Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Burying the Mati tragedy

COMMENT

TAGS: Fire, Justice

An old and true saying teaches us that attempting to cover up a crime is usually worse than the crime itself, whatever it might be. It ultimately does more political damage and puts those responsible for the cover-up on a very slippery and dangerous slope.

A recent example is the tragedy in the seaside resort of Mati in eastern Attica. The catastrophic fire could have happened anywhere, with any government. We could even have a large number of victims. We have seen similar extreme wildfires in many other countries.

In Greece, of course, we have our own peculiarities. Security forces gradually started operating like a state-controlled company of the old sinful days, especially during the previous SYRIZA administration. Every notion of discipline, meritocracy, continuous and rigorous preparation was lost. Trade unionists who always managed to keep their position started running the show. And at the crucial moment, chaos prevailed.

Then, when some of the wilier players realized the magnitude of the tragedy, they resorted to the usual antics. They embarrassed then prime minister Alexis Tsipras by putting him in front of a camera to pretend he was the man in charge, sitting around at a table with irrelevant people, all of which gave the impression of unprofessionalism. If Tsipras had just gone to Mati on that day and issued an apology for what had happened, the political damage would have been much smaller.

This was followed by attacks on the media, an incomplete attempt to find convenient conspiracy theories based on satellite data and a press conference now taught in special seminars on how not to handle a crisis. At the time of the crisis, the lack of professionalism and discipline was evident and everyone was left with the impression of chaos. Then the cover-up operation began, which was based on cheap tricks.

The tragedy in Mati shocked me personally. Some considered the investigation into the matter partisan. They will never understand what journalism is. It shocked me because on the one hand I was hearing incredible personal stories from victims and people who lost everything, including their families. On the other hand, I realized that the Greek state goes into meltdown during a crisis, especially when instead of professionals you appoint cynical beasts in key positions. I apologize for the expression, but there is no other way to describe the cynicism, the ruthless, dastardly behavior. It is frightening and outrageous that such people were entrusted by politicians with the safety of Greek citizens.

Fortunately, there are judicial officials and civil servants in our country who respect their oath and seek the truth. We thank them.

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