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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-01-16
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Friday, January 16, 1998
 TV debate suffered from 'political impotence'By Martin Hellicar
IN STARK contrast to the mud-slinging of the past few weeks, the seven candidates in next month's presidential elections turned last night's much- hyped live television face-off into a low key, mild-mannered affair.
Liberal party candidate Nicos Rolandis summed it up when he said half-way through the three-hour debate: "I must say tonight's programme is suffering from political impotence."
President Glafcos Clerides, Akel- and Diko-backed candidate George Iacovou, Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides, United Democrat George Vassiliou, Nicos Koutsou of New Horizons, Rolandis and Diko rebel Alexis Galanos sat in a semicircle behind a flower-festooned table to field questions from a panel of four journalists.
After a candidate's two-minute answer, his six opponents would be given one minute each to comment, before he then had two minutes to reply to their points.
Indicative of the generally insipid nature of the panel discussion was the fact that the rival candidates hardly ever tried to talk beyond the time allotted them for answers. They never looked perturbed by any of the questions, and voices were never raised. The candidates hardly ever directed answers at each other when replying to "digs" from their rivals - preferring to keep their eyes firmly fixed on the journalists instead.
The seven hopefuls used the opportunity provided by simultaneous coverage on all four local television channels to churn out their well-known campaign slogans and positions once again.
They repeatedly twisted or simply ducked the questions from the panel to repeat their own positions.
Lyssarides' answer when asked to choose between the Cyprus problem policies of election front-runners Clerides and Iacovou was typical: "Why am I always asked to choose between policies that I do not agree with? There is a more positive approach, let me speak of my policies."
"Can I ask you to comment only if you have something to say about the issue raised?" co-ordinator George Tsalakkos pleaded with the candidates early on in the discussion.
Even during the time they were allotted for commenting on a rival's answer, the candidates would often insist on going off on a tangent to make a seemingly irrelevant point of their own.
"I hope we are not confusing the viewers!" Koutsou quipped at one point.
Towards the end of the showdown, Lyssarides - the main proponent of the TV showdown idea - expressed his exasperation with the discussion.
"Can I be allowed to say that we are having a dialogue of monologues? I have heard no-one comment on the statements I have made. It is as if we are reciting pre-prepared poems. There is no dialogue of substance," the Edek leader said.
The candidates remained cagey about what their positions would be should the elections go to a second round.
The Cyprus problem was, as it has been throughout the pre-election period, the main topic for discussion.
"If I use this time to talk about the Ghali set of ideas again the viewers will switch off - seeing as they can't zap to another channel," Vassiliou commented when the topic came up for the umpteenth time.
 Britain ends visa-free entry from the northBRITAIN said yesterday it was withdrawing the right of people from the occupied north of Cyprus to enter the UK without a visa after almost 1,000 unfounded asylum claims over the past two years.
A junior minister at the Home Office, Mike O'Brien, said this would bring citizens of the Turkish Cypriot breakaway state into line with other holders of travel documents not issued by a recognised national authority.
Turkey, which invaded the island in 1974, is the only country to have accorded it diplomatic recognition.
"We have in the past accepted 'TRNC' (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) travel documents as proof of identity... We are today bringing the arrangements concerning holders of these documents into line with our normal practice," O'Brien said in a written answer to a parliamentary question.
"There have been significant numbers of asylum claims by passengers travelling with this document which, when determined, have all been unfounded."
Home Office officials said yesterday just over 450 applications for asylum were received from people from the occupied north of Cyprus last year and in 1996. None of the applicants had won permission to stay in Britain, they said.
 Aids case fisherman insists he is innocentFISHERMAN Pavlos Georgiou, jailed for knowingly giving Aids to his British lover Janette Pink and freed two weeks ago, last night stuck to his claim that he was innocent.
Georgiou, 40, alleged on Sigma TV that he had been victimised by scheming relatives of Pink, 45, who is now suffering from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
"I never hid the fact that I had Aids," Georgiou said. "It was Janette herself who wasn't convinced her boyfriend was a carrier of Aids."
Georgiou was granted a presidential pardon on December 31, five months after Larnaca district court jailed him for 15 months for giving Pink the virus that causes Aids.
Pink, from Basildon in Essex, testified that Georgiou kept her in the dark about his condition, and of the fact that his wife had also died of an Aids- related illness.
She said he never took precautions during their affair, a claim Georgiou denied. The court accepted her evidence in its entirety.
"What makes me believe I am free right now is that Janette was struggling with her conscience for six months and she couldn't sleep at night," Georgiou said yesterday.
Pink moved to Cyprus in September 1993 after divorcing her accountant husband. Some weeks later she met Georgiou in Ayia Napa.
The two were lovers from early 1994 until mid-1996, when Pink, who had by then developed full-blown Aids, returned to Britain for treatment. It was then that her relatives notified the authorities here.
Georgiou said his affair with Pink was not a cheap fling.
"She lived in my house with my children, and her children at some point, we just didn't get married. She was my wife, she was the mother of my children I can say, their second mother."
 Diko rebels stand firmBy Martin Hellicar
PROMINENT Diko rebels dug in their heels yesterday and refused to comply with a party decision to back George Iacovou for next month's presidential elections.
They now face expulsion from Diko when the party executive committee meet to discuss their position today.
Party vice-chairman Dinos Michaelides, Diko deputies Alexis Galanos and Katerina Pantelidou and central committee member Petros Voskarides have drawn the wrath of the party by openly opposing the decision to join Akel in backing Iacovou. Galanos has gone one step further, announcing his own candidacy for the February 8 polls, and appealing for the votes of Diko followers who would rather back a candidate from within the party.
Earlier this week, the party executive committee informed the four dissenters they had till yesterday to come into line. They would otherwise be ostracised, the committee warned.
Galanos wasted no time in making it clear his decision was final.
Pantelidou had already stated she would "conform" with the party decision "despite" her own thoughts on the matter. But yesterday she re-stated her disaffection with the way her party was approaching the elections.
Michaelides - the man whose defiance is seen as the most damaging to the Diko election campaign - not only repeated his opposition to Iacovou yesterday but said he believed he spoke for most of the party in doing so.
"The majority of followers, members and friends of Diko disagree with the central committee decision (to back Iacovou)," he said in a letter to the executive committee, released yesterday morning. He said the committee had been given "no alternative" but to choose Iacovou as candidate.
Diko plumed for Iacovou after failing to secure Disy support for the candidacy of Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou and failing to convince Attorney- general Alecos Markides to stand as an independent candidate with Diko's backing.
"I am sorry to have to repeat that the way the party has handled the election issue was totally wrong," Michaelides said in the letter. Michaelides repeated his position that Diko should be backing a candidate from within the party, such as Kyprianou.
Michaelides said that his backing Iacovou would be tantamount to accepting that the policy of the Clerides government - for which he served as Interior Minister until Diko abandoned its government coalition with Disy late last year - had been wrong.
"I refuse to accept a compromise decision that would force me to accept that the policy I supported as minister was incorrect and dangerous," Michaelides stated.
Iacovou has consistently slammed President Clerides' policies in an effort to beat him in the polls.
Michaelides made no secret of his displeasure at Diko leaving the coalition and his having to abandon the cabinet post Clerides had given him.
Voskarides also yesterday released the letter he had sent the executive committee. He stated he was not prepared to review his position. Voskarides said the alliance with Akel was "self-evidently" dangerous and based on the "worst possible" compromises.
The central committee member gave his backing to Galanos' candidacy.
Kyprianou's response to the rebels was blunt: "if certain members really do feel strongly that they cannot agree with such an important party decision they should have the decency to withdraw (from the party)."
He dismissed suggestions that Diko might change tack at the last minute and decide to back Galanos.
Meanwhile, the rest of the electoral scene was yesterday dominated by the now-customary exchange of fire between Iacovou and Clerides's mouthpiece, Government spokesman Manolis Christofides.
Iacovou attacked Clerides' handling of the Cyprus problem, while Christofides said Iacovou was guilty of saying first one thing, then the opposite concerning his policy on the government's order for Russian-made S- 300 missiles.
 House adopts change in electoral lawBy Martin Hellicar
THE HOUSE plenum unanimously approved an eleventh-hour amendment to electoral law yesterday after deputies struck a back-room deal to drop a second amendment.
The approved amendment means votes for the February 8 presidential elections will now be counted, not a polling stations, but at district counting centres.
The second amendment tabled by opposition party Akel - that a cast ballot be valid even if a voter had placed his cross on the candidate's photograph rather than in the designated blank space below - was dropped following a break in afternoon proceedings to allow parties to iron out a deal.
With the "put-your-cross-where-you-like" amendment shelved, governing Disy dropped their objections to the other amendment, and it was passed unanimously at 6pm at the end of a long day's debating.
Passing the amendment was the last act of the last session of the plenum before the elections.
During debate of the amendments earlier, Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades dismissed Akel's claims the amendments were necessary to ensure next months' elections could not be "tampered" with.
Anastassiades said Cyprus had "grown out of" the problem of parties trying to "intimidate" voters, as might have happened in the past.
He also said it was "not right" for Akel to be trying to change the electoral law so close to an election, especially when the legislation in its current form had been unanimously approved by the plenum only one month ago. Anastassiades also warned that amending the law could lead to the February elections being postponed or even declared invalid, forcing a second election.
If the House approved the amendments and President Clerides decided to send them back to the House for re-consideration, there would not be enough time for this before the elections, forcing a postponement, the Disy leader said. If someone challenged the amendments on constitutional grounds, the Supreme Court would have to rule on them, forcing postponement of polling day, or a second vote (if the challenge came after the elections), Anastassiades said.
Akel's Andreas Christou took the stand to reply to Anastassiades. He said the amendments did not represent a change to electoral law, but only tinkering with its provisions, and could thus not be challenged on constitutional grounds.
He repeated the Akel position that it would be impossible to check that vote counting and ballot validation procedures were not being interfered with if votes were counted at local polling stations.
"Big parties, and I speak as a representative of one myself, can man all local polling stations to keep an eye on things, but small parties cannot," he said.
As a number of deputies stood up to say their bit, Diko parliamentary spokesman Tassos Papadopoulos suggested a short recess to allow deputies to discuss the issue and reach a compromise behind closed doors. House president Spyros Kyprianou adopted Papadopoulos' suggestion and returned half an hour later to announce a deal had been struck.
 Broadcasting bill finally approvedBy Bouli Hadjioannou
THE long-awaited broadcasting bill was given the green light yesterday, but deputies said they would be coming back with proposals on contentious provisions after the elections.
The new law, which has been before the House for more than two years, aims to bring order to the airwaves in the wake of a mass influx of private radio and television channels.
A parallel bill introduces similar conditions on the state-owned Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC).
Though the House Interior Committee managed to hammer together consensus on most of the bill, which is stridently opposed by private channels, basic differences remain on two key issues - ownership rules and controls on advertisements.
Deputies from Disy and the United Democrats made clear their objections on this score during yesterday's debate. Disy deputies particularly spoke of the need to guard against "interventionist" provisions in the bill, which could lead to the "economic strangulation of private initiative."
But, in line with a gentleman's agreement, they held back on the submission of amendments. The House will consider such proposals during an in-depth debate to be held once the broadcasting authority is appointed after the elections.
Deputies from all parties took the floor to hail the bill as a landmark piece of legislation which came not a moment too soon. But with the praise came words of warning about the need for both private and public broadcasting to fulfil their role, particularly in such spheres as the protection of minors, language and fair reporting. There were also complaints about CyBC's coverage of the work of the House. And Edek deputy Takis Hadjidemetriou and others also noted that aspects of the bill may already have been overtaken by technological developments.
United Democrats' president George Vassiliou, while welcoming the bill, expressed regret that the plenary did not have adequate time to discuss the issue. He said his party would vote against a few provisions now and introduce amendments later.
Akel general secretary Demetris Christofias said the House would make an absolute fool of itself if it did not vote a bill pending before it for more than two years. "Freedom of the media does not mean anarchy. Society must live up to its responsibilities."
The final 59-page version of the bill provides for the establishment of a broadcasting authority and a consultative committee on broadcasting. Key provisions include:
- the broadcasting authority will be run by a seven-member board appointed for six years by the Council of Ministers. They cannot belong to political parties or have any ties with radio and TV channels.
- there are very stringent ownership conditions. No shareholder can own more than 25 per cent of a company, and relatives of the same family cannot own more than 25 per cent of the total capital. There are restrictions on foreign ownership. Companies or individuals with shares in the printed press, a publishing house or other all-island radio or TV stations will not be given a licence.
- the annual licence is set at £30,000 for a national TV station, £7,000 for a local TV station, £3,000 for a national radio station and £500 for a small radio station.
- there are provisions on programme content so that current affairs programmes must account for at least 7 per cent of broadcasting time and cultural programmes for over 5 per cent. There must be at least 5 per cent of Cypriot productions, and 2 per cent of Cypriot cultural productions.
- there are provisions to protect minors and language.
- advertising regulations are comprehensive. Ads cannot exceed 15 per cent of broadcasting time. There are restrictions on how programmes, particularly sport events, can be interrupted by ads. News bulletins can have only one advertising break. Current affairs and news broadcasts cannot be commercially sponsored.
 Ministers approve licence for Alpha TVALPHA TV has finally been issued a temporary operating license following a decision by the Council of Ministers.
The pay-subscription channel had feared that pressure from private television channels - afraid of shrinking advertising revenues - would influence the government's decision after last week's cabinet meeting postponed discussion on the issue.
The license approval now means that Alpha can transmit in an open zone (which it plans to do on a daily basis between 7pm and 10pm) and also send out an encrypted signal.
Alpha hopes to start broadcasting after the February elections. Consumers will have the choice to subscribe as a package with Lumiere, or to take Alpha separately.
Subscription fees have yet to be finalised, but Lumiere subscribers will receive the new channel free of charge for the first month of operation.
Alpha TV is hoping to attract a large viewership with its mixture of big- name film premieres and live European football.
 Clinton report notes rise in tensionTHE HARASSMENT by Turkish fighter jets of the plane carrying the Greek Defence Minister during the Nikiforos exercises exacerbated tensions in the region, US President Bill Clinton has said.
In his bi-monthly report to Congress on Cyprus, Clinton referred to the rise in tensions in October and November during the Cyprus-Greece Nikiforos military exercises, and the subsequent Turkish-Turkish Cypriot Toros exercises.
"The exercises effectively ended the May 9 moratorium on overflights of Cyprus by combat aircraft," Clinton said in his report.
The US President also said American diplomacy to advance progress towards a Cyprus settlement "continued at an intense pace" during the two months in question.
He referred to the visit by his special emissary Richard Holbrooke and other senior US officials, and to the meeting chaired by Holbrooke in Brussels in November with Greek and Turkish Cypriot businessmen "to discuss the mutual benefits of the economic co-operation in the region".
A group of US Congressmen led by John Porter arrived on the island yesterday to meet both sides on the Cyprus question. The visit is part of a round of talks in Athens, Nicosia and Ankara.
The Cyprus problem is also the focus of attention at meetings taking place in Washington between British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
A senior US administration official yesterday reiterated American appeals to both sides in Cyprus to refrain from taking any action or making any statements that would increase tension or harm the peace process.
The official was responding to the government's announcement that the Paphos air base would be delivered on January 24.
"We urge all parties to avoid taking actions or making statements that result in increased tensions in the region and detract from efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace on the island," the official said.
 Strike paralyses occupied areasTHE OCCUPIED areas came to a standstill yesterday as some 12,000 Turkish Cypriot civil servants went on strike over pay.
Public offices, schools and banks were closed and picketed by union members, while hospitals were open only for emergency cases.
The 12 unions involved are demanding a pay rise of at least 50 per cent and measures to keep wages up with inflation, running at around 90 per cent a year.
The Turkish Cypriot administration is offering a 40 per cent pay rise.
The strikers warned the measures would continue indefinitely unless an agreement was reached.
The unions are confident the administration will not to be able to last more than three days, Turkish Cypriot papers reported yesterday.
 Rescue package for cash-strapped municipalitiesBy Aline Davidian
THE GOVERNMENT has agreed emergency measures to help stave off the financial crisis besetting the island's municipalities.
A rescue package was hammered out at a meeting yesterday between Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou and Pancyprian Municipalities Union president Lellos Demetriades.
On Monday, local authorities had warned they were facing bankruptcy in the face of mounting debts, delays in government funding and increased public demands for municipal services.
It was agreed yesterday that the government would finance a study to determine the economic situation facing local government, identifying weaknesses and proposing appropriate measures.
The first phase of the study will target Nicosia municipality and will be funded directly by the Finance Ministry.
The study is expected to take four months to complete.
Christodoulou said the project would help "the municipalities... but also the government correctly to direct its broader activities, highlighting the immediate practical steps which must be taken."
In addition, reimbursement of municipality loans is to be postponed for a year, and the Finance Minister has promised to submit to the Council of Ministers a Municipalities Union application for a grant of £500,000 to alleviate the immediate crisis.
Both sides yesterday expressed satisfaction with the outcome of their meeting, Demetriades showing particular appreciation for the weight given to the problem by the government.
By the end of 1996, 24 municipalities had accumulated total debts of over £73 million, owing money both to the government and to local co-operative credit institutions.
 Government phones fall silentGOVERNMENT telephonists yesterday staged a 24-hour strike in a further attempt to convince the government to meet wage demands.
The strike, the latest in a series of work stoppages, began at 7.30am, affecting all government buildings with telephone exchanges.
The action also affected Nicosia General Hospital, which had a skeleton staff to deal with emergencies.
The telephonists have warned of further industrial action if their demands are not met.
The action has not been sanctioned by parent public sector union Pasydy, which said yesterday it felt the action was unjustified as other avenues of negotiation with the government had not yet been fully exhausted.
 Computers for social securityTHE INTRODUCTION of a new computerised social security system will "substantially contribute to the increase of productivity and efficiency" at the department, Minister of Labour and Social Insurance Stathis Papadakis said yesterday.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony for the new equipment, Papadakis said the computer system had become an absolute necessity as the Social Security Department was now collecting 500,000 contributions a year while making 1.5 million payments.
Much of the old system has already been superseded by the new computers, which are expected to take over completely by the end of the year.
British Company CSC Computer Sciences Ltd provided the tailor-made software in co-operation with the local NET-U.
Papadakis said the department also planned to introduce a Citizens' Charter which would reinforce its commitment to Cypriot citizens.
 Christmas stabbing suspect chargedPATRICIDE suspect Athos Neocleous was yesterday charged with the Christmas Day knife attack on his parents and will stand trial in March.
Neocleous, 26 and currently undergoing psychiatric treatment, was formerly charged before a Larnaca court with killing his father Archimedes and attempting to kill his mother Despina.
The suspect claims that the people attacked at his home were not his parents but imposters from Egypt.
The court agreed Neocleous should remain in custody and receive treatment until he appears for trial before a criminal court on March 9.
 Hotel waiter held for theftsA LARNACA waiter suspected of carrying out 16 burglaries at a local hotel was yesterday remanded for four days.
Andreas Nalpantis, 21, is believed to have burgled guests' rooms to a tune of $8,000 at a Larnaca hotel where he worked.
The spate of thefts is believed to have taken place between October 1997 and January this year.
Yesterday, a Larnaca court heard that the hotel management became suspicious and planted three marked dollar bills in a room.
Police said the suspect went in to the room to deliver some fruit; when he left, the money was gone.
Questioned by Oroklini police, Nalpantis allegedly admitted to stuffing the bills down his shoe.
The waiter later made a statement admitting to 16 burglaries, police said.
Police told the court they had found a list at the home of the suspect containing the names of hotels guests and their room numbers
Nalpantis told police that he used the money to pay off his debts and spent the rest on "personal expenses".
 UN name protest sparks slanging matchCYPRUS has protested against the alteration of geographical names in the occupied areas by Turkey.
The protest was lodged on Wednesday at the seventh UN conference for the standardisation of geographical names, taking place in New York this week.
Cypriot representative Prodromos Vassiliou told the conference that though previous rulers over the centuries had not touched local names, Turkey was now doing so in an "organised and systematic" fashion.
"Since the invasion and occupation of 37 per cent of Cyprus," he said, "Turkey has systematically tried to change internationally recognised place names... which have existed for centuries."
Such actions, he added, were an outright violation of international law.
But Vassiliou's protest sparked an angry response from the Turkish representative, who maintained there were "two states in Cyprus with different policies and laws" regarding the matter.
He said the Turkish Cypriot representative in New York would circulate a letter on the issue and went on to accuse the Greek Cypriots of destroying the democratic government of the Republic in 1963.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998