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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-11-21
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Friday, November 21, 1997
 Mental problems on the rise in the armyBy Bouli Hadjioannou
ARE National Guardsmen faking mental illness to get off doing military service?
Or is the upsurge in the number of soldiers who secure exemptions for personality disorders or deviant behaviour just a sign of deepening social problems?
This nagging question was put in the House Defence Committee yesterday. Its concluded that there was really no black and white answer, and certainly not until more data is at hand.
The issue was raised by Akel deputy Costas Papacostas. He told the committee his own inquiry suggested that as many as 3,000 National Guardsmen had managed to secure exemption from the army citing mental illness between 1988 to 1997.
Yet 2,940 later appeared before the medical council of the Communications Ministry, which found no sign of mental illness - clearing the way for them to obtain a driving licence.
Papacostas wanted to know whether exemptions were on the rise, and whether some attempt was made to recruit these youngsters since they had apparently been "cured."
Doctors and psychiatrists from the National Guard indicated there was no easy answer. They said that overall some 2.5 per cent of recruits were exempted - either temporarily or permanently - from doing national service. They did not have a breakdown, and promised to come back with specific figures.
But they noted that the incidence of mental disorders among recruits was no different from that in society.
Officers noted that the Attorney-general's office had ruled that once the army's medical council had found someone unfit to serve on mental health grounds, this was final.
They said a special medical council had been set up two years ago to examine all applications. Psychiatrists and psychologists are careful not to be taken for a ride. But some recruits bring with them considerable "baggage".
There have been cases of drug dealers, or others with a track record of brawls and knifing attacks being drafted. These people simply could not be accepted into army life, the committee heard.
Then there were increasing signs of immaturity - young people who come from a very cosseted life, often spoiled rotten by their parents, who could not cope with army life.
In many cases, the committee heard, army psychiatrists work with the parents and the youngsters are given temporary exemption and encouraged to come back. There has been an increase in the number who do come back to serve - though there have also been cases where recruits rushed back only to leave again a week later. Thus the army has introduced a one-month trial period to establish whether soldiers are ready for army life.
The committee also raised the need for access to army camps. Psychiatrists said they had access to the commanding officers and families of soldiers with problems, but so far did not have the manpower to secure access to the soldiers' companions. This they hoped to achieve in the longer term by setting up teams - along the lines of anti-drugs resistance teams in the schools - to combat teasing of rank and file soldiers. The issue remains before the committee.
 Army suicides probedON October 4, a young sentry died from a shot fired from his weapon - a presumed suicide - the second by a soldier this year.
According to Akel deputy Yiannakis Thoma, who took the issue to the House Defence Committee yesterday, Nicos Nicolaou was a sensitive lad from a poor working class family. He was sincere and reliable.
According to information Thoma said he had collected from the soldier's friends and family, Nicolaou had been given only three days leave in the 22 months of his 26 month service.
He was picked on by his mates (not officers), often did double sentry duty when others did not show up and willingly replaced others when asked.
"The question I put to you here is how are youngsters such as these to be protected at our army camps?" Thoma asked a panel of army officers - including doctors, and Defence Ministry officials.
His question - perhaps more rhetorical than anything else - came during a committee probe on suicides, injuries and safety of national guardsmen.
Other than suicides, deputies raised the issue of safety during target practice and the accident rate among young national guardsmen rushing back to camp after a short overnight leave - described by Disy's Averoff Neophytou as a "ticket to death".
Officials were unable to give specifics, but promised to come back with figures.
But they said there were approximately eight to nine suicides per 100,000 of the army population - in Greece the corresponding rate for 20 to 30-year- olds outside the army was exactly half that. In Cyprus the trend is one suicide a year (although this year there have been two).
But they said that there appeared to be a drop in the number of attempted suicides among soldiers - from 43 last year to 29 so far this year.
There was even the case of a young man who attempted suicide just to secure an overnight leave, deputies heard.
The issue remains before the committee.
 Cordovez will be back after electionsUN SPECIAL envoy to Cyprus Diego Cordovez has secured the consent of both sides for his return to the island in March for contacts aimed at re- starting direct settlement talks.
"Mr Cordovez will be returning immediately after the (February) presidential elections to begin the process of organising negotiations," Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said.
Cassoulides was commenting after a late afternoon meeting between Cordovez and President Clerides - the second in as many days. He said both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides had agreed to the envoy's return.
Cordovez, who has also met with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash during his short first visit as envoy, again refused to comment on the content of his talks.
Earlier in the day, Cordovez, who chaired UN-led settlement talks in the US and Switzerland in the Summer, hosted a lunch for Greek and Turkish Cypriot party leaders at the Nicosia home of UN permanent representative to Cyprus Gustave Feissel.
Today Cordovez - a former Foreign Minister of Ecuador - is expected to meet with ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council before calling a midday press conference.
He is then scheduled to fly to Athens and then Ankara for further Cyprus problem talks.
 Doctors claim betrayal by unionTHE leadership of the doctors' branch of civil servants' union Pasydy resigned yesterday after claiming a change had been made to a crucial collective agreement.
But Pasydy and Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said the "change" had never been included in the agreement in the first place.
The branch met yesterday to approve a working agreement thrashed out with the government earlier this month to end a dispute over pay and conditions. But the vote was postponed and the branch leadership threw in the towel after finding what they said were changes to provisions for pay for specialist physicians.
Branch chairman Dimitris Dimitriou warned that a general branch conference would be called to vote on a motion for doctors to abandon Pasydy, claiming that the union had agreed to the contentious provisions without consulting doctors.
However, Pasydy issued a statement saying the contentious provision had never been included in the final document agreed with the Finance Ministry and was only found in an earlier draft version of the agreement distributed at the branch meeting by some doctors.
The union admitted, though, that the branch leadership had not been present when the final version was hammered out with the minister.
Christodoulou supported the Pasydy version of events: "On this issue there was never an agreement, so it is a non-existent issue," he said.
Pasydy stated it expected "calm will eventually prevail and the branch leadership will continue its work."
 Ombudsman says citizenship rules discriminate against womenTHE FACT that children born in Cyprus to a Cypriot mother and a foreign father are not considered Cypriot constitutes discrimination against women, Ombudsman Nicos Charalambous has said.
As the law stands, such children are not granted Cypriot citizenship, whereas children born to a Cypriot father and foreign mother are. In an statement released yesterday, Charalambous said this was sexual discrimination.
The Ombudsman examined the issue after receiving a complaint from a Cypriot woman married to a foreigner whose child had not been given Cypriot status.
Charalambous said the existing law was not in line with that of other countries or international law.
 Doctor's mistaken identity nightmareBy Charlie Charalambous
A RESPECTED Nicosia doctor has had police knocking on his door and even the Athens Hilton request he pay up during a two-year ordeal of mistaken identity.
Doctor Andreas Sismanis is unfortunate to have the same name as someone else who apparently likes to leave debts, live it up and has managed to be placed on the stop list.
Sismanis' nightmare ordeal started two years ago when he received a phone call from a local establishment demanding he settle a bill of £520 for a night's entertainment.
After much confusion and detailed explanations it was discovered that another Andreas Sismanis had had a good time at the doctor's expense.
But the damage to his good name did not stop there.
The Athens Hilton also mistakenly believed that Sismanis had an outstanding account to pay, and police have knocked on his door claiming to have an arrest warrant against him.
Sismanis told the Cyprus Mail that he had been confronted by police who claimed that he was wanted for issuing bouncing cheques.
When he asked how their exhaustive investigations had led them to his door, he was told they found his name in the telephone directory.
Unfortunately for the doctor, his name is not a common one.
And as a result, Strovolos Municipality has informed him that he hasn't paid his taxes, and the Lands and Surveys department has objected to a property deal.
Ironically, Sismanis was a one-time Strovolos councillor for Edek.
The final straw came when he was about to go on a short cruise recently with his wife.
As his wife went to board the ship, Sismanis was intercepted by a police officer who said he wasn't going anywhere because his name was on the stop list.
Sismanis pointed out that the officer should check his passport number before jumping to conclusions.
An angry and frustrated Sismanis was finally allowed to join his wife after a senior officer stepped to resolve the matter.
With this catalogue of errors concerning his identity, the doctor has publicly gone on the record to state his credentials and declare that he is not the person other people think he is.
 Anger and confusion over Hannay remarksRECENT comments by Britain's Sir David Hannay sparked anger in the House of Representatives last night, but deputies disagreed on how they should put their objections on record.
The issue was raised in the plenary by Disy's Yiannakis Matsis before the start of ordinary business.
At stake were controversial statements by Britain's envoy on Cyprus to Phileleftheros newspaper, in which he argued that Turkish settlers were now part of the Cyprus reality and had been granted "Turkish-Cypriot citizenship."
Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides has lodged protests, and plans to raise the issue again in London.
Matsis told the plenary that Hannay's remarks were very grave because he represented the British government. House president Spyros Kyprianou spoke in a similar vein. He called for a demarche and said statements such as this boded badly for the future. Akel's Demetris Christofias said an explanation was needed.
But there the agreement broke down. A proposal from Diko that Cassoulides brief the House Foreign Affairs Committee on how the government had reacted prompted a counter-proposal from Edek that the Foreign Minister brief the plenary. This, the party said, would send a message on the House's reaction to the remarks.
This was unprecedented, Akel said. Why not let party leaders decide how the issue should be handled. After all, others had made similar, equally condemnable statements. And to summon Cassoulides to House there and then lacked "seriousness".
No, said Edek, we want a vote now to decide whether the issue will be discussed in committee or in the plenary.
If there is going to be a vote, said Disy, we propose Cassoulides come this minute and tell us how the government has handled the issue.
But the United Democrats said the Cyprus issue shouldn't really be debated in the House except on special occasions, as that was the job of the National Council.
And so the wrangling went on, only to be cut short by Kyprianou who announced the issue would go to the meeting of party leaders while Cassoulides would brief the committee, and if necessary there be a debate in the plenary.
 Greens claim police beat up protestersBy Martin Hellicar
POLICE yesterday promised to investigate allegations that officers abused environmentalists protesting against British exercises in the Akamas area.
The Ecologists and Environmentalists party claimed yesterday that members out demonstrating against the exercises earlier this week were beaten up by police.
"An investigating officer was appointed from the moment the complaint was made," police chief Panicos Hadjiloizou responded.
"The case will be investigated to ascertain the truth of the allegations," Hadjiloizou added.
The leader of the green party, George Perdikis, also claimed the police Central Intelligence Unit (Kyp) were watching his every move and listening in on his phone calls.
In the Akamas meanwhile, Dr Marios Matsakis and other protestors had to be removed from a firing range as British army war games continued.
Police moved in to remove the deputy and another three demonstrators after they came face to face with British squaddies in the remote peninsula. Matsakis later said he, anti-bases activist Christos Andreou and another two men had entered the danger zone in the early hours and let off a flare at about 7am to warn of their presence.
He said the British soldiers behaved "impeccably" when faced with the protestors and the whole situation remained calm.
Paphos police chief Andreas Nicolaides said the army exercises had gone ahead normally.
Matsakis and Andreou have claimed that shooting on the firing range went ahead earlier this week, despite the fact that they were in the area at the time. They accused police of giving the all-clear for British soldiers to start firing, ignoring the risk to protesters they knew were in the area.
The British bases have already denied that any protesters were in the danger area during exercises, and police also refuted the claims yesterday.
The exercises are due to round off today.
The House has repeatedly called for an end to the war games, and the bases and government are trying to agree on a less ecologically sensitive site for the exercises.
 Official defends criteria for Apostolos Andreas pilgrimageBy Aline Davidian
COMPLAINTS have been raised over the non-refugee backgrounds of a number of the 1,000 Greek Cypriots due to cross to the Monastery of Apostolos Andreas on the November 30. The implication was that some of them had been selected by virtue of their connections.
UN spokesman Waldemar Rokoszewski said yesterday that, although the event was organised by Unficyp, the UN "was not involved in determining who would be going". This was "entirely in the domain" of the Committee of Humanitarian Affairs.
Humanitarian Affairs Officer, Takis Christopoulos, stated that being a refugee had never been the sole criterion for selection.
He said 10,500 applications had been made for 1,000 places, so it was inevitable that "9,500 would be left out", adding that the number of people going had originally been restricted to 600.
Christopoulos stated that "priority had been given to the elderly", who might not have the chance to make the crossing at another occasion. Attention had then been turned to those who were ill or lame and those originally "from the Karpass peninsula". Relatives of missing persons and 50 Cypriots from abroad had also been included.
"These amount to 93 per cent" of the successful applications, he said. The remainder was made up those necessary for the safety of the event, such as doctors, nurses and security men, as well as priests to conduct the liturgy at the Monastery.
"We really tried to stick to these standards," said Christopoulos, "but we couldn't please everyone".
Both he and Rokoszewski expressed confidence that the event would take place without problems.
The last visit to the Monastery took place on August 15 to mark the Assumption of the Virgin, one of the holiest day in the Greek Orthodox calendar.
 Government agrees five-day week for policeTHE COUNCIL of Ministers yesterday approved a police bill which will shake up administration and promotion procedures and ensure a five-day week.
Government spokesman Manolis Christofides announced after the cabinet meeting that amendments to the police bill had been approved and would now be sent to the House.
The bill not only outlines how promotion exams should be structured, but also clarifies that a policeman's normal working week should not exceed 40 hours.
The introduction of a five-day week and shorter hours will be retrospective as from January 1, 1997.
Terms and conditions of overtime pay will also be brought into line with the civil service.
The government also agreed that, due to the success of summer ambulances patrols along the highways, it will set up a permanent ambulance station at Kofinou.
 Azur boss to sue unionsAZUR hotel owner Yiorgos Tsanos is taking legal action against workers unions PEO and SEK, claiming action taken during the recent strike at his hotel has damaged his reputation.
Tsanos is seeking £500,000 in damages. Amongst his complaints are allegations that picketing kitchen workers were seen by tourists outside the hotel bearing placards claiming it was a mistake to eat at the hotel's restaurant as the staff had no health insurance and dining there would damage their health.
 One suspect cleared, the other disappearsA LOCAL electrician charged with bombing an Ayia Napa strip club was yesterday freed by a criminal court.
George Koutsoftas, 30, from Paralimni, had been charged with the bomb attacks on the club and the Ayia Napa home owned by Pieris Christofi.
But after studying the suspect's file, the three-judge bench said there was no incriminating evidence against Koutsoftas and set him free.
Meanwhile a second accused, also on trial in Larnaca for the bombings, failed to turn up for the hearing.
Simos Charalambous, from Ayia Napa, had assured his lawyer that he would turn up.
But when the lawyer contacted the family, before yesterday's hearing, they said Charalambous hadn't been seen since Tuesday.
In view of the suspect's non-appearance, the court issued an arrest warrant for Charalambous and adjourned the trial until November 26.
 Date set for big drugs trialTHE TRIAL of one of the biggest drug busts in Cyprus history will commence next March.
The six accused, charged in connection with the find of over six kilos of hashish at Larnaca airport in September, have all pleaded not guilty.
The trial date has now been set for March 9, 1998.
Among the accused are two former special constables, Loucas Kakouris from Nicosia and Andreas Flourentzou from Latsia.
Both have been released on bail of £30,000 each.
The other four accused released on conditional bail are: Kyriacos Constantinou from Strovolos, Nicos Nicolaou from Yeri, Andreas Charalambous from Latsia and Afxentis Afxentiou, also from Yeri.
All face charges of conspiring to import drugs from Holland between August and September this year and importation of cannabis with the intent to sell it.
 New election law passedPOLITICIANS still undecided about whether to boost the field of presidential candidates in the February 1998 elections beware - time is running out.
A new bill approved by the House of Representatives yesterday will oblige candidates to submit their candidacies one month - and not the current 10 days - before ballot day.
The new law removes the power of the Interior Minister to prohibit the sale of alcohol on or before election day. Candidates who withdraw at the last minute will lose their deposit, while the vote count will be held at election centres.
 Greek coup probe to be sent to the HouseTHE minutes of a Greek parliamentary inquiry into the 1974 coup against Cyprus' first president, Archbishop Makarios, are to be sent to the House of Representatives.
The announcement was made by House president Spyros Kyprianou to the House plenary. He said he had spoken to his Greek counterpart Apostolos Kaklamanis and arranged to have the minutes sent.
The Greek parliament held an extensive inquiry into who was behind the coup which led to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. There have been repeated calls here for the "Cyprus File" to open.
 'I wondered if I was dead'A JUDGE injured in a bomb attack last year yesterday told the Limassol Assizes he had, at the time of the blast, been trying a case involving the man charged with planting the bomb.
Limassol clinic owner Andreas Onoufriou is on trial for allegedly planting a car-bomb which wounded District judge Michalis Mavronicolas and his 5- year-old daughter in Limassol on October 29, 1996.
Mavronicolas took the stand as a witness for the prosecution yesterday.
He said on October 16, 1996, he presided over a hearing involving Onoufriou and was to set the level of regular payments the clinic owner was to make to clear an outstanding loan. Mavronicolas told the court he had adjourned the case for November 7, 1996, but then got injured in the bomb attack.
Describing the events of October 29, Mavronicolas said he walked out of his home at 7.15am to drive his daughter Marina to school. The bomb went off as he neared his car, he stated.
"Suddenly, everything had disappeared from in front of me and in a fraction of a second I was on the ground, I wondered if I was dead or alive; my concern was for my daughter, I turned towards her and saw her burnt from head to toe," he said.
Neither father nor daughter suffered permanent injury from the attack. The trial continues.
 New law would name dangerous foodsBy Bouli Hadjioannou
NEW regulations to protect consumers - particularly by publicising the names of dangerous foodstuffs - are in the pipeline, but it remains unclear what shape they will take.
The issue - together with realisation of the need for a general policy on consumer rights - was raised in the House Commerce Committee yesterday.
It followed a bill by Akel deputy George Lilikas to make it mandatory for authorities to publicise the names of any brands or types of foodstuffs found to pose a health risk or to be in violation of specifications.
It would also prohibit the renaming of products which have been found problematic. Lilikas told the committee his bill would "put order" to a messy situation which posed a risk to public health.
He said it was particularly important for the names of offending brands to be made public - hence his proposal for compulsory publication with paid advertisements.
The Health Ministry's Dina Akkelidou - who heads the state laboratory - said a preliminary proposal had been drafted with the aim of incorporating it into the law on foodstuffs.
The proposal provides for three different categories: in the first, most pressing, case, instant action will be taken for products found to pose a serious health risk. Proposed measures include pulling the product off the shelf and publicising its name.
In the second instance, for less serious cases, authorities will have discretionary powers on how to handle the issue.
Measures will be taken to have the product withdrawn voluntarily. The name may or not be given, according to how the producer/importer, distributor co- operates.
The third case covers less pressing cases - those where there is no health risk but where the product does not conform to the law - for example, as regards labelling. In these cases the goods would be withdrawn for corrective action.
The draft is based on European guidelines and is less rigid than the proposed bill, officials said.
Deputies noted that the proposals were within the spirit of Lilikas' own bill, with differences on specifics. At the proposal of committee chairman Demetris Syllouris they decided the two should be merged into a unified proposal.
They also said they would take a closer look at the 11 or so laws on consumer rights, staffing and equipment at government departments and what gaps still remained. This in-depth inquiry will take place sometime early next year.
This came after consumers and shopkeepers associations complained that authorities were slow to announce results, and in some cases had their hands tied and could not take action, even against repeat offenders.
Examples cited included a recent complaint about a batch of honey which shopkeepers said was not authentic. Akkelidou said proper checks could not be run because the laboratories did not have the equipment necessary.
On the publication of names, Akkelidou said this decision was taken by the public health committee: in several cases, specific brands had been named, she added.
But she and deputies noted that there had been instances where authorities named an offending company, but the media failed to publicise them.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1997