Municipal councillors should butt out of road-making decisions and stick to the duties assigned to them by law, Interior Minister Sokratis Hasikos said on Wednesday.
Speaking on state radio, Hasikos had been protesting the Strovolos municipal council’s Tuesday decision to reject the government’s plan to turn Tseriou avenue into a three- or four-lane road with a concrete median strip separating opposing lanes of traffic.
The council also announced setting up a committee to improve on the plan.
The government’s plan is also heavily opposed by Tseriou’s shopkeepers, who fear clients will have a hard time stopping to shop.
But even more than the council’s decision, Hasikos was incensed by a statement from opposition party Diko, which accused him of ignoring the will of those directly affected and noted that half of Strovolos councillors from the minister’s party – Disy – voted in favour of the decisions, while the rest abstained.
“The interior minister won’t even discuss the proposals of the organised residents and shopkeepers of Tseriou avenue, and those of political groups in the municipal council, stubbornly insisting on his own proposal,” the party said.
Responding to Diko, Hasikos issued a statement of his own, transcribing his remarks from the morning radio show.
“Do you believe this is an issue that can accommodate compromises?” Hasikos had said.
“Do you believe municipal councillors are in a position to design safe roads, ignoring the experts –the police and transport experts? I am tired of wasting the government’s and the public’s time over five shop-owners. Municipal councillors would do well to concern themselves with the issues the law allows and confers upon them, and stop designing roads.”
Hasikos said there is no government, minister, or institution, that would sign off on a road that “everyone says is dangerous”.
“The end result is no road,” he said.
“Am I going to sign off on a road that would cause people to die because five shop-owners (who are also voters) persuaded the municipal councillors?”
Asked to assess the necessity of a three- or four-lane road running parallel to Strovolou avenue – itself a four-lane road – the Interior minister said “this is not their business – they are municipal councillors, they don’t know about such things”.
“Do I have any reason to want three or two or five traffic lanes, or whether there should be a median strip, and whether it should be painted on or a concrete structure?” Hasikos angrily asked.
“Do I have a reason, or any interest in that, as a minister? I have people with the appropriate expertise advising me on these matters.”
He added that the funds for the roadworks are blocked by parliament due to pressure from parties.
“When parliament releases the funds, we can start tomorrow,” Hasikos said.
“Otherwise, some will continue to pander for votes over a road, and people will continue to be killed. The road is not there to serve those living or working on either side. It’s a road to serve an entire region.”
Still, Hasikos said, he is willing to hear what the Strovolos mayor and the municipal council have to say “for the last time”.
“But there will be no concessions at the expense of public safety,” he warned.