for the lifting of immunity of assorted deputies. Then again, this is the only way the law-breaking would be stopped and equality before the law applied – after all, as he noted, speeding cars of deputies pose a threat to other road users.
And as our deputies cannot be trusted to show a sense of responsibility and set a good example, the Attorney-general must act, even if it means a bigger workload for his office. It is the only way to end the abuse of parliamentary immunity by people who behave like a political aristocracy to which the law of the country does not apply. They pass special laws for themselves, for instance not having to pay a cent of income tax on their €2,000 monthly expense allowance.
The reality is that our deputies consider preferential treatment by the law and exploitation of parliamentary immunity as perks of the job. They are too self-centred and self-serving to realise they are making a mockery of our democracy and concepts like rule of law, which is why the Attorney-general needs to take them to task.