A crime without punishment

A crime without punishment

7 July 2007

published by www.ekathimerini.com

Greece — The insistent proclamations by the government – according towhich the burnt expanses of Mount Parnitha, Pelion and other parts of thecountry will be fully reforested – are hardly credible. And this is notbecause the cadres of New Democracy are less sensitive to issues regardingenvironmental protection, as members of socialist opposition PASOK maintain.

This pessimistic outlook is a reaction to representatives of a state that hasalways sown disappointment and anger through its inadequacies, mistakes andshortfalls, irrespective of which political party is in government. And thelowered credibility of these state officials is compounded by their apparentimmunity from punishment.

Perhaps the situation could be remedied if, even at this late stage, actionwas taken to attribute blame to those officials whose negligence or oversighthad contributed to major environmental disasters in the past. An investigationwould determine whether they displayed indifference or incompetence, either inaverting the disaster or in carrying out timely reparation.

A procedure like this would – if nothing else – serve as a warning forthose currently in power and those who will have to tackle similar problems inthe future. They would know that any mistakes, shortfalls and blunders would notgo unpunished.

It is worth considering the major fire that ravaged large tracts offorestland in Attica in 1998. At the time, the media described the damagewreaked by the blaze as an “ecological catastrophe.” Citizens condemned thestate for its passivity and slammed state authorities for failing to coordinatetheir rescue efforts effectively. At the time of the 1998 disaster, PrimeMinister Costas Simitis was on holiday while the various ministers of his PASOKgovernment’s cabinet were also on holiday, at the dentist or otherwise engaged.Summits were held at the Maximos Mansion after the disaster with the governmentalready under fire for promoting legislation condemned as “forest killing.”And what was the government’s line of defense? It blamed the “extremeweather conditions,” “the bad faith of the opposition” and the “excessesof the media” – almost exactly the same line as the current government.

Of course the lack of concrete action taken during PASOK’s stint in powerand its failure to protect Attica’s forests compromise the current criticismof the ostensibly reformist PASOK.

But it would be most useful to carry out an investigation into the fallout ofthe 1998 fire: Did the government of the time fulfill its promises to reforestthe area and, if so, to what extent? Did authorities manage to avert developmenton the burnt expanses of land? And, if not, who is responsible?

If a crime remains unpunished, one can be sure that it will be repeated.

(By G.S. Bourdaras)


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