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Our View: Story over Pera Pedi keeps changing

President Anastasiades has got away with so much for so long he now assumes people will believe anything he says. He thinks – or perhaps this is what his communications advisors tell him – he can change his story from one day to the next, contradicting himself, but people would never doubt his words. By following this approach a time will eventually come when the president’s credibility would be in tatters.

The amateurishness with which the issue of the Pera Pedi plot sold to the Russian businessman was handled by the president and his advisors defies belief. He was still offering public explanations about what had happened for the third consecutive day on Tuesday and there could be more today. On Sunday, in response to a report in Haravghi that a large part of the land for the big planned development in Pera Pedi belonged to Anastasiades, the presidential palace said the land development at Pera Pedi had “nothing to do in any way with property belonging to the President.”

On Monday the story changed, when Haravghi reported that he had included the plot in the capital statement he submitted earlier this year. While most of the land had been sold to the developer, the president told journalists on Monday the 1/12th held by him had not been sold. The land he was left with, he said, was a “ditch in which one can’t even build a hut.” He promised he would give more details in the future. It would be interesting if he explained how a plot with 12 owners was separated into 12 parts with Anastasiades being left with the ditch in which nothing could be built.

On Tuesday an official announcement, issued by the presidential palace, said that the president owned a twelfth of a 83,279 square metre plot of land in Pera Pedi and that the development company bought a “significant part of the rest of the shares of this plot, apart from the share of the President.” Now that his brother and sister had sold their share “no member of his family has any link to or interest in this development,” the announcement said.

His answers gave the opportunity to Akel deputy Giorgos Loucaides to pose several legitimate questions that would suggest the matter is far from closed. He asked: “Given the serious environmental consequences (cutting of more than 2,000 trees) of the development, how could an investor take on such a huge business risk, faced with the danger of not receiving permits for the planned development? What made the investor feel so sure? Does this have anything to do with the fact, perhaps, that the investor bought pieces of land from relatives of Anastasiades?”

Loucaides asked several other pertinent questions that Anastasiades may deem necessary to answer in the future because his claim that some “were resorting to unorthodox methods in view of the election campaign” was not plausible. There is nothing unorthodox in seeking explanations about the president’s links to a big land development.

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