PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias yesterday called for unity in dealing with the dire effects of a naval base blast that killed 13 and knocked out the island’s main power station as he pledged that those responsible, no matter what their status, would be held accountable.
Addressing the Cypriot public for the first time since Monday’s deadly blast, Christofias expressed his “sincere and wholehearted” condolences to the families of the dead sailors and fire-fighters but stopped short of offering an apology.
“Our pain is great. Even greater though, is the pain and grief of the families and relatives of the people who heroically gave their life on the line of duty,” the president said in a live broadcast.
Faced with mounting criticism and calls for his resignation over the blast, Christofias officially announced the appointment of a legal expert tasked with undertaking a speedy and effective investigation into all aspects that led to the tragedy.
His probe will run parallel to a criminal investigation carried out by the police under the direct supervision of the Attorney-general.
“It is the demand of all of us to identify and attribute responsibilities, wherever they may lay, from the lowest to the highest level,” Christofias said.
“I assure you” that those responsible will be held to account, Christofias said.
The president said it was everyone’s obligation to work together to restore the public’s trust to the institutions and the political system.
“This can be done first and foremost through supporting the institutions and laws and not by undermining them,” Christofias said.
Blame should be apportioned through procedures provided for by the constitution and the laws – “No one can turn into a judge; to judge and condemn,” Christofias said.
The president also commented on a protest that turned violent on Tuesday night, saying it was the citizens’ democratic right to protest, “which we respect and defend.”
But “extreme nationalist right-wing groups cannot exploit human pain and bitterness to run riot, attempt to torch the presidential palace and sully peaceful demonstrations,” he added.
He said no matter who was president, it was not permitted for the palace to be targeted in a manner reminding the traumatic eras when the presidential palace was destroyed by the Greek junta and EOKA B during the coup to overthrow president Makarios and the ensuing Turkish invasion and occupation.
“Normalcy is a collective responsibility,” Christofias said.
The president said the state was working hard to tackle all the problems, which are also burdening further the already ailing economy.
“We share and understand the disappointment, bitterness, even the anger but we ought to be calm and sober, respect the procedures and look forward,” Christofias said.