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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-12-12

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, December 12, 1997


  • [01] Diko hedge their bets with Iacovou option
  • [02] Police probe telephone threats against Matsis and Markides
  • [03] Stark warning over prison overcrowding
  • [04] UN warns National Guard over buffer zone breach
  • [05] Government defends rejection of UN security package
  • [06] Finance Minister hails economic upturn
  • [07] Landmark tenders law passed after four years in committee
  • [08] Government in the dock over marina plans
  • [09] Time to update Eoka demo law
  • [10] The annual slaughter
  • [11] CTO defends call for foreign consultants
  • [12] UN dismisses complicity claim on icon smuggling
  • [13] Pensioner sues for dog bites

  • [01] Diko hedge their bets with Iacovou option

    By Martin Hellicar

    DIKO are looking to Akel candidate George Iacovou as a fall-back should their first choice for the February presidentials, Attorney-general Alecos Markides, decide not to stand.

    With Markides' intentions still unclear yesterday, the Diko openings towards Akel - confirmed by party executive committee member Christakis Triantafyllides - would seem to marginalise Disy and their efforts to get Clerides re-elected.

    Disy deputy Christos Pourgourides repeated his party's now customary plea to Diko to set aside past differences and resurrect the Disy-Diko alliance which got Clerides into office in 1993, but Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou again ruled this out.

    Pourgourides also said he did not believe Markides, a former Disy deputy appointed Attorney-general by Clerides, would stand.

    Triantafyllides said that if Markides did not stand, Diko might seek other options for securing victory in the first round of the elections. He then said there was "good feeling" for former Foreign Minister Iacovou among the Diko party faithful, and that Iacovou's two-week-old proposal for an Akel- Diko alliance to back him was still on the table.

    Iacovou, standing as an independent candidate, said he had had talks with Kyprianou and other Diko members in recent days.

    "I feel there is support within the Diko party base for a co-operation with me in the elections," he said. He said the election scenario was constantly shifting and prospects for an Akel-Diko alliance to back his candidacy were "very good".

    Triantafyllides said talks with Akel and Iacovou had "re-heated to a degree where Iacovou's positiveness might be justified."

    Akel leader Dimitris Christofias said Diko's interest in Iacovou was a "positive" sign. He also said he "respected" Diko's desire to wait for a possible Markides candidacy first.

    Kyprianou expressed confidence Markides would eventually decide to stand and said polls conducted by Diko indicated he would be victorious in the presidentials.

    But Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades said his party had polls showing Markides would have no chance of winning the elections.

    Kyprianou also protested Disy members were "pressuring and threatening" Diko members not to back Markides. The Diko chief said he had lodged a complaint with Justice Minister Nicos Koshis about the "threats".

    Meanwhile, President Clerides reacted to Markides commenting

    it was time for the older generation of politicians to hand over the reins. "Of course at some point they (the older generation) must hand over, but what is of essence now is not which generation will govern, but who can solve the Cyprus problem."

    Government spokesman Manolis Christofides said it would have been "better" if Markides had not dabbled in politics by making these and other comments.

    On Wednesday, Markides hinted he might stand by saying there was a "historic opportunity" for the electorate to unite behind one candidate and for a "government of national unity" to be formed.

    "As a citizen, Markides has the right to express an opinion," Christofides said, but added his statements did not "fit in" with his being Attorney- general.

    The spokesman did not comment on the substance of Markides' statements except to dismiss the idea of a government of national unity as old hat. "There was a similar proposal from a presidential candidate in the past and it was rejected," he said.

    Clerides tabled the idea of such a government in his 1988 election manifesto.

    Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides, also a candidate for February, said it was not "becoming" for the Attorney-general to be suggesting he could unite everyone behind his candidacy.

    [02] Police probe telephone threats against Matsis and Markides

    POLICE are investigating press reports that Attorney-general Alecos Markides and Disy deputy Yiannakis Matsis received death threats.

    Although police opened an inquiry yesterday following the claims, the two alleged victims of the anonymous calls said they did not want to make any formal complaint.

    A police statement released yesterday said two senior officers visited Matsis and his wife on Wednesday to discuss the alleged threats.

    Matsis told police he had received two calls in the last ten days from someone who spoke in broken Greek and made little sense, the statement said.

    Roulla Matsis also told police she had received a threatening call some 10 to 15 days ago from a person who was obviously foreign; she only understood the word "children", taking it to be a threat against her family.

    Matsis' wife had received other calls in which the person at the other end failed to speak, police said.

    When police asked for a statement from the couple, Yiannakis Matsis said he did not want the matter to go any further.

    Police yesterday also contacted Markides after reports that he had been warned not to stand for president or face the consequences.

    Markides replied that he wished for no police action to be taken as he did not consider the issue a serious one, the police statement said.

    Despite the Attorney-general's reluctance to pursue the matter, Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades has urged him to launch an inquiry to uncover the truth.

    In a letter, Anastassiades called on Markides to exercise his constitutional authority to see if anyone was criminally responsible for the threats against him and Matsis and for alleged "illegal actions" against two Disy deputies, Demetris Syllouris and Christos Pourgourides.

    The Disy boss said he felt the allegations - if allowed to go unchecked - could adversely affect the political climate and public opinion and damage the party's reputation.

    [03] Stark warning over prison overcrowding

    By Bouli Hadjioannou

    SEVERE overcrowding at Nicosia prison is forcing authorities to release prisoners early, its director George Anastassiades said yesterday.

    In one recent instance a fortnight ago, 50 inmates - 30 foreign convicts and 20 Cypriots - were given early release to make room for a fresh intake of prisoners.

    "We reached the stage where we did not have any beds. We had 292 inmates and a prison capacity of 220. We had a very pressing problem and 50 prisoners were released early, 30 foreigners and 20 Cypriots," the prison governor said. Even now the prison population is 265.

    Overcrowding leads to tensions and potential trouble, Anastassiades told a meeting of the House Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee.

    "The fact that we have not had any incidents so far does not mean that we will not have trouble in the future. It is a situation faced throughout the world and it has to be dealt with."

    Lack of space means minor offenders are put in the same cells as hardened criminals. There are potential problems with hygienic facilities as well as in finding ways to occupy the inmates, he said.

    "The increase in numbers and the change in composition of the prison population makes the work of the prison warden even more difficult.

    "We have rival gangs who bring their feuds into the prison with them, and foreigners such as Russian-Pontiacs that we know nothing about," he said.

    Foreigners who have served more than half their sentence are given priority in early release because they do not benefit from other prerogatives such as open prison, prison visits or days out. They are released and immediately deported.

    Among Cypriots, minor offenders who have served the greatest part of their sentence are given early release. Serious offenders and repeat offenders do not qualify.

    The names of those to be released early and the reasons why are submitted to the Attorney-general for approval.

    Lack of staff is another problem: experts' reports show that the prison service is working with only 60 per cent of the necessary staff. Staff levels have remained at the same levels for 15 years, even though more prison wings have opened. Vacated posts are not being filled and 15 contract workers are nearing the end of their contracts.

    Meanwhile, bureaucratic problems are holding up the construction of new wings. The Public Works department says it cannot prepare the architectural plans; the government has decided the assignment should go to the private sector but the specialised committee set up on the issue has still to process the issue.

    Anastassiades said the authorities did have longer term plans, but bureaucracy was again an obstacle. And he noted that Cyprus has one of the lowest intake of prisoners in proportion to the size of the population.

    [04] UN warns National Guard over buffer zone breach

    By Jean Christou

    UNFICYP yesterday issued a stern warning to national guardsmen to stay out of the buffer zone.

    The warning came after an incident involving Greek Cypriot soldiers entering the buffer zone in the Ayios Dhometios area on Wednesday.

    Unficyp spokesman Waldemar Rokoszewski said yesterday the national guardsmen had entered the area in a military vehicle and that the action had been "simply unacceptable".

    The incident only came to light after an approach by peacekeepers to the offending soldiers resulted in an argument. Residents of the area then claimed peacekeepers had blocked access to their homes for an extended period.

    They also claimed the UN was trying to extend the buffer zone to include their homes.

    But Unficyp said the area in question was already in the buffer zone and had been since 1974.

    "We have never departed from the original delineation of the buffer zone as established by both forces in 1974, but both sides are keen to question this delineation," Rokoszewski said.

    He said the area in question had been designated a civilian area for humanitarian purposes in line with Unficyp's policy to keep the buffer zone active.

    He cited the hundreds of farmers who used these areas, a number of small businesses and several public roads which cut through the buffer zone.

    "Quite a lot of people don't even know they are in the buffer zone on a daily basis," Rokoszewski said.

    He said the National Guard was fully aware of the provisions relating to the agreements for these civilian-designated areas.

    "Regretfully we are quite often faced with different types of breach of the agreed rules," he said.

    In Wednesday's incident, national guardsmen had used the civilian buffer zone area as a short cut when they could "easily" have gone another way around, "so we are talking about moving forward of a forward military position," Rokoszewski said.

    "This is simply unacceptable. The area is designated for civilian and not military use."

    He added "this kind of behaviour" endangered agreement and made further agreements more difficult.

    "We have protested to the National Guard and we believe they will send the necessary instructions," Rokoszewski said.

    UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan's latest report on Unficyp's mandate which was issued on Wednesday said both sides continued to dispute delineation of their respective cease-fire lines, as well as the authority of Unficyp in a number of areas.

    This applied to both sides, the report said, adding that in some instances involving the Turkish side, this had resulted in physical force being used against Unficyp foot patrols.

    [05] Government defends rejection of UN security package

    THE GREEK Cypriot side rejected the UN's package of Green Line measures only in cases where citizens lives might be put at risk, the government spokesman made clear yesterday.

    Spokesman Manolis Christofides was responding to UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan's report which referred to the Turkish side's willingness to accept the package of measures aimed at reducing buffer-zone tension.

    Annan's report said: "Now that the Unficyp proposal has been accepted by one side I hope that the other will follow suit without delay."

    The measures envisage the extension of the 1989 unmanning agreement, the prohibition of loaded weapons along the buffer zone and a code of conduct for soldiers.

    "Our side was positive towards certain aspects, but was negative in instances where the lives of citizens of the Republic in residential areas would have been put at risk," Christofides said.

    But the spokesman said the military dialogue, which has been going on for over a year, had not yet reached a final deadlock.

    "It's just that at this stage we are unable to agree to certain proposals," Christofides said. "There are margins for further exchanges of opinion on the issue and we will arrive at an agreement."

    Christofides said the government had the right to make new proposals as the process was a dialogue. He added it was also important to remember that demilitarisation, and not the package of measures, was the crucial issue in the security talks between President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    [06] Finance Minister hails economic upturn

    THE ECONOMY has turned the corner after a two year slowdown, Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said yesterday.

    In his annual budget speech to the House of Representatives, Christodoulou said prospects for next year were encouraging, in part because the negative psychological climate which had slowed down the economy in 1996 and 1997 had now been reversed.

    Christodoulou, who was analysing the government's budget for 1998, said economic growth was expected to climb to 4.5 per cent - pushed up by a recovery in the agricultural sector and a boost in services.

    His speech was greeted with applause from members of the public, most of them senior civil servants. This only had Akel general-secretary Demetris Christofias protesting that never in his 10 years' experience as a deputy had ministers' speeches been greeted thus. "I wish to express my displeasure", he said.

    But acting House president Nicos Anastassiades said that applause had followed other speeches.

    Unemployment is expected to continue to fall to range around 3 per cent, while a fall is also expected in inflation and the current account deficit as a percentage of GDP.

    The fiscal deficit is expected to climb to 4 per cent - above the Maastricht convergence criteria of 3 per cent - but the economy remains sound and meets the other four criteria.

    "The rate of economic growth in the medium term, fuelled by the strength of the services sector, is expected to range medium term around 4 per cent and ensure conditions of full employment," the minister said.

    A key priority is harmonisation with the European Union, in view particularly of the EU's decision to start accession talks with Cyprus next spring.

    "The basic aim (is) not only the successful completion of accession talks but to create the preconditions which will allow economic units and society as a whole to operate in a productive and effective way in the competitive EU economic environment," he said.

    The government will provide every assistance to economic sectors until EU accession to increase productivity and prepare to face the EU challenge. A series of projects are being developed within the framework of the new five- year development plan for 1999-2003, he said.

    Referring to the government's record over the past five years, Christodoulou said it had dealt effectively with negative international and local developments. As a result economic growth over the five years exceeded 3 per cent - above all EU states except Ireland and Luxembourg.

    The minister gave details of economic and social measures adopted by the government over the five years and said the 1998 budgets focused on boosting growth by increasing investment in development projects.

    The budget debate will be held from January 7 to 9, when the budgets will be put to the vote.

    [07] Landmark tenders law passed after four years in committee

    DEPUTIES last night voted in landmark legislation to regulate tenders procedures for public contracts, but not before an extended debate on details.

    The new law, discussed in committee for more than four years, aims to fill a glaring legal gap in how the state and semi-government organisations should handle tenders.

    It aims to set out strict guidelines, ensure open procedures and safeguard against cartels or favouritism.

    Deputies welcomed the new law as historic, but acknowledged it could soon need alterations. One major bone of contention - whether a new committee would effectively undercut the role of the House Defence Committee in overseeing defence contracts - will be examined together with regulations expected to be tabled in the House soon.

    In a separate decision, the House of Representatives unanimously approved a government bill giving mothers who adopt a child under five 14 weeks of maternity leave (natural mothers have 16) and the same protection as natural mothers against unfair dismissal. Natural and adoptive mothers also have the same facilities over six months to nurse or care for their child.

    Deputies also voted in a new law on parliamentary elections changing voting hours and speeding up procedures. But they rejected the government's proposal to introduce different ballot papers for each party pending further consultation.

    Finally the House approved a resolution condemning Turkey's policy of bringing settlers to the Turkish-occupied north. The resolution, which marks the end of a debate on controversial statements by Britain's envoy on Cyprus Sir David Hannay on the settlers, also urges Britain to work for a viable settlement in Cyprus tod include the withdrawal of all Turkish troops and settlers.

    Deputies also approved a resolution, on the occasion of Wednesday's International Human Rights Day, on the missing.

    [08] Government in the dock over marina plans

    DIKO Nicos Kleanthous deputy yesterday accused the government of deliberately neglecting Larnaca marina in order to hand it over cheap to the private sector.

    "This is a government of neglect. It does not even take care of projects that tax payers have paid for," he said.

    Kleanthous made his charge during a rowdy meeting of the House Commerce Committee called to discuss the fate of Larnaca marina and draft regulations to allow the state to lease coastal land to the private sector.

    The government first decided in 1994 to bring the private sector into ambitious plans to develop maritime tourism. It later stumbled on legal obstacles and the issue was sent to the Attorney-general's office.

    Draft regulations were finally submitted in the House in January. In the meantime, the government has held back on major investments at the marina, saying they will be carried out by the organisation which wins the contract.

    But Michalakis Erotocritou, director general of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, said the criticism was unfair. The draft regulations had been held up at the Attorney-general's office because they were complex.

    "The aim of the government is not to turn the marina into a private enterprise but to offer the best possible service. As the marina is now it cannot make the necessary investments," he said.

    Larnaca mayor George Lykourgos said the municipality was interested in operating the marina itself if the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) was to relinquish it. He said local authorities claimed a say in the running of marinas, and a share of the profits.

    And he said Larnaca marina was not a tourist project since the vast majority of boats berthed there were owned by Cypriots, not foreign visitors.

    CTO chairman Andreas Erotocritou acknowledged that there was a delay. And he suggested improvement work begin on the marina, pending clarification on who would actual run it.

    Both Sek and Peo trade unions slammed any move to put the marina in private hands. CTO employees also object. The issue remains before the committee.

    [09] Time to update Eoka demo law

    COLONIAL legislation restricting the right of assembly is to be replaced with up-to-date laws, but deputies are not too happy about the proposal drafted by the government.

    The issue came before the House Legal Affairs Committee yesterday amid indications that any final decision would be left until after February's presidential elections.

    The Justice Ministry's Marianna Patsallides was at pains stress that the timing of the bill - only two months before the elections - was pure coincidence.

    She said the law commissioner had first told the ministry in 1995 that it was time to change a law which dates back to 1958. He came back with more urgency after the UN Human Rights Committee which reviewed Cypriot legislation on civil and political rights said that particular law had to go.

    Patsallides noted that the colonial law - which requires permission for any meeting of more than five people in a private or public space - was in fact a dead letter. But she said that it was considered appropriate to modernise it.

    Key provisions include eliminating the need for permission - in fact local authorities need only to be informed of public gatherings of more than 20 people in a public, open space. The local authorities can impose restrictions as to routing in order to cater for traffic and other considerations. Religious and sports events are not subject to the law.

    The government will in special emergency situations be entitled to prohibit public meetings for up to three months. Participating in a banned meeting will be subject to a stiff fine and/or three month jail term.

    Akel deputy Yiannakis Agapiou said he appreciated the need to modernise a law enacted by the colonial government at the height of the Eoka struggle. But he expressed reservations about the need to inform authorities seven days in advance - thus restricting the right to spontaneous protests - and other provisions. "It is essential to ensure our citizens have complete freedom of expression," he said.

    Diko's Nicos Moushiouttas came out in support of the bill. "It is high time the issue is regulated so that we safeguard the freedom of assembly, but also protect the rights of others so we don't just have a free-for-all," he said.

    The issue remains before the committee.

    [10] The annual slaughter

    KOFINOU abattoir will be working overtime to slaughter over 45,000 animals for the Christmas dinner plate.

    Demand reaches its annual peak over Christmas, and the abattoir will be operating round the clock from next Tuesday until January 5.

    With the feel-good factor taking hold, demand for meat is expected to surpass last year's figures.

    According to calculations made by the abattoir, it will slaughter 45,500 animals to meet local demand.

    Over the same period last year - from December 16 to January 5 - Cypriots consumed a staggering 22,182 goats and sheep, 22,718 pigs and 1,028 cows, Kofinou abattoir said.

    Turkeys, meanwhile, are also in for a rough ride: some 70,000 of the festive birds are expected to get the chop this Christmas.

    [11] CTO defends call for foreign consultants

    THE CYPRUS Tourism Organisation (CTO) yesterday defended a plan to spend up to 100,000 on a foreign study to support a long-term strategy for the island's tourism.

    The Organisation has already issued an invitation to tender from overseas consultants for the study, which is due in October next year.

    A CTO official described the study as "a backdrop to a strategic plan".

    Defending the decision not to use Cypriot consultants and experts, the official said: "The study is not about Cyprus tourism. It's about the clientele that is going to develop abroad and the development of our competitors such as Spain and Greece for the next ten years."

    "We need information that is not available systematically and which will be tailor-made for our needs," the official said.

    Tenders for the study are expected to be received by the end of February and the study itself is expected to begin in April.

    The Organisation has the know-how to carry out studies on Cyprus tourism, but for trends abroad it usually relies on ready research.

    "Now we need more in-depth analysis of future trends," the official said.

    [12] UN dismisses complicity claim on icon smuggling

    Andrew Adamides

    THE UNITED Nations force in Cyprus yesterday dismissed allegations that its peace-keepers were implicated in the trade in stolen art run by Munich- based Turk Dikman Aydin.

    Aydin was arrested in October after priceless religious artefacts stolen from the occupied areas - including icons and frescoes hacked away from church walls - were found in his possession.

    Reports yesterday quoted the suspect as telling German police that UN personnel had given him the artefacts for safe-keeping.

    But Unficyp spokesman Waldemar Rokoszewski said yesterday the allegations were very vague and had led to nothing. There had, he confirmed, been rumours that a Finnish national was involved in the smuggling, but checks with the relevant UN authorities in Finland and Cyprus had proved the allegations to be totally unfounded.

    Meanwhile, German police now believe Aydin's suspected smuggling operation may have been even larger than originally thought; and the authorities believe he may have more stolen treasures in his possession, again from Cyprus and also from Peru.

    Further investigation has moreover revealed that Aydin ordered builders to install the false walls and ceilings in his apartments during their construction.

    The German authorities are now hoping to be able to return the items seized in the first and second phases of the operation after Christmas. Other artefacts found more recently are still being catalogued.

    [13] Pensioner sues for dog bites

    A 70-YEAR-OLD woman attacked by an alsatian in Limassol last April is seeking compensation from the dog's owner.

    Nina Angelou Constantinidou was knocked over by an alsatian bitch belonging to Stella Petousi as she walked along Orpheus street. She was bitten on various parts of the body before Petousi could drag her dog away.

    Six months later, on October 31, Limassol District Court found Petousi guilty of failing to control the alsatian, ordered her to pay a 300 fine, and also imposed a 5,000 fine suspended for two years.

    Constantinidou is now filing a civil suit for damages for psychological and physical injuries.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1997

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