Representatives of the victims of the southeast Pissouri landslide sat in shocked silence when the minister of the interior, appearing before the House of Representatives on Monday June 10, attacked the professional competence of the geological survey department of the ministry of agriculture (GSD) and alleged that some officials were receiving payments to frustrate legal action.
The GSD has been carrying out investigations in southeast Pissouri for several years. By monitoring movement within boreholes and other scientific means, the GSD determined that the area has been destabilised by a landslide triggered by uncontrolled groundwater.
The victims cannot sue for professional negligence: first because it would be foolish and unjust to blame structural engineers for a landslide triggered by groundwater reserved to the state, which occurred up to 30 years after they completed their professional services; and second, because no court would find a structural engineer responsible for causing a natural disaster, identified as such by the GSD.
The minister, in giving evidence before the House interior committee, attacked these findings and asserted that there is no landslide in Pissouri. He then made the astonishing claim that “some people” – presumably the senior officials of the GSD who identified the landslide and its cause – were receiving payments to frustrate legal action.
This is the third time that ministers or state officials have alleged criminal wrongdoing in respect of southeast Pissouri. First, former interior minister Socrates Hasikos, in November 2015, alleged criminal negligence against the Technical Chamber Etek-registered ‘surveyors’; second the auditor-general in March 2019 alleged criminal wrongdoing by Etek-registered structural engineers; and now in June 2019, the minister of interior Constantinos Petrides, appears to have made allegations of bribery against GSD officials.
If ministers and high officials have evidence of criminal wrongdoing, then it should be passed to the police for proper investigation, and if appropriate prosecution. If there is no such evidence, the minister should at once apologise to the minister of agriculture, Costas Kadis who is responsible for the GSD, and to the GSD itself, and to the union which represents GSD officials.
Allegations of criminal wrongdoing are career-ending allegations and should not be bandied about recklessly as political rhetoric.
Antony Walker FRICS
Committee Member Pissouri Housing Initiative Group (PHIG)