President Christofias testifies before Investigative Committee
President Christofias appeared, on Monday, September 5, before the investigative committee responsible for looking into the circumstances that have led to a massive explosion at Evangelos Florakis naval base.
During his testimony, President Christofias recalled that the former Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs, Costas Papacostas and Markos Kyprianou respectively, had, after the blast, undertaken their political responsibilities and resigned, adding that if he had been informed about the situation he would have also undertaken his responsibilities.
Mr. Polyviou asked the President whether he was informed about a meeting which took place on February 7th, 2011, with the participation of former Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs, which, according to the head of the investigative committee, was “a particularly important meeting, during which concerns were raised about the possibility of a blast.” President Christofias retorted that he was not informed about the meeting, nor was he informed about a meeting which took place on the 5th of July, 2011, only a few days before the deadly blast.
The President also affirmed that he had not been informed between February 7 and July 5, about the immediate danger posed by the containers or the possibility of a blast occurring there.
Mr. Polyviou also raised the issue of the visit by a team of experts of the UN Sanctions Committee that the UN was requesting in order to inspect the cargo,adding that, allegedly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “was actually preventing” such a visit. The President replied, to this effect, that he had not been informed of this matter.
Polyviou went on to say that President Christofias was not kept informed about very important aspects of the issue, and asked the President whether, being the President of the state, he was obliged to be informed, irrespective of the fact that his Ministers or aides, were not keeping him informed.
“I was interested about the issue but unfortunately some people undertook the responsibility to handle it without informing the President of the Republic”, he said.
Responding to another question, President Christofias agreed that the former Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs as well as the former Chief of Staff of the National Guard bear the political responsibility for the tragedy at the Naval Base.
The President also noted that he was not aware that the Naval Base was so close to the island’s main power plant of Vassilikos, which was badly destroyed by the explosion, adding that had he known, he would not have allowed that the cargo be kept there.
Furthermore, he said that the decision to keep the cargo at the Naval Base was not taken by himself, but by the military.
He also said that no foreign country expressed readiness to accept the cargo.
Replying to questions, President Christofias said that since the first meeting which took place regarding the matter, he had been repeatedly stressing the issue of safety in relation to the storing conditions of the cargo.
Asked if he would undertake the institutional responsibility with regards to “the failure of the system, the wrong handlings and the obvious errors on behalf of the Ministers”, President Christofias stated that he is “indirectly responsible, like every President, for actions and delinquencies of Ministers, the system in general."
The President refused to accept direct and full responsibility for the political actions which led to the blast, stressing that those directly in charge “underestimated the danger" and adding that he had been told that there was no real danger or that the cargo could even be kept in a residential area."
“Those who were responsible to inform us about the content of the cargo told us that it was gunpowder and that gunpowder is not dangerous”, he concluded.
Monday was the fifth day of the Commission’s public hearings concerning the deadly blast at the “Evangelos Florakis” naval base, near Limassol.
The hearings will continue Wednesday.