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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-06-12

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


Friday, June 12, 1998

CONTENTS

  • [01] Both sides 'ignore UN appeals'
  • [02] Pangalos says S-300s will come in November
  • [03] Cyprus accepts Canadian offer on landmines
  • [04] Favouritism claims over Paphos wells
  • [05] Deputies claim cover-up over contracting scam
  • [06] Electricity workers threaten black-out
  • [07] Deputies plan HTI overhaul
  • [08] English school parents call for headmaster to leave
  • [09] Teachers protest outside the House
  • [10] Man held for child battery
  • [11] Practise what you preach
  • [12] Youth killed in road crash

  • [01] Both sides 'ignore UN appeals'

    By Jean Christou

    THE TWO sides in the Cyprus conflict continue to upgrade their military capabilities while ignoring United Nations appeals to reduce tension, UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan says in his latest report, which recommends the renewal of Unficyp's mandate for another six months.

    The period under review was "relatively calm", Annan writes.

    His report also reveals that the issue of missing persons has stalled because of Turkish Cypriot insistence that victims of the coup which sparked the 1974 Turkish invasion be struck from the list of 1,619 missing Greek Cypriots.

    He also called on the Turkish Cypriot side to call off its six-month long ban on bi-communal activities, imposed because of the EU's decision to open accession talks with Cyprus.

    Annan said the Security Council's calls for a reduction in defence spending have not been heeded by either side.

    He mentions the Greek Cypriot side's deal to buy Russian S-300 missiles and the Turkish side's upgrading of its tanks in the north.

    A proposal to reduce tension along the island's 180km-long buffer zone, which has been under discussion for the past 18 months, was heading nowhere, Annan says. He blames this on an excessive unmanning demand by the Greek Cypriots.

    "The military authorities in the north have reconfirmed their earlier acceptance of Unficyp's package of measures in their entirety," the report says.

    It adds that the Greek Cypriot National Guard (NG) argued that the existing unmanning proposals would leave Nicosia residents unprotected.

    The NG counter-proposals are, however, unacceptable to the UN, particularly in the Dherynia area where they would "entail the unmanning of the entire area between Dherynia and Varosha and would go well beyond the limited objective of creating distance between the opposing forces."

    Referring to the fenced off area of Varosha, which is under Turkish control, the report says there were numerous instances of property being removed from buildings by Turkish personnel. This practice has been protested by the UN.

    On the issue of the missing, Annan reports that on April 30, Rustem Tatar, the Turkish Cypriot representative, had said his side was not prepared to discuss the necessary arrangements that would lead to the exhumation of bodies.

    The Turkish Cypriots first want the Greek Cypriots to agree to look into the fate of Greek Cypriots who went missing during the coup. "The Turkish Cypriot side claims that victims of the coup are among the persons listed as missing," Annan's report says.

    Information on missing persons from both sides was exchanged in January as part of an historic agreement reached last July.

    Annan concludes his report by referring to the relative calm on the island over the past six months, "despite continued tension".

    "This found expression in frequent minor violations," Annan writes, detailing a number of minor shooting incidents along the buffer zone.

    He concludes that Unficyp remains indispensable on the island and that its mandate be renewed until December.

    The force comprises 1,226 troops and 34 civilian policemen, and costs $43 million to maintain every year. One third of this amount is met by the Cyprus government, while Greece also contributes some $6 million.

    [02] Pangalos says S-300s will come in November

    GREEK Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said yesterday that the Russian- built S-300 anti-aircraft missiles destined for Cyprus will not be ready until November.

    But a Russian news agency reported yesterday that their delivery will proceed as planned in the summer.

    "The missiles are not there (in Cyprus) because they are not ready," Pangalos told Reuters in Athens. "They will be ready in autumn, some time in November."

    A Russian newspaper reported on Tuesday that the missiles had already been sent to the island. The report was denied by Greece and Turkey, although the government in Nicosia was cagey about it.

    Turkey has threatened to stop deployment of the missiles, which it sees as disrupting the balance of power on the island. Greece has said such any military intervention would be a cause for war.

    The missiles had been expected in summer, but delays have been reported lately.

    The head of Russia's state arms-trading company said yesterday that the missiles will be delivered this summer as scheduled.

    Yevgeny Ananyev, head of the Rosvooruzheniye arms-trading monopoly, refused to comment on the newspaper report that the S-300s had already reached Cyprus.

    Ananyev said the missiles are scheduled to be shipped some time between mid- July and mid-August, the Interfax news agency reported in Moscow.

    Russian Air Force chief General Anatoly Kornukov said on Wednesday that the Cyprus National Guard is scheduled to test the missiles at a range near the city of Astrakhan in southern Russia.

    [03] Cyprus accepts Canadian offer on landmines

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS has accepted a Canadian offer of expertise to help clear some 17,000 land mines from in and around the island's buffer zone.

    And the government has stated its readiness to hand over minefield records to the UN, Secretary-general Kofi Annan's latest report on Cyprus said yesterday.

    Cyprus last year signed the treaty in Canada for the global ban on landmines.

    The issue was one of the topics of discussion at a meeting between Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy and his Cypriot counterpart Yiannakis Cassoulides in Nicosia yesterday.

    Axworthy, who was on a one-day visit, during which he also met President Clerides, said the landmine issue was of particular interest to Canada; he and Cassoulides had discussed "how we might look at areas of co-operation," he added.

    Canada, which for 30 years had one of the longest-serving UN peacekeeping contingents on the island, made the offer to lend its expertise earlier in the year.

    "We have accepted (the offer), but the position of the other side is ambiguous," a government source said yesterday.

    According to Annan's report, the National Guard has stated its readiness to hand over its minefield records, provided the Turkish Cypriot side does the same.

    "The military authorities in the north indicated that they would be ready to negotiate the minefield issue with Unficyp immediately following agreement on Unficyp's package of measures to reduce tension along the ceasefire line," the report said.

    The military talks have been going on without results for the past 18 months. The include unmanning, unloading of weapons and a code of conduct for soldiers. The Turkish side has accepted the entire package. The Greek Cypriot side rejects it, saying it does not go far enough.

    In a resolution passed in 1996, the UN Security Council called on the two sides to assist the UN in identifying the scale of the landmine problem to see what arrangements could be made for their removal.

    The UN has repeatedly asked both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides to dispose of the landmines, but noted a marked reluctance to do so.

    According to Annan's report, there are some 38 minefields and booby-trapped areas in the buffer zone, and a further 73 minefields located within 500 metres of it.

    Last year, a 37-year-old father of three was killed after following his dog into a minefield in a government-controlled area, near to, but not inside, the buffer zone.

    In January, a vehicle driven by Argentine peacekeepers was badly damaged when it drove over a landmine.

    There were no injuries, but the UN has been forced to close the road in question for safety reasons.

    [04] Favouritism claims over Paphos wells

    By Andrea Sophocleous

    SERIOUS accusations of political favouritism and angry deputies created a stormy atmosphere at yesterday's session of the House Agriculture Committee.

    The topic of discussion was a list of civil servants -- mostly teachers -- all with some connection to the Disy governing party, who had been given licences to sink wells downstream from Evretou dam in Polis tis Chrysochous late last year while farmers were denied this vital right.

    Committee chairman Christos Mavrocordatos highlighted the importance of the issue by pointing out that the water shortage was particularly dire in the area concerned.

    Paphos Diko deputy Nicos Pittokopitis, who tabled the issue, presented a list of seven people who had been given the go-ahead to sink wells by the Paphos District Officer, Yiorgos Charalambides.

    At the same time, Pittokopitis stressed, a number of farmers were being denied licences.

    "Farmers are not given enough water to be able to sustain their farms, which are their only source of income, while people who do not have the same urgent need are accommodated," he said.

    Akel deputy Yiorgos Hadjigeorgiou said that this forced Polis farmers to buy water from the people who had received the licences.

    Applications for a licence to sink a well are made to the District Officer and passed on to the Water Development Board for approval.

    The Paphos District Officer came to the committee unprepared, and was unable to answer questions on how many people had applied for licences, which applications had been approved and which denied. He promised to investigate the matter and present the figures to the committee at a later stage. He did say, however, that some of the non-farmers given well licences owned plots of land.

    This did not stop Pittokopitis from animatedly declaring that "people" were intervening so that licences for wells could be distributed according to political affiliation. The disputed licences were approved between August and November 1997, conveniently close to the Presidential elections, as pointed out by deputies.

    "These licences were given out for pre-election favours," according to Pittokopitis. The Diko deputy went on to say that a permanent problem had now been created, as farmers were relying on others for water to irrigate their farms.

    The chairman agreed it was "a serious problem accompanied by serious allegations" and confirmed that the committee would continue to investigate the matter.

    [05] Deputies claim cover-up over contracting scam

    By Andrea Sophocleous

    HOUSE deputies are outraged at the lack of government action over an alleged scam by private contractors that is said to have cost the public millions of pounds.

    The House Watchdog Committee heard yesterday that after months of investigations, the police and the Auditor-general's department had failed to dig up sufficient evidence against contractors who collaborate to defraud the government.

    Auditor-general Spyros Christou told the Watchdog Committee last October that the government was losing millions of pounds because it was being overcharged for public works. He was confident that evidence existed showing that a group of eight private contractors were conspiring to fix prices for tenders at high levels and then take the jobs in turns.

    The Auditor-general's office was alerted to the alleged scam when his assistant, Thassos Neocleous, received an anonymous phone call on August 6 last year explaining how it was all done. The Attorney-general, Alecos Markides, became involved and ordered a police investigation.

    The source of yesterday's outrage, however, was the apparent failure of the investigations. The Attorney-general told the committee that no evidence had been found so there was no case to take to court.

    Deputies were not satisfied with this explanation and committee chairman, Disy deputy Christos Pourgourides, argued that the House of Representatives had previously been told that the caller had been identified and was one of the contractors involved in the scam. But his name was not revealed to the police. Akel deputy Takis Hadjigeorgiou went as far as to suggest there had been a cover-up.

    Disy deputy Socrates Hasikos said the same "anonymous" person had also called him and given further evidence.

    Markides repeatedly insisted that all that existed at this stage was suspicion. "Something has definitely happened," he said, "but the problem lies in finding evidence."

    A zealous Nicos Cleanthous of Diko declared that the investigation was ineffective and that there had been no attempt made to take statements from the contractors used by the government.

    Hadjigeorgiou accused the police force of being slow in their investigations and in reporting to the committee, and said this should also be investigated. "They have come too late to this committee," he said; "they should have come a lot earlier."

    CID chief, Nathanail Papageorgiou, said the police had done everything in its powers to get to the bottom of the scam.

    In closing, Pourgourides urged the CID chief to conduct further investigations in co-operation with the Attorney-general. The matter will be discussed again next week.

    [06] Electricity workers threaten black-out

    By Martin Hellicar

    ELECTRICITY Authority (EAC) unions are threatening to plunge the country into darkness if their demands for better pay and conditions are not met.

    EAC employees staged a one-hour work stoppage yesterday morning to demand implementation of an agreement with management to appraise office and technical staff. At a press conference later in the day, the four unions representing EAC employees threatened to escalate strike action -- starting with a 24-hour stoppage on June 23 -- if the agreement, signed in October last year, was not implemented swiftly. The unions said a poll carried out yesterday morning showed 93 per cent of EAC employees supported strike action. If things came to it, they would not hesitate to leave the country without power, the unions stated.

    The unions accuse the government of stalling on implementation of the agreement.

    Communications Minister Nicos Rolandis tried to calm things down yesterday by promising the workers' demands would be considered by the cabinet on Wednesday.

    But he added that implementing the agreement would have knock-on effects for wage structures in the public sector as a whole.

    Rolandis said both he and Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou were "displeased" by the way unions were handling the issue. The two ministers met to discuss the matter yesterday morning.

    Tassos Roussos, spokesman for EAC management, acknowledged that the company had "contractual obligations" towards its employees, but noted that Rolandis had asked for time to table the matter before the cabinet.

    [07] Deputies plan HTI overhaul

    THE HOUSE is moving towards a total re-write of a cabinet-approved bill concerning the running of the Higher Technical Institute (HTI).

    HTI students demanding greater autonomy for the institute and greater recognition for their diplomas have caused serious disruption at the establishment this year. They blockaded the HTI campus for days and protested angrily outside the Labour Ministry, which has responsibility for the institute, and the House.

    Akel deputy Aristofanis Georgiou, chairman of a special House sub-committee set up to consider the HTI bill, said yesterday all parliamentary parties bar Diko were for a complete overhaul of the proposed legislation.

    "What we can say is that there will be a drastic overhaul and restructuring of this bill," Georgiou told reporters at the House.

    Diko want the running of the institute to remain more or less as it stands, as provided for in the bill in its current form, Georgiou said. But Disy, Edek and Akel were unanimous in seeking changes all round, he said.

    Georgiou said the overhaul would cover "the way the HTI is seen, the HTI's educational system and also the product we want from the HTI."

    The sub-committee is working to get the bill ready for approval before the start of the new academic year.

    [08] English school parents call for headmaster to leave

    PARENTS of children attending the English school have asked for the removal of headmaster Thomas Thomas in the row over a female teacher's promotion.

    At an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the school's Parents Association (ESPA) on Wednesday, it was decided to ask for the immediate removal of Thomas from his post, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

    ESPA also demanded that the Board of Management, which has back Thomas throughout the saga, reach a decision by next week.

    The spokesman said the EGM had expressed its dissatisfaction at the way in which the Board had handled the matter so far.

    ESPA also wants the appointment of future board members to include certain specific conditions, and for them to have some kind of qualification to be on a school board.

    "Contacts will be made with the appropriate government services on this issue," the spokeswoman said.

    Board Chairman John Hadjiantonas said yesterday he had not seen the ESPA resolution and could not comment until he did.

    Last month, 18 senior teachers at the school threatened to resign their posts over the ongoing row, which centres on allegations of favouritism shown by Thomas in the promotion of a female member of staff to Senior Teacher.

    The school staff association, ESSA, has threatened strike action unless the promotion is rescinded.

    The union also objects to what it describes as Thomas's unacceptable behaviour towards staff.

    The Board has supported the headmaster's position and has refused to ask him to resign or reverse the controversial promotion.

    [09] Teachers protest outside the House

    TWO SEPARATE groups of teachers both protested outside the House to press their various demands yesterday.

    Placard-carrying contract music teachers continued a protest that has become a near fixture outside the building. The secondary school teachers are demanding permanent posts.

    The newcomers to the scene yesterday were a group of secondary school teachers who served in other sections of the civil service before taking up blackboard duty. These protesters were demanding that their period of non- teacher civil service be recognised when their pay scales are worked out.

    Andreas Papayieronimou, representing the non-musical protestors, said only secondary school teachers who had previously served in the welfare department or Archbishopric had their service recognised. "The law as it stands is totally unjust," he said.

    [10] Man held for child battery

    A LARNACA man was yesterday remanded in custody for allegedly battering his lover's three-year-old daughter.

    Christos Zachariou, from Kalo Chorio, was remanded for five days by Larnaca district court after his partner told police he had put her daughter in hospital.

    On Wednesday night, the young girl was taken to casualty at Larnaca General hospital, suffering injuries to the head and body and a suspected fractured scull.

    CID officer Charalambos Evdokimou told the court that the girl had been brutally battered on Tuesday night while at her grandmother's house in Tsiakkilero.

    He said it appeared that the suspect beat the girl when she refused to go home after he arrived to pick her up.

    "When Zachariou was arrested he told police, 'I only smacked her and pulled her by the hair to teach her how to behave'," the CID officer told the court.

    According to police eye-witness statements, Zachariou was seen pulling the child by the hair and knocking her to the ground.

    Zachariou also tried put her head under a cold tap after the beating to try and stop the swelling, Evdokimou said.

    Social services were called in following the incident, and they in turn alerted the police.

    Police said they would also investigate whether the mother had taken any part in the assault.

    The girl will be taken to Limassol hospital today for a scan to ascertain the extent of her injuries.

    [11] Practise what you preach

    FINANCE Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou has been accused by opposition newspaper Haravgi of not practising what he preaches on wage cuts and taxes.

    The paper claims that while the minister is prepared to burden the public with extra taxes to ease the public deficit, he is taking home a whopping 3,500 a month.

    According to the report, Christodoulou receives 1,500 from his state pension as a former civil servant, topping up the 2,000 he earns as a minister.

    The Akel-backed paper yesterday called on the 59-year-old minister to tighten up his own belt by sacrificing part of his own salary for the greater good.

    "Christodoulou has no hesitation whatsoever in taking the 3,500 monthly salary at a time when the public deficit is in trouble," said Haravgi's front page story.

    Christodoulou has become a target for criticism since he tried in vain last month to push a stringent tax package through the House.

    Opposition parties like Akel accuse the government of breaking an election commitment not to raise taxes this year, of offering nothing to low income groups to soften the tax blow and doing little to reduce its own inflated spending.

    "The behaviour of Christodoulou can be considered scandalous at a time when he pronounces one thing, but himself acts in a different way instead of setting an example of the sacrifices he demands from wage earners," Haravgi said.

    [12] Youth killed in road crash

    A 22-YEAR-OLD Pissouri villager was killed yesterday when the car he was in left the road and crashed into a safety barrier near the Aphrodite's rock beauty spot in Paphos.

    Police said Marios Ioannou Dimitriou was killed instantly while the driver of the vehicle, 20-year-old Sofoclis Panayioti Dimitriou, also from Pissouri, was slightly injured.

    The circumstances of the accident, which occurred at about 2pm on the old Limassol to Paphos road, were being investigated, police said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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