ATTORNEY-GENERAL Costas Clerides has taken the commendable decision of applying to the Supreme Court for the lifting of the immunity of DISY deputy Andreas Themistocleous, a serial speed limit violator. It was high time action was taken against a serial offender, who had systematically exploited the parliamentary immunity granted by the constitution in order to break traffic laws. The deputy, despite repeatedly being caught speeding by police, carried on breaking the law, knowing that he could not be prosecuted. Such blatantly provocative abuse of his position could not have been left unpunished.
A statement, issued by the Attorney-general’s office, said there were a “big number” of offences, mainly related to speeding. Themistocleous had been booked by police for driving at 141kph, 170kph and 190kph, the statement said and added: “From police reports, it emerged that on many occasions the deputy displayed improper behaviour towards police, citing his parliamentary immunity, when told he would be reported.” His attitude was that he could drive at whatever speed he liked and nobody could do anything to him.
This was why it was important for this arrogance to be dealt with. Themistocleous was putting lives at risk with his reckless driving and if he did not have sense or a little consideration for others, he had to be stopped. The constitution’s provision on immunity is based on the assumption that lawmakers would be law-abiding, public-spirited and prudent individuals who would set a good example rather than use parliamentary immunity to behave as if they were above the law. Themistocleous and some of his colleagues, who show contempt for the law by smoking in the House, make a mockery of this assumption, which is why the constitution needs to be changed.
Parliamentary immunity could still apply to anything related to the parliamentary work of deputies – views they express, revelations they make, investigations they undertake, participating in public protests etc – but there is no moral or legal justification for any other of their activities such as speeding, parking illegally, smoking in public buildings or eating ambelopoulia, being covered. The constitution must be amended so it reflects one of the main democratic principles – equality before the law.
The government, in co-operation with the Attorney-general and the legislature, should consider drafting amendments to the constitution’s provisions on parliamentary immunity that would end the abuses by arrogant and self-serving deputies. We are assuming that all political parties and the big majority of deputies would also support these amendments that would ensure the rule of law.