After the public outcry over the government’s apparent refusal to take any of the blame for Monday’s deadly wildfire, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras belatedly took “full political responsibility” on Friday.
“The dead cannot talk but the least we can do in their memory is to show respect for the truth. I want to take full political responsibility for the tragedy before the cabinet,” he said at the start of an emergency meeting at Maximos Mansion.
“It is self-evident for the country’s prime minister, and I call on you too to take it,” he told his cabinet.
His remarks follow a press conference on Thursday by government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos and Alternate Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas, who claimed there were indications that arsonists were behind the fires.
Toskas also claimed there had been “no major operational mistakes” and that there was no time to evacuate people because the blaze spread very quickly.
Tsipras insisted that now is not the time for heads to roll and called on critics to avoid targeting firefighters, coast guard officers and the police involved in the colossal firefighting operation, saying they saved hundreds of lives.
“Beheadings during a battle – which had become the rule during previous disasters – is not an act of political courage,” he said, adding that the time of reckoning and apportioning blame will come when the crisis is over.
About 300 firefighters and volunteers were still combing the area of Mati yesterday for dozens who are still missing.
He also pledged that the government will draw up a national plan to correct decades-old building violations and called on the opposition to participate in its preparation.
“If we need to break eggs, to deploy bulldozers, and clash, so be it,” he said, adding that no one can sit back and “wait for the next tragedy to occur.”