Painful realizations

We have gone straight from the tragedy of the plane crash to the never-ending drama of government and state officials who cannot calmly inform the public about what’s going on, nor explain their actions responsibly, answer questions or resolve doubts. It’s an old problem which, for some strange reason, has proved impossible to solve. After a major disaster such as the crash of the Boeing 737 Helios jet near Grammatiko, government officials jump into a mode of intense activity and then seem to freeze. They act as if they are the guilty ones. They unreasonably conceal evidence that would help explain events or fail to communicate altogether, as if they are trying to cover something up. Often, the situation morphs into internal antagonism among ministries and state services. In the case of the plane crash near Grammatiko, all these ills were very much in evidence. After a successful mobilization of state services on the ground, and a first, prompt announcement by the government conveying the gist of what had happened in the air prior to the crash, the situation moved into another phase, well-known to the public from similar occasions in the past: The state information mechanism came to a halt; unofficial reports multiplied; there was a rash of «scenarios,» «analyses» and arbitrary statements on television windows and in print. Internal rivalry ignited, and officials began passing the buck about who was responsible for service and omissions prior to the crash. The inadequacy of some government figures reached its pinnacle when a non-paper text was leaked to the media in the guise of information. And when this unsuccessful text justly attracted sarcastic comments and observations from its readers, an underground battle began to attribute it to one minister or another. Thus a pitiful situation was created, due to all those who bear any responsibility for communication in the government. The outcome was that public information basically came from a few accurate reports by journalists, which stood out last week amid an incredible confusion of «news.» After all those extremely unpleasant events, it could be seen once again, unfortunately, that in air disasters the Civil Aviation Authority (YPA) is criticized for vital omissions and that it maintains the same nonsensical competitive arrangement – and poor cooperation – with the army’s air traffic control service. This unacceptable situation was apparent a year ago when a Chinook helicopter crashed and, judging by what happened this time, nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is following these dreadful revelations, the prime minister was truly angry with the YPA’s performance and decided to intervene personally to make heads roll. Indeed, this time it was hard to take that a plane with no communication with Greek air traffic control had flown without a pilot for more than half an hour in Greek air space and got as far as Attica. The terrible accident last Sunday has highlighted a serious issue of national security which no political leadership can ignore. And now that the matter has – and rightly so – blown up to such dimensions, it is time to solve the problem of the framework and terms of cooperation between civil and military services over monitoring flights in national air space. The impossibility of completely harmonious cooperation between the two is a totally unacceptable situation, a great folly, which is so hazardous to national security and human life.

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