Murder by design

By Harry Van Versendaal

Stelios Bozikis, the mayor of Zakynthos, had 364 days to publicly criticize or actually do something about the Ionian island’s notoriously problematic tourism product.

Instead, he picked the one day when he should have kept silent.

Speaking on television on Wednesday morning, Bozikis slammed the “inappropriate” behavior of foreign tourists in the popular summer resort of Laganas. He did so only a few hours after one of these visitors was stabbed in the heart by a local taxi driver.

The mayor said the fatal incident, which followed a verbal exchange between five British nationals and two cabbies, was the result of the island attracting cheap, low-grade tourists.

Of course, blaming the tragic incident on the island’s popularity with “second-rate tourists” is like a killer blaming his actions on childhood abuse. In that sense, it was an insensitive and politically cynical statement prompted — most likely — by an appalling mix of cheap patriotism and opportunistic scapegoating.

At the same time, Bozikis was conducting another faux pas by reducing the now-dead 18-year-old Robert Sebbage — a young man he knew nothing about and while the full circumstances surrounding the killing were still unknown — to the ugly stereotype of a young Brit behaving badly.

Before pointing a finger at the hordes of British tourists that flood the island’s bars and beaches during the summer period, the mayor should first take a minute to contemplate and condemn the terrible action of the perpetrators (who, like many of their colleagues, apparently thought it was normal to drive around with knives in their glove compartments).

Bozikis of course is right that Laganas — like the resorts of Faliraki on Rhodes and Malia on Crete — are a magnet for the full-on party and binge-drinking crowd. But if Laganas, or any other resort for that matter, is renowned among fun-seeking British youths as an anything-goes party zone, that is the responsibility of the local authorities; in other words, of people like himself. If bars are allowed to sell adulterated alcohol and tour operators are given a free rein on the island, that again is because local authorities are quite willing to turn a blind eye to the mess when it serves their own interests. If Laganas is a magnet for heavy-drinking low-budget tourists, it’s because it has been designed that way.

Bozikis is right that the party needs new rules but that goes first of all for the hosts of the party.

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