OPINION

Tragic outcome

The shocking decision by Rubini Stathea, assistant director in the Finance Ministry’s real estate department, to put an end to her life was the tragic outcome of the confusion and obscurity that permeates legislation and administrative practices on the issue of illegal construction. This said, we do not intend to play down the responsibility of the media nor the pressure that negative publicity put – perhaps falsely – on the ill-fated woman. The press must be allocated its own share of the blame when it charges specific individuals without taking into consideration the fact that some people are too sensitive to endure – that some people, like Stathea choose to take that last step off the edge. Without diminishing their importance, these factors are only part of the problem and, in this case, not the most important part. Stathea was catapulted to the center of publicity. But she only found herself there because her official post plunged her in a maelstrom of uncertainties, interests and pressures. One cannot be certain but it seems that media criticism was neither the sole pressure on her, nor the strongest. We may assume that most of it came from other departments or political bodies – pressure to resume or halt the controversial destruction of illegal constructions, a campaign that was promoted as a political goal by the government. It is likely, however, that their suspension was mandated by procedures and that some factors actually favored such delay. Faced with such pressure and bad publicity portraying her as the cause of the postponement, Stathea succumbed. The letters the woman is said to have left behind may shed light on the reasons that made her choose death. However, the broader causes are known and visible to the naked eye. These are the same reasons that have turned such a mundane matter into a political issue and the subject of murky transactions. It is an issue the Constitution should regulate with clear and moderate legal sanctions imposed in full transparency by the administration. Instead, the excessive number of laws and the lack of clarity; the harshness when it comes to words, as opposed to total inaction when it comes to practice; the feeling that «one can do anything with the right connections» – these have all trapped the responsible officials in a web of suffocating pressure. A typical example of the uncertainty, confusion and lack of transparency, the recent demolition campaign led to the unexpected: Instead of getting rid of a few illegal homes, a life was lost.