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Soul searching and sympathy don’t go hand-in-hand

By Lucie Robson

Wasn’t it touching to hear about former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas being interviewed on Mega TV, where he announced to Cyprus in general and, presumably, Paphos in particular that he is a changed man.

Evidently, the two years out of a six­-year sentence the disgraced mayor has served so far in the slammer has given him the opportunity to reflect on the mistake of allowing his sticky fingers to swipe around €5million from the Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA) scandal and pocket it in a shady bank account.

The scandal sent Paphos’ self-esteem into a downward spiral, which was only halted by the arrival of Vergas’ successor, current mayor Fedonas Fedonos in 2015 – whose reputation as a corruption exposer has been like the mirror image to the nauseating, money-grabbing conduct of Savvas and his cronies.

In the TV interview, Vergas movingly spoke about how he intends to pay back the five million and that he has learnt the skill of self-criticism while being behind bars. He recounted the joys of learning new trades and skills.

He went on to say that he was asking for the forgiveness of the people of Cyprus and that while he certainly deserved his sentence, he was also entitled to live as a human being. Being imprisoned and losing one’s freedom is like a slow death, Vergas added.

I have one thing to say about all of this – ‘I don’t care’.

While such a calculated crime (the embezzling took place over several years) does not exactly trigger sympathy, yes, most people deserve a second chance. But I think most of the public would rather be spared the wearing of the heart on the sleeve. Get on with your soul-searching in private will you, is what I have to say.

The public outpouring struck me as inappropriate and like some advance PR aimed at grooming the public to feel sympathy for the former mayor so they don’t stone him when he gets out. I hope it is not one of many to come.

Apparently, Vergas is often heard playing his bouzouki in his cell. He is actually not bad at it. Years ago, he held a party for Paphos journalists in a well-known Paphos taverna and he provided the entertainment. Everyone enjoyed his skilled playing and danced until midnight.

Perhaps that is what he should have stuck to in life.

(Vergas is pictured with Greek superstar Sakis Rouvas, in happier, pre-prison times)

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