Protestors Resolved on Christofias' Resignation
NICOSIA - A sea of demonstrators waved placards calling for President Demetris Christofias to resign after 13 men were killed in the Evangelos Florakis naval base explosion on July 11th.
In mass protests last night, thousands upon thousands of people stood outside the Presidential Palace in the capital. Families with young children, teenagers, Cypriots of all ages and walks of life turned out to express their shock, anger and disillusion over government actions that led to the deadly blast.
"Choose: Kellaki or a cell," said one placard with a play on words on Christofias' village home of Kellaki, which means 'little cell'.
A speech by Christofias earlier in the day did nothing to placate the public. If anything, it only made their resolve stronger that he he should resign.
Angry speeches were made condemning the government's apathy and negligence in leaving 98 containers - many of them filled with high explosives - in the sun for over two years. A young man interviewed by Sigma TV said that there was nothing left for him in Cyprus. He has decided to study abroad and never come back, he said.
"Christofias showed today that he is ruthless and doesn't have a conscience," said a Nicosia woman.
All political parties have rejected Christofias' response to the tragedy as inadequate - all except communist party AKEL, which has sent various members to television programmes to try and temper the public mood. But their statements are transparently manipulative and journalists have shed their normal caution to criticise them outright as self-serving and irresponsible.
Most MPs except for Zacharias Koulias, who is on his usual warpath, appear shamefaced and uncertain, a far cry from their normally bombastic and bluff selves. Even the normally forceful DIKO MP Athina Kyriakou said that "people no longer believe in us," on Sigma TV. And ministers, when faced with the extent of the disaster and the public's fury, appear smaller, less sure of themselves.
AKEL's attempts to create a smokescreen are dismissed one by one on TV programmes, as the media turns a new page in its dealings with the government. From now on, government ministers will have to prove themselves worthy of the public's trust, because after such an signficant betrayal, their statements may never be taken on face value again.
Investigation tainted by conflicts of interest
The police investigation launched into the naval base explosion has been harshly criticised because of various conflicts of interest. The police are controlled and paid by the government, and the lead counsel on the probe, Polys Polyviou was appointed by Christofias, the man held responsible for the fatal blast. Few people expect an unbiased result, even though Polyviou has promised the investigation will be finished by the end of September.
More protests tonight
Mass protests are set to continue tonight and Monday outside the Presidential Palace as the public's feeling of betrayal grows in intensity. Today's anniversary of the July 15th coup in 1974, usually trumpeted with nationalist zeal and loyally covered by all the media, is slipping silently by, marked most significantly by the lonely sound of the air sirens' eerie wails.
Compared to the betrayal of the naval base explosion, the coup has faded into insignificance, background noise. Politically speaking, that is the true measure of what happened on July 11th at 5:55am.
Photo credit: Sigma TV