By Esra Aygin
THE unprecedented interest by Turkish Cypriots in the upcoming European Parliament (EP) elections is giving rise to concerns about whether enough measures will be taken to overcome logistical challenges and ensure their smooth voting.
Some 81,000 Turkish Cypriots living in the northern part of the island are currently on the electoral list for the European Parliament elections due 26 May. Although it is not possible to estimate how many of those 81,000 will actually cross to the southern part of the island to vote, researchers expect a much higher turnout compared to the previous EP elections.
“The latest surveys show that the majority of Turkish Cypriots view these elections in a positive light,” said researcher Mine Yucel of The Centre for Migration, Identity and Rights Studies. “We can be certain that a higher than ever number of Turkish Cypriots will go to polls that day.”
In 2014, less than 2,000 Turkish Cypriots voted, while hundreds of them were turned away due to bureaucratic and technical problems that excluded them from the electoral list. Concerns that such problems may arise again, coupled with the already long queues at the crossing points on the weekends are making many Turkish Cypriots wonder whether they will indeed be able to vote.
“It won’t take an effort on the part of officials to make it difficult to vote that day,” said Famagusta Initiative activist Mertkan Hamit, who plans to vote on 26 May. “Just not taking additional measures at the crossing points and treating it like an ordinary Sunday will be enough to discourage many Turkish Cypriots.”
The Repubic of Cyprus will set up around 50 voting stations for Turkish Cypriots along the Green Line at walking distance from crossing points from Kato Pyrgos to Dherynia. Head of the election service Demetris Demetriou told the Cyprus Mail that arrangements have been made for additional staff and equipment at the Ledra Street, Ledra Palace and Dherynia crossing points, which are expected to be the busiest, to avoid delays or problems due to the increased numbers of Turkish Cypriots crossing. The Cyprus Mail has learnt that the Turkish Cypriot authorities will also place additional personnel at the Nicosia and Famagusta crossing points.
The locations of the 50 voting stations will be announced in early May but
the majority of the ballot boxes would be in Nicosia, Demetriou said. “We have made arrangements for Turkish-speaking officers” at the voting stations to be used by Turkish Cypriots,” he added.
Although the EU acquis is suspended in the northern part of the island, Turkish Cypriots, as EU citizens, have the right to run and to vote in the European Parliament Elections.
Considering the Cypriot candidate with the least support won a seat at the European Parliament with 16,000 votes in 2014, the 81,000 Turkish Cypriot votes is a significant number that could have a big impact on the results.
A record number of nine Turkish Cypriot candidates have submitted their candidacy for this year’s European Parliament elections, which also saw a major Greek Cypriot party – left-wing Akel – field a Turkish Cypriot on its ticket for the first time ever. Turkish Cypriot academic Niyazi Kizilyurek – a longtime supporter of a federal, united Cyprus – is among the six candidates of main opposition Akel.
Apart from Kizilyurek, five other Turkish Cypriots are running together with renowned journalist Sever Levent of Afrika newspaper as part of his Jasmine Movement; and two others are running from the Cyprus Socialist Party.
Although a number of Turkish Cypriots ran in previous elections, none of them garnered enough votes to represent Cyprus at the EP.
The sudden mobilisation among the Turkish Cypriot community is due to a number of reasons, from the disappointment with the solution process to the presence of strong Turkish Cypriot candidates, according to analysts.
Kizilyurek – running from Akel – is running a full-fledged, bi-lingual campaign throughout the island. which is the first time the northern part of Cyprus is witnessing a professional campaign for the EP elections complete with billboards, social media and newspaper ads and village visits.
“Those people, who identify themselves with the left are going through a big disillusionment both in terms of the solution process, and the left-wing parties,” said political scientist Umut Bozkurt. “This, coupled with a popular Turkish Cypriot candidate from a major Greek Cypriot party, who actually has a big chance of winning, has provided the leftist, social democrat Turkish Cypriots with a new arena to fight.”
Political scientist Sertac Sonan believes that these EP elections could signify the beginnings of a new paradigm in the Turkish Cypriot community: “The pro-unification Turkish Cypriots do not have much space to maneuver as prospects of a solution are getting worse while the right-wing and Turkey are becoming more hardline. And maybe highlighting their EU citizenship, EU identity, trying to get their voices heard through the EU may be the new struggle, a new channel for them.”
“How many Turkish Cypriots will actually be able to vote will depend largely on the goodwill of the authorities on both sides,” said Yucel. “If they are genuine, they will foresee the problems and resolve them. Failure to assist Turkish Cypriots’ smooth voting that day could even be seen as discrimination.”
Cyprus has six seats in the European Parliament.
A LITTLE over a month is left for the introduction of the first phase of the much-trumpeted national health scheme, but there seems no end in sight to the vicious publicity war, between so-called stakeholders, that has been raging since last year. Every week there is a new feud about Gesy between the warring factions, raising questions of whether the authorities’ interest is the smooth implementation of the scheme or winning the communications game.
There is little doubt the propaganda war is being won by the supporters of Gesy, led by the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO), that has the responsibility for setting up the scheme and administering it. The HIO has the backing of the overwhelming majority of people and have the role of the good guys, as they are championing the noble cause of free universal healthcare and are encountering the opposition of the private doctors, portrayed as the self-serving bad guys.
A divisive climate of ‘us and them’, reminiscent of the period of the 2004 referendum, has been created, with private doctors being the victims of the type of abusive attacks that were directed against the supporters of the Annan plan. They are relentlessly targeted by the media, the political parties and patients’ groups which dismiss them as enemies of the people who put their financial interests above the common good, as if this were unheard of in Cyprus. Even the president jumped on the bandwagon a few months ago, accusing doctors of not wanting to join Gesy because they would not be able to continue their allegedly systematic tax evasion.
A few days ago, after the association of private hospitals and clinics (Pasin) announced that 14 of its members, including the three biggest Nicosia hospitals, would not be joining the scheme but would continue their cooperation with health insurance companies in a private healthcare network, they were labeled the ‘anti-Gesy’ front by newspapers. The “war against Gesy was raging out of control” reported one newspaper, while the leader of a patients’ group accused the private hospital owners of “intimidating society” and being “businessmen in doctors’ clothing trying to make citizens hostages to their financial interests.” Private medicine was “blackmailing the state and society” he told a newspaper.
The patients’ group leader came up with defiant political rhetoric, declaring that “the success of Gesy depends on us.” It was a ludicrous assertion, but indicative of the fact that winning the propaganda war has become more important than building a Gesy that will serve people. Admittedly, the second phase of the scheme – in-hospital care – is not scheduled for introduction for another year, but it should be a major concern for the authorities that the three biggest hospitals of Nicosia will not be in Gesy. Will this not cause a shortage of hospital beds, operating theatres and specialised treatments? Even if the state could afford it, it would not be able to set up new hospitals in a year to meet patient needs, when in-hospital care is provided by the scheme?
The HIO recognises this would pose a serious problem and after the announcement of the ‘anti-Gesy’ front, one of its officials said that the door was not closed to the private hospital owners. “We would go as far as the Council of Ministers to ask for an increase in budgets if it is proved that with Gesy, private hospitals and clinics would not be viable.” This was the first admission that private hospitals may have had a point in arguing all this time that fees the HIO was proposing to pay for treatments were too low, not only threatening their viability but preventing them from investing in new medical equipment. Of course, it could also be argued that the fees private hospitals were seeking would make Gesy unviable. Perhaps some compromise might be reached over the next year, although there is no obvious solution and both sides may have a point.
A more pressing problem is the actual number of doctors that have signed up for the scheme. According to the latest information, a total of some 500 have signed up of whom 360 will work as personal doctors. This would suggest there would not be enough specialist doctors, even though the HIO keeps giving information, reproduced with a triumphant tone by the media, that more and more doctors were signing up to Gesy by the day? On Wednesday registrations of patients with personal doctors (GPs) will begin and there will be clearer idea of the situation. Would they sign up with the ‘personal doctors’ in the scheme or would they complain that choice is restricted? There is a growing suspicion that despite the positive publicity, the refusal of too many private doctors to join the scheme, because of the unsatisfactory terms, could cause major problems in June.
Clever publicity campaigns will not be able to hide this, nor will heroic statements by patients’ groups that the “the success of Gesy depends on us.” The truth is that the success does not depend on patients but on having adequate numbers of doctors, hospitals and clinics. This is what the HIO and the health ministry should be single-mindedly focusing on securing in the next few weeks, because winning the publicity war would be completely meaningless if we end up with a dysfunctional scheme.
The post Our View: Divisive climate has been created around Gesy appeared first on Cyprus Mail.
THE MISERABLE leader of the public parasites, Glafcos Hadjiklamouris, felt so hurt by the barrage of well-deserved abuse levelled against his blood-sucking members, after the decision of the administrative court ruling the pay cuts imposed by the state unconstitutional, he held a news conference on Thursday and gave recital in self-pity, begging for sympathy.
How deluded he must be thinking he was going to win anyone’s sympathy. Every time he opens his big mouth to complain about the allegedly unfair treatment of the lazy, labour aristocrats of Pasydy, presenting them as victims of a cruel system, the only thing he achieves is to piss off more people. Claiming victimhood for his parasites is a step too far.
At Thursday’s news conference he was joined by the leaders of other unions of the idle classes – the three teaching unions and the Association of pensioner parasites. The pensioners were used by the devious Hadjiklamouris in the hope of earning our pity. He said: “The money exists at this moment and it is unfair insisting continuing unlawful legislation, and especially for pensioners.”
You would have cried if you did not know that these were no ordinary pensioners, on 600 euro a month who have difficulty making ends meet. They were the pensioners of the parasitic sector that are paid a monthly pension of two and three grand, and were claiming victimhood because of a 10 per cent cut during the crisis. Parasites, from the leader down, have no shame.
NO BOSSES of unions of the real working people were at Hadjiklamouris’ sympathy-begging fest, probably not wanting their presence to be seen as approval of his all-devouring sense of entitlement that was on show when he was not pleading for our sympathy.
There was much misinformation about the cost of enforcing the court decision on the pay-cuts said the miserable-looking leader of the parasites. It would not cost €5 billion as some claimed (nobody made such a claim) but only €200m extra for each of the next four years, if the wages were restored to their pre-2013 levels he said. A paltry total of €800m plus €40m for those that went to court and would be given all the back-pay as well.
The government put the cost at a little over a billion euro as it would also have to restore the wages of SGO and municipality employees. “Now we are saying where we would find the money; the money exists,” said Hadjimourmouris, pointing out that the state would have a surplus of €650m this year.
Instead of trying to reduce the huge public debt, the government should give the surplus to the poor, public parasites and end the injustice. The only problem is that the surplus might not be enough because the teaching unions, in a show of solidarity for their fellow parasites will also demand the lifting of the pay cuts imposed on teachers from this month. Oelmek has already started collecting signatures of members and Poed is considering doing the same. At this rate the forecasted budget surplus for 2019 could turn into a deficit.
BANK employees’ union Etyk has also seized the administrative court’s decision to demand an end to the pay cuts imposed on its members. In a letter sent to banks, Etyk, whose boss is more militant than Hadjiklamouris, demanded the lifting of all pay cuts, the granting of all pay increments of past years that were frozen, as well as the pay increment for 2019, and CoLA.
In a circular issued, after the court decision, Etyk declared that “based on the decision, it is made clear that the annual wage increment as well as CoLA are part of worker’s gross pay and constitute OWNERSHIP.”
It warned: “Bank boards that have not made these payments to their staff must do so immediately, ending the blatant violation of existing agreements, the law but also the constitution of the Cyprus Republic.” Our judges with their wise decisions declaring wages and pensions as being property safeguarded by the constitution, could have given Etyk an opportunity to force the banks to need another recapitalisation. The banks could take their customers’ uninsured deposits, once again for their recapitalisation as the courts do not consider bank deposits to be property, movable or immovable.
Bank employees may be shocked to discover, however, that only public parasites enjoy the privilege of their wages being deemed private property by the courts.
ETYK may lose some of its bolshiness very soon. Departing Bank of Cyprus’ CEO John Hourican has a big surprise in store for the bank’s workers. He has plans for lay-offs that some bank insiders believe could reach a thousand workers.
Hourican, who relishes confrontation, had initially drawn plans for an all-out war with Etyk, which has been calling the shots at the banks for decades, reasoning that there was no other way of cutting the bank’s debilitating wage costs. The B of C board of directors vetoed the idea not wanting a messy and drawn out conflict with the militant union that would never to give in without a fight.
There was a big risk it would turn vicious, disrupt banking work and spark a lot of bad publicity, which was the last thing the B of C needed. Redundancies was Plan B, even though the bank would be forced to offer over-generous compensation packages.
A couple of months ago, Hourican met Prez Nik to inform him about his plan. According to our mole at the palace, Nik gave his approval, but asked Hourican to wait until after May’s elections for the European Parliament before announcing the redundancies’ plan, presumably because he did not want the inevitable fallout to affect Disy’s share of the vote.
THE THREESOME diplomacy circus inaugurated by Prez Nik, which many of our countrymen buy as something worthy and serious, was in Jordan last weekend where the second tripartite summit took place.
Apart from memorandums of cooperation in investment, research and innovation, education and combatting terrorism being signed, the three countries agreed the setting up of a Permanent Secretariat of Tripartite Mechanisms, that would be based in Nicosia and set the framework that would make the Secretariat’s operation effective for the three countries.
I recall that Nik has agreed a similar Nicosia-based secretariat with the partners in the other threesomes he organised. Will there be a different secretariat for each threesome or one secretariat serving all threesomes simultaneously? The former is a safer bet as many more public jobs will be created and Kyproulla could become a regional centre for threesomes. The option of one Secretariat for all, runs the risk of creating jealousies and rivalries among our threesome partners all vying to be the number one in our affections, and would create fewer jobs.
The other good news from Jordan was information that Iraq would “enter the formations of tripartite co-operations.” In Jordan the foreign ministers of the threesome met the foreign minister of Iraq and discussed how they could help in the reconstruction of Iraq.
As Phil reported after the summit, “the network of co-operations of Cyprus, as the results show, is going from good to better.”
IRAQ is obviously our government’s next target to be wooed into a threesome or this time it may be a foursome and include Jordan. The foreign ministers of the four countries would be meeting again and will participate in a business forum that would be held in Baghdad.
We might soon need a permanent secretariat for quadripartite mechanisms as well, assuming Iraq joins the fold. According to Phil, Prez Nik was looking at the possibility of visiting Baghdad or if he does not, the Iraqi prime minister would visit Kyproulla. Before long, through his threesome diplomacy Nik will have imposed the Pax Kypriana in the Med and Middle East.
HOW IRRITATING it was to hear the CyBC constantly referring to Nik’s official visit to Georgia last week as “historic”. It was not only the state broadcaster that did this. The state news agency Tass, also wrote about prez’s “historic visit to Georgia.”
They both got their cue from the government spokesman, Prodromos Prodromou, who had billed the visit as an “official visit of historic significance.” What historic significance was there considering Georgia was not even invited to join a tripartite? How was Nik making history, by getting on a plane to visit Georgia?
The flimsy reason for calling the visit “historic” was that it was the first time a Kyproulla president was going there, but I doubt it would be recorded in any history books or inspire the composing of an opera like Nixon’s visit to China had done.
APART from the threesome diplomacy, our foreign minister, Nikos Christodoulides, is now pursuing what he has coined as “economic diplomacy,” organising business forums (we do not know whether the taxpayer is picking up the bills for these) at which he is the star of the show.
He was at one for South East Asia recently and 10 days ago spoke at a business forum held in the Lebanon where the first tripartite, at foreign minister level, was held. A tripartite summit of historic significance with the Lebanon is scheduled for later this year.
Meanwhile, Christodoulides, as part of his self-promotion drive, held a public consultation in Limassol last Monday, with the “aim of defining a fully acceptable model of economic diplomacy for Cyprus,” reported Tass news agency, “stressing that dialogue with the citizen and society of citizens constitutes one of the basic priorities of his ministry.”
He had held a similar public consultation in Nicosia. And this guy wants to be taken seriously. Now if he was the minister in charge of building roads, town planning I could understand him having public consultations, but for foreign policy and diplomacy by public demand seems insane even by Kyproulla standards? The economic diplomacy targeting Iraq was probably suggested by a member of the public at the Nicosia consultation.
THE GOVERNMENT was “satisfied” with the UNSG’s latest report on the Cyprob and why wouldn’t it be? Jane Holl Lute would carry on visiting the rain-swept isle for the dialogue of the deaf and Prez Nik was not singled out for blame for the lack of progress on the terms of reference – both leaders were blamed equally, hence the satisfaction with the report.
In reality, the government should have been thrilled with the report because it kept the process alive, which is all it wants. An ongoing process that leads nowhere has been the objective of all our presidents from the time of Spy Kyp, with the possible exception of George Vass. They all love the journey, which allows for patriotic posturing and defiant rhetoric, as long as there is no danger of ever reaching its destination. As long as the Cyprob Odyssey never arrives at Ithaki they will be happy.
PSEUDO foreign minister, Kudret Ozersay, a humourless, self-regarding windbag, felt duty-bound to issue an announcement about the bill lifting of the US arms embargo, during the visit to Kyproulla of the bill’s co-writer, Bob Menendez. His pseudo ministry issued a stern announcement warning that “the lifting of the embargo on the Greek Cypriot side will speed up the arms race in the eastern Mediterranean”. Statements made about the matter by the Greek Cypriot leadership and US senators “contain aggressiveness and a threat for peace and stability on the island.” This just confirms poor old Ozersay’s complete lack of a sense of humour. Does he not realise that by the time we pay what we owe our public parasites we will have no money left to buy a single US rifle.
THERE has been war talk in Kyproulla but it has nothing to do with the Cyprob or the lifting of the arms embargo. The outbreak of war has been caused by Gesy and does not threaten our Turkish Cypriot cousins, if we are to believe our newspapers. “They are fighting it but Gesy advances,” said Haravghi. Phil reported an “Explosive mix in Gesy”, while Politis identified a “Merciless war and hostage to the doctors.”
TODAY is a historic day for our establishment. This is not because we endorse the April 21, 1967 coup in Greece by the colonels, but because the first Coffeeshop appeared on this day, 28 years ago. I admit it does not have the historic significance of Prez Nik’s visit to Georgia, but I thought I would mention it anyway, in the hope of receiving thousands of birthday presents.
The post Tales from the Coffeeshop: Parasites have no shame appeared first on Cyprus Mail.
By George Koumoullis
The history of Cyprus is riven with contradictions, backtracking and transformations. Arguably the most classic example is offered by the July 15 coup of 1974.
Until July 15, 1974 most Cypriots were Makarios supporters. As soon as the news of the coup broke, masses of Makarios supporters turned into Junta champions as the 15,000 congratulatory telegrams sent to Nicos Sampson between July 15 and 22 of that year testify. In other words, the ‘national saviour’ received almost 2,000 supportive telegrams daily during his eight-day rule.
Hold your breath because there is more. On July 23, the Greek Junta fell and then – by some miracle – Makarios’ image was revived and restored and all Cypriots, with great pride, called themselves anti-Junta. If there was an extenuating circumstance for some who sent a congratulatory telegram (eg in order not to lose their job), for others there was no excuse.
Backtracking remains a basic characteristic of Cypriot politicians as we are repeatedly reminded by President Anastasiades who from 2004 to 2017 was the shining star of rapprochement and reunification. Unfortunately something changed radically in Crans Montana in the summer of 2017: the star swayed off course, found itself very close to a black hole and was swallowed up by gravitational forces. This transformation has caused confusion among foreign diplomats who are at a complete loss about the type of settlement we are seeking.
In effect, Anastasiades has torpedoed the convergences that were achieved with so much hard work and is moving outside the Guterres framework. For instance, federal powers had been agreed some time ago. What was the point then of bringing up the issue again and proposing a decentralised/loose federation without discussing this vital matter at the national council? It would be a bit far-fetched to conclude that in a decentralised federation disagreements and possible deadlocks would be fewer.
Has the president considered that in such a case the cooperation of the Turkish Cypriot constituent state with Turkey could be closer than cooperation with our state? I doubt it. But such a turnaround would run counter to Anastasiades’ declared position about reducing the dependence of the Turkish Cypriots on Turkey and in the long run could increase rather than limit the deadlocks that could undermine the functionality of the state.
I will not go into the President’s abandoning of the presidential system, another convergence, and proposing two weeks ago a parliamentary system with a rotating prime minister. I find this move by Anastasiades very difficult to comprehend as the option had been discussed in the past and rejected.
Of more interest is the issue of the single positive vote for approval of any decision by the council of ministers that was already agreed and confirmed at Crans Montana. The question is why now, all of a sudden, did the President raise this issue, adopting a bellicose style and ignoring the fact that the positive vote had already been agreed?
Anastasiades himself, in his introductory speech at Crans Montana, accepted as a manifestation of political equality the requirement of at least a single positive vote by a Turkish Cypriot member of the council of ministers of the new state for any decision. The federal constitution that was agreed stipulates that residual power would be exercised by the constituent states that will exercise fully all their powers without interference from the federal government. Consequently, no decision taken by the Greek Cypriot constituent state (for instance on family law), must be approved by the Turkish Cypriot constituent state. The positive vote would only be necessary in relation to federal laws.
The example given by the president, several times, that we would require a positive Turkish Cypriot vote to build the East Med pipeline was the worst he could have chosen as it implied that such a big issue should only be decided by the Greek Cypriots.
Even primary school children understand that the creation of such a major pipeline would have significant consequences for the economy and geo-strategic position of Cyprus as a whole and it would therefore be perfectly reasonable for a single positive Turkish Cypriot vote to be needed.
Anastasiades wonders “in which other constitution of any country, either of the UN or the EU there is provision for one community or one constituent state to decide the fate of the rest of the country because this is how political equality is supposedly secured?” First there is no other state in the world that is made up of two different zones and two constituent states. If there was one and it had a democratic system, the bigger of the two constituent states would not have taken decisions on its own.
The president’s is a naive question as it ignores the decision-making mechanism in a federal state in which population proportions are not taken into account. There is therefore no danger of one part of the federation imposing itself on the other. The magic word here is ‘consensus’. Even in coalition governments, the big party does not take decisions on its own but through consensus.
The questions relating to the president’s backtracking loom unanswered. Has he been influenced by the deep state, which according to comments made recently by the mayor of Famagusta does not want a settlement?
By Alper Ali Riza
I BECAME a British citizen on Maundy Thursday last week after a private ceremony at the Old Town Hall in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea on the King’s Road. It was a solemn occasion. I took the oath of allegiance to HM Queen Elizabeth II and made a pledge to respect the rights and freedoms of the UK and uphold its democratic values, and observe and fulfil my duties as a British citizen.
It was a perfect type of a perfect day – a glorious summer’s day in spring when the cherry blossom is at its peak and London looked fantastic. It was fitting too that the venue for my citizenship ceremony was the Old Town Hall in Kensington and Chelsea, although I would have preferred the New Town Hall in the environs of Notting Hill, closer to where I spent most of my life since coming to England as a law student in 1968.
The King’s Road in Chelsea was where we used to hang out occasionally as penniless students pretending to be part of the fashionable swinging London scene; actually we were more part of the bedsitter scene around Notting Hill Gate and Bayswater with only occasional forays into Earl’s Court to drink coffee and talk about zodiac signs with girls at the Troubadour in Old Brompton Road.
Those were indeed the days but then the 1974 war in Cyprus came and went and we stayed on in Britain. In a way it was just as well for people like me. I had just been called to the Bar and there was no way I could begin a career as a lawyer in Cyprus. But it was tough in London too. It still is very difficult to start a career at the Bar but it was much worse in 1974.
I had no money and the prospects for black and ethnic barristers at that time were bleak. It was virtually impossible to get a tenancy in chambers – join a law office in common parlance – so one had to look for exotic alternatives in law centres and pressure groups specialising in areas like immigration and refugee law that frequently involved points of human rights law.
Little was I to know at the time that by the end of the century many in the profession would wish to pass themselves off as human rights lawyers and human rights law would become as popular in practice as it became in the opening years of the 21st Century after the European Convention on Human Rights became part of UK domestic law.
In his song That’s life! Frank Sinatra captures with mellifluous elan my life and times in London all these years. The song’s most memorable lyrics ring so true, for I have indeed been ‘a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king; I’ve been up and down and over and out, and each time I found myself flat on my face I picked myself up and got back in the race.’
I was often down and out in London. Not quite like Eric Blair in George Orwell’s famous novel, but pretty low. Yet I survived and was appointed a QC in 1991 and a part time judge in 1992. And I got married and had children and got divorced – the full catastrophe according to Alexis Zorbas. My daughters are lovely girls and very English like their mother. For obvious reasons I did not imbue them with the Cypriot side of my background. A lot of it was English School British – the English School was not Greek then – anyway and would not have enriched their cultural heritage one iota.
So it was with mixed emotions of bitter sweet nostalgia and a deep gratitude and affection for Britain that I stood to attention before a portrait of the Queen and a drooping Union Jack and pledged loyalty to the Crown and the values of the country to which I owe everything. I am now not just pro-British, as my detractors frequently and accurately point out, I am now a fully-fledged British citizen and proud to be part of the fairest and most tolerant society in the world.
The acquisition of citizenships of convenience are the flavour of our times. Mine was not at all an acquisition of convenience. My decision to acquire British citizenship was a deliberate choice to become British because I feel a patriotic attachment to Britain and a weakening attachment to Cyprus that gets weaker with every failure of talks – the last of which at Crans-Montana was decisive.
I have lived the classic three score and ten years during which the country of my birth has caused me nothing but anguish. For although I love Cyprus I have never been made to feel as though I belong to her; for me she is like the natural mother of an adopted child rejected in infancy. Now I have a country to call my own in which I am free to be myself like I can never be in Cyprus – a damning indictment on the political leadership in Cyprus since independence.
For those of us who do not feel a sense of belonging in the country of our birth, acquiring a nationality of choice is more meaningful than acquiring a passport to help us move freely between the most exclusive parts of the world in Europe and America.
Yet applying to become a British citizen was a complex decision for me. I had been advising and representing people wishing to acquire British citizenship for many years yet failed to apply for it myself. My late father advised me that procrastination and delay are the worst maladies of the soul but every time I neglected his advice it was for a good reason deep inside my psyche. In the case of failing to apply for British citizenship it was because subconsciously I did not want to lose hope for Cyprus. Sadly, I have now lost all hope and became a British citizen within months.
That was the cross I had to bear but for practical reasons the prospect of Britain’s departure from the EU has caused many EU nationals in Britain to apply for British citizenship, and a large number of Brits to discover their Irish roots, and many Brits in Cyprus to enquire about obtaining Cypriot citizenship. I thought this would happen in 2016. People loath being told I told you so but I have good reason to crave my readers indulgence.
When Brexit came into prospect in May 2016, I wrote a piece for the Sunday Mail in which among other things I said ‘the more immediate question is what is going happen to the British community resident in Cyprus if Britain votes to leave the EU on 23 June 2016? Britain and Cyprus recognise dual citizenship and British Cypriots living in Britain have both citizenships. Most British people who live in Cyprus, however, have residence but not citizenship.
Potentially they may be seriously affected by Brexit. British residents are entitled to live in Cyprus because Britain is a member of the EU. Under EU law all citizens of member states are also citizens of the EU entitled to live anywhere in the EU as equal citizens. If Britain votes to leave, British residents in Cyprus will automatically cease to be citizens of the EU and become subject to normal immigration control.’
A British resident of Cyprus called Geoffrey Evans took umbrage at my warning. He misrepresented what I said in a letter to the editor in May 2016 and called it dishonest scaremongering. I believe he owes me an apology.
Alper Ali Riza is a Queens Counsel and a part time judge
Since reading the latest comments by government representatives (The Cyprus Mail On-line Monday 15 April 2019) I now realise that southeast Pissouri has two geological problems, not one as I have hitherto supposed.
The first is the landslide which has destabilised nearly one million square metres and has destroyed or is in the process of destroying as many as seventy homes, and perhaps more to follow. It is common ground between the experts advising the victims and the geological surveys department of Cyprus that the landslide was triggered by uncontrolled groundwater. All groundwater is the property of the state.
The second is the ever-deepening hole that sovernment officials have dug for themselves. When officials appeared before the House committee of the interior in September 2015 they misled the committee (hopefully unintentionally) by saying that there were no indications of landslide (this was wrong, two distinguished Cypriot engineers had observed indications of landslide between 2012 and 2015) and that the homes in southeast Pissouri had been built by “a negligent developer”. This was also wrong. No competent expert has identified negligent building as a cause of damage.
Because the officials concerned appear to lack enough professional confidence or indeed self-confidence, they have failed to request an opportunity to re-appear before the committee to correct their misinformation.
No competent professional should ever be afraid to admit error. To do so enhances professional status, not diminishes it. Instead these officials have sought to disguise their errors by layer after layer of misinformation which becomes more bizarre layer by layer.
To give just three of many examples, the officials have progressed (if “progressed” is the correct word) from one negligent developer to many negligent Etek engineers, and from one gravity-defying sloping lake to a plurality of gravity-defying sloping lakes.
They have (it appears) advised the auditor-general himself that if the allegedly negligent Etek engineers had calculated correctly the bearing capacity of the soil, the engineers would have been able to predict decades ahead that the district administration would fail to install a groundwater management system. Notwithstanding that the officials knew, or should have known, that “eye of newt and toe of frog” have been recognised for over four hundred years as the industry standard aids for ordinarily competent clairvoyants.
The present controversy could have been avoided easily, and without political embarrassment to ministers. And possibly without cost.
If Cypriot officials had applied within twelve weeks of the onset of the Pissouri landslide, the European Union Solidarity Fund would have funded not only recompense to victims but also remedial works to stabilise Pissouri. Neglect to apply has cost Cypriot taxpayers’ tens of millions of euros.
I can think of only two logical reasons why officials neglected to apply for something so patently advantageous to Cyprus. First, indifference: the responsible officials simply could not be bothered.
Second, culpability: I believe it to be highly probable that officials know that their positive decision NOT to construct a groundwater management system caused the state-owned ground water to trigger the landslide.
They fear that EU experts may determine that the landslide was not wholly natural but was caused by professional and/or administrative maladministration. For the sake of completeness, I would add that an individual is as much responsible for inaction as they would be for an action. The defence “I didn’t do nothin’ guv” would not help these officials or the government. The decision not to act was an act by the government which has “materially decreased[d] the economic value” of homes, and for which the government is required by the constitution to pay “just compensation”.
The auditor-general should not have allowed his staff to publish letters in his name which he knew, or should have known, to be factually incorrect and which cruelly accused aged victims of begging for “gifts” or “welfare”. Instead he should be investigating why officials failed to apply to the solidarity fund, and why officials failed to ensure that an adequate drainage system was installed to manage ground water – prior to permitting large scale development, especially on the heights above southeast Pissouri. Such an investigation could and should be completed in days or at most a few weeks.
In the meantime, the auditor-general should use the considerable authority of his important office to ensure that “just compensation” is paid “promptly” and “in cash” to victims in compliance with the Constitution of Cyprus.
Antony Walker, FRICS
The shocking and despicable arrest of Julian Assange has truly caused the masks to come off. The legacy media’s coverage has been atrocious to say the least.
The press, who like to blow a gasket over asinine identity politics, either fell asleep at the wheel or else sought to smear Assange in his most difficult hour. By and large the so-called Fourth Estate – what a joke – sided with the establishment. While all manner of legal principles and norms – asylum protection, due process, presumption of innocence – were being trampled on. The alternative media alone did right by Assange.
And what about in Cyprus? Did we see outraged editorials conveying concern at this brazen attack on journalism and free speech? Nothing. As usual, local coverage merely deferred to mainstream news outlets abroad, copy-paste, copy-paste.
So I went digging for remarks from a politician or a party. Anything. I came up with a big fat zero.
Not a single statement from any party. Total silence. Maybe I missed something. I check the parties’ Twitter feeds. Nothing there either. Not a word about Assange.
Instead, all the politicos and pundits in Cyprus were busy Tweeting as they competed with one another in waxing lachrymose about the blaze at the Notre Dame Cathedral. A safe subject.
What will it take for people to wake up to the assault on free speech? And realise that the sock-puppet, cookie-cutter mainstream corporate media have sold out?
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China’s top legislature will consider tougher rules on research involving human genes and embryos, the first such move since a Chinese scientist sparked controversy last year by announcing he had made the world’s first “gene-edited” babies.
He Jiankui, associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, attracted condemnation from the global scientific community when he said he had used a technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of twin girls born in November.
Chinese authorities launched an investigation into He’s work and said they had halted the kind of research he was undertaking.
Under the draft laws sent to China’s legislature for review on Saturday, medical and human trials would face closer scrutiny and stricter requirements, such as ensuring human subjects are properly briefed, state media outlet Xinhua reported.
The rules would also require all future trials to be approved by administrative authorities as well as ethical committees, it said.
The report did not specify a timeline for the approval of the regulations, or make specific mention of He’s research.
In videos posted online and at the November 2018 conference where He made his controversial presentation, He said he believed his gene editing would help protect the girls from infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Chinese authorities and institutions, as well as hundreds of international scientists, condemned him and said any application of gene editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes was against the law and medical ethics of China.
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