The background to the removal of the outgoing Coast Guard chief
An “apology” seems to be the reason behind the the replacement of the Coast Guard’s chief [Dimitris Bandias] by his “younger” Rear Admiral Athanasios Athanasopoulos who got promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral.
On the 20th of January 2014 several immigrants fell in the sea near Farmakonisi, and many of them lost their lives. The outgoing Coast Guard Chief was facing serious allegations coming from SYRIZA MPs and immigrants’ organisations that spoke about “coast guard murderers”.
On the 29th of January, following an order by Shipping minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, a Parliament committee was informed by the Coast Guard about the incident. Then Mr Bandias, seated next to the minister, said before the MPs: “As the Chief of the Coast Guard, I assume responsibility. I want to make ths clear. We are apologising. I am personally apologising as the Chief of the Coast Guard. To the families of the victims, and to all of you, to the minister, the government, all Greeks, for bringing you in this position. We tried; we did the best we could. Thereafter, each can form their own judgements”.
A simple word that many found upsetting. There are many who – even today – say that Bandias exposed the Coast Guard, but also the minister. Bandias himself considers it “as an act of bravery, not something cowardice”. Some however, in private conversations, claim that “he should have submitted his resignation and let the minister decide whether he would keep him in this position or not”. Bandias says he was aware of the risk, but he does not regret.
The officers’ trade union representattives also reacted instantly, and expressed their surprise, while questioning “the purpose of this statement”. They also demanded clarifications from their leadership. Regarding the incident, Mr Bandias mentioned that the Coast Guard vessel’s crew did what they should and could have done, given the existing conditions.
Translated from ‘To Vima’ newspaper, online at: http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=570140