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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-07-09

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, July 9, 1998


  • [01] Frustration takes toll of Rida Allah passengers
  • [02] From Liberia to Cyprus: The journey of a hero
  • [03] Viagra in the pharmacies by September?
  • [04] Galanos slams plans for party leaders New York trip
  • [05] Keep your opinions to yourself, Kyprianou tells Vassiliou
  • [06] Medical association to probe charges of negligence
  • [07] Government to investigate hospital claims
  • [08] Armed robbers raid Trachoni bank
  • [09] Top general to visit occupied areas
  • [10] Carpenters go on strike
  • [11] Lufthansa boasts increased market share
  • [12] Schools to link up to the net
  • [13] Daylight kidnap backfires
  • [14] Iranian jailed for pretending to be Swede
  • [15] Prosecutor calls for deterrent sentence on captain of Cyprus ship

  • [01] Frustration takes toll of Rida Allah passengers

    By Hamza Hendawi

    LOST AT SEA, thirsty, hungry and scorched by a merciless sun, images of living it up in a place even as modest as Limassol's Pefkos Hotel would certainly pass for the stuff of dreams.

    Tucked away in a nondescript part of Limassol, life in the Pefkos was indeed a dream that miraculously came true for the 109 mostly Arab and African passengers who stared death in the face while their ramshackle trawler drifted aimlessly in the eastern Mediterranean before rescue came.

    But to most of them, staying in the 25-a-night Pefkos is now like life in a jail.

    "We just eat and sleep," said 26-year-old Imad el-Deen Atta, an Egyptian from the oasis province of el-Fayoum southwest of Cairo.

    "We are like prisoners. They treat us well, but we need more than just food and sleep," he told the Cyprus Mail.

    "The police are less rigid now when it comes to movement from one room to another on the same floor," said Khamees Abdul-Lateef, 32, the only other Egyptian from among the passengers of the Syrian-flagged Rida Allah.

    "But you still need a permission to leave your floor," complained Abdul- Lateef, a welder from the coastal city of Mansoura.

    What he and compatriot Atta have in common with the rest of the Rida Allah passengers, who come from as far afield as Liberia and Bangladesh, is the now-dashed dream of life in western Europe.

    They had paid villainous middlemen thousands of dollars in return for passage to Greece or Italy. But their journey of hope came to a sad end when the Rida Allah developed engine trouble two days after leaving the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli on June 18. After drifting in the sea for nine days, a Ukrainian ship found them and towed them to Limassol.

    "We are here like prisoners and it does not feel good at all," said Peter Osagiadeliyi, a 30-year-old Rwandan who, judging by available evidence, has become the spokesman for the more than 60 Africans amongst the Rida Allah passengers. Other Africans speaking to the Mail while eating lunch yesterday spoke of their desperate need for exercise and recreation.

    A total of 20 policemen are assigned to guard the passengers at any given time. The government is picking up a daily tab of 2,500 for their stay in the hotel, the passengers are not allowed to use the often deserted swimming pool and the pool table. No newspapers are available to the passengers and use of the telephone is restricted.

    The frustration of life in the Pefkos and the uncertainty of their situation prompted the passengers on Tuesday to begin a hunger strike to press their demands to see UN officials with a view to looking into settlement in a third country and to protest against the government's reported plans to return them to their countries of origin.

    The strike, however, was short-lived. No-one went downstairs for breakfast on Tuesday, but a handful ate lunch and everyone was back for dinner after a senior Limassol police officer promised the passengers a visit by a UN official yesterday or today.

    "Our destination was not Cyprus," said Osagiadeliyi, the Rwandan who was on the boat with his wife. "They should not rescue us for food only. We have food back in Africa. They should have rescued our lives and that is the most important thing," he said before starting his fish-and-chips lunch.

    "They should repair the boat, release the captain from jail and allow us to sail to our original destination," he demanded.

    The Cyprus government, fearing a wave of economic refugees if it acts soft on the Rida Allah case, has yet to make public what it plans to do with the passengers, although there have been strong hints of mass deportations.

    Lacking the legal framework to deal with political asylum applications, Cyprus has had little choice but to act tough on immigration issues, largely because of the vulnerability it finds itself in as a result of close proximity to the Middle East and Africa. The two areas have traditionally been prime sources of political and economic migrants as a result of the region's chronic conflicts and poor economic conditions.

    The Rida Allah passengers come from Sierra Leone, Congo, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Liberia, Sudan, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Bangladesh. Many of them say their lives would be in danger or they would face imprisonment if they were sent back to their home countries.

    "There is no way the Cypriots are going to send me back home alive," said one passenger yesterday. "I might just as well die here."

    [02] From Liberia to Cyprus: The journey of a hero

    Richard Henry is a hero. The 26-year-old left his native Liberia at the age of 17 to escape the civil war which has wrecked the West African nation and whose wanton violence had claimed the lives of both his parents.

    Destitute and an orphan, Richard began his odyssey from the Liberian capital of Monrovia on March 12, 1989. Nine years later, he is a reluctant guest of the Republic of Cyprus, which has taken upon itself to rescue him from a drifting boat, clothe him, feed him and put a roof over his head.

    Richard is grateful, but he is not happy and he does not relish his new life as one of the "prisoners" of the Pefkos Hotel.

    The son of a military commander from one of the many rival militias in the Liberian civil war, Richard knew that staying at home could mean death after his father and mother were shot dead in 1988 by men loyal to warlord Charles Taylor.

    "I wanted to be go to a place where I can be safe and where human rights are protected," he declared in an interview with the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    He decided it was time to go, and his epic journey began in neighbouring Ivory Coast, from where he travelled to Mali, then to Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and finally Lebanon.

    "I entered some of these countries legally and others illegally," Richard said at the Pefkos, where he and 108 other passengers from the Syrian- flagged trawler Rida Allah have been put up by the government since their rescue late last month.

    Like the others, he had paid thousands of dollars in return for passage to either Greece or Italy to seek employment, but instead drifted in the Mediterranean with no food or water after the boat developed engine trouble. Rescue arrived nine days later, thanks to an heroic feat by the Liberian and another passenger from Rwanda, known only as John.

    "I was one of the two men who decided to put our lives at risk and leave the boat to seek out help," said Richard.

    "Me and John were out for two days on a raft we made until we were spotted by the Ukrainian ship which we led to our boat," he proudly recalled to nods of agreement from Arabs and Africans around him at the Pefkos' underground dining room.

    Richard, whose travels since 1989 did not include a single aeroplane ride, left school at the age of 13 and says he played second-division football in Mali.

    So what do you want to do with your life now?

    "I want to go to Europe and be a professional footballer. I am a striker," said the irrepressible Liberian.

    [03] Viagra in the pharmacies by September?

    By Athena Karsera

    THE MALE impotence wonder drug Viagra could be available in pharmacies in Cyprus by September, if a licensing application is approved.

    A spokesman for the state pharmaceutical service told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that his service had received an application 15 days ago for a license to import the drug.

    Vasilis Kouvevides explained that all pharmaceutical products had to go through extensive content, quality and safety testing by the service before they could be approved for the market.

    The application to import Viagra has been made by Geo Pavlides and Araouzos, the licensed representatives of Pfizer, the American pharmaceutical company that produces the drug.

    Kouvevides said the pharmaceutical service had not yet completed its examinations of the drug. The service was expected to reach a decision based on its testing at its next meeting, he said.

    If the application is accepted, Viagra should be available directly after the meeting, by September or October this year.

    The recommended price can also only be announced once the application is accepted.

    A representative at Geo Pavlides and Araouzos yesterday confirmed that the company had applied for a license to import Viagra and hoped for the green light by the Autumn.

    Until then, potential buyers will have to bide their time or go abroad for the drug. Kouvevides said his service had no reason to believe the drug was circulating on the black market in Cyprus: "Only a very small number of people have brought in Viagra from overseas. It is for their own personal use only and was obtained under a doctor's prescription."

    Viagra was a sensation as soon as it hit the market in the United States in April, capturing media attention as the world's first oral therapy for the condition formally known as male erectile dysfunction.

    It is forecast to achieve record-breaking global sales of $1 billion in its first year.

    [04] Galanos slams plans for party leaders New York trip

    By Charlie Charalambous

    PARTY leaders have been accused of planning a trip to New York for September's UN General Assembly, as an excuse to run up hotel bills and do everything else but push forward the stalled peace process.

    Political leaders have faced growing criticism ever since the government decided last week that they should accompany President Clerides to the UN General Assembly.

    Sending the various leaders to mingle with diplomats and influence people is done at a huge cost to the tax payer.

    "As our political leaders wish to go to New York to promote their party line... they should do so at their own personal expense or that of their party," a statement by Alexis Galanos' European Renewal Movement said yesterday.

    Earlier this week, government spokesman Christos Stylianides defended the astronomical cost of accommodating party leaders in the style to which they are accustomed.

    He said the presence of the collective leadership in New York was deemed "necessary and in the interests of the Cyprus problem."

    Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides justified their presence by saying it would help establish if the time was ripe for a "new Cyprus recourse to the UN General Assembly," something that political analysts consider extremely unlikely.

    Galanos' Euro movement is also sceptical about the plus side of a trip to the Big Apple.

    "The practice of sending the political leadership to New York has been followed in the past and manifestly offers no tangible benefit."

    A similar New York sojourn by party leaders three years ago had the government picking up unpaid hotel bills - above and beyond their daily allowance and hotel stay - that ran into thousands of pounds.

    Two years ago, a whistle-stop tour of five continents by political leaders - to gain support for Cyprus - cost the tax payer a cool one million pounds.

    "Some might argue that sending the political leadership to New York would be useful for enlightenment purposes... this would only be true if the visit was aimed at influencing centres of decision-making and not staying cooped up in a hotel - as always happens," said the Galanos movement's statement.

    Suspicions about the politicians' motives for a trip to New York started to surface when it was preferred to a previously arranged visit to South Africa for a meeting of Non-Aligned nations.

    It seems the attractions of Broadway in the Autumn far outweighed the prospects of a winter break in Africa.

    [05] Keep your opinions to yourself, Kyprianou tells Vassiliou

    By Andy Georgiades

    DIKO leader Spyros Kyprianou yesterday launched a fierce attack on the government's chief EU negotiator, saying he should keep his opinions on defence matters to himself.The House President -- well-known for his own outspoken political viewpoints -- said that although George Vassiliou was entitled to his opinions, the United Democrats (UD) leader should not act as a "loose cannon", especially after accepting the post of chief negotiator on the EU accession team.

    Vassiliou on Tuesday said the Greek Cypriot side should unilaterally initiate various measures to help reduce tensions on the island.

    But Kyprianou did not take the comments lightly: "He is sending the wrong message, because he is linked to the president and the government, by saying we can start demilitarisation unilaterally and that we should not show weapon systems during parades," the Diko leader said.

    Kyprianou added that his feelings were "nothing personal," and that perhaps Vassiliou should not have accepted his new posting if he wanted to remain leader of the UD and express political opinions.

    The House president said his problem with Vassiliou's comments was that they could be falsely interpreted abroad as an official government position.

    This is not the first time that Vassiliou's role has been questioned.

    Government spokesman Christos Stylianides tried to clarify yesterday exactly which powers Vassiliou would be granted as chief negotiator.

    According to reports, Attorney-general Alecos Makrides defined Vassiliou's position as having access to state information, advising the ministries, choosing assistants, and having appropriate support from the state.

    The position does not, however, include any executive powers.

    [06] Medical association to probe charges of negligence

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE MEDICAL Association is to investigate whether a teenage boy risked losing his right hand due to negligence on the part of hospital doctors.

    The parents of 14-year-old Alexandros Ioannou blame Limassol doctors for failing to diagnose a nerve injury to his arm, which had been slashed by glass.

    Doctors are accused of stitching up the wound and sending the teenager home without properly exploring the extent of the injury.

    The teenager cut his arm last month and only had surgery yesterday to repair damaged nerves after he complained of numbness in his fingers.

    The operation he underwent is described as having a 90 per cent success rate.

    Makarios hospital surgeon Alkis Alkiviades -- who carried out yesterday's operation -- has suggested that Ioannou was not referred to him promptly enough by the doctor in Limassol because of their "personal differences".

    But he was quick yesterday to defend staff at the casualty ward for doing everything possible for the teenager.

    "We can't blame casualty staff for negligence as they have a heavy work load and always refer to me any cases that should be brought to my attention," Alkiviades said.

    And he added that there was also an onus on the patient himself to inform doctors of any strange sensations.

    Medical Association chairman Antonis Vassiliou said yesterday an inquiry would be set up to look into allegations of professional misconduct and into the more serious claim of negligence.

    "Conflicts of interest and charges of professional misconduct have no place in this profession.

    "Our aim is to serve the patient, and if this hasn't happened then the association will apportion blame where it exists," Vassiliou said.

    However, he was careful to point out that negligence was not the same thing as charging a doctor with making a mistake.

    "If a doctor has done everything he possibly can to reach a correct diagnosis but failed, this cannot be termed as negligence," Vassiliou said.

    [07] Government to investigate hospital claims

    THE GOVERNMENT has ordered an investigation into reports that sub-standard construction materials were being used for the new Nicosia general hospital.

    However, Communications and Works Minister Leontios Ierodiakonou was quick to claim that while dodgy materials had indeed found their way to the Athalassa building site, they had been rejected by site inspectors and were never actually used.

    A number of local dailies reported yesterday that sub-standard concrete, sand and bricks were being used to build the 50 million new hospital. The papers carried what they said were copies of relevant letters sent to the Public Works department by government site inspectors.

    Ierodiakonou, speaking after a cabinet meeting yesterday morning, said he had ordered an investigation into the allegations.

    "From what I have been informed so far it is a fact that materials had been taken there that were not up to standard," Ierodiakonou said.

    "These materials were rejected by the relevant department and were replaced. Unsuitable materials were not used in construction," he stated.

    The minister said he did not think any action would be taken against the construction company.

    "Since sub-standard materials were not used, I cannot see what measures could be taken (against the contractor). But I do not know at this stage whether any of the technical terms in the contract were violated by the construction company," he said.

    Later in the day, the Works Ministry issued a statement saying there was nothing to worry about.

    The problems reported by the media were "known" to the Ministry and had been "dealt with in accordance with the contract and accepted procedures," the statement read.

    "The quality of materials is systematically checked and where deviations from the terms of the contract are found the necessary corrective measures are taken," the Ministry added.

    "The Ministry believes the problem has been unnecessarily blown out of proportion and the construction company and (site) inspectors unfairly slandered."

    [08] Armed robbers raid Trachoni bank

    By Charlie Charalambous

    LIMASSOL police yesterday launched a manhunt following an armed robbery at a Popular Bank branch in Trachoni.

    Police said two masked men, one of them brandishing a gun, raided the village bank at 9.30am yesterday and escaped with around 17,000 and an unspecified amount of foreign currency.

    Three customers and two employees were inside the bank at the time of the attack. All of them escaped unharmed.

    "The two men said 'put your hands up against the wall, this a robbery', and we stood still while they put the money in a white bag," one eye-witness said.

    Another explained how one of the attackers "held the gun, while the other went into the safe and put money into the bag."

    According to the bank staff, the men gave their orders in Greek.

    Police are now searching for a white Citroen van after it was positively identified as the getaway vehicle.

    The two men are understood to have acted alone, without the assistance of a getaway driver.

    A village resident told police that she had seen the car driving up and down the main street just minutes before the robbery took place.

    Police described one of the suspects as being slightly overweight, tanned, with black curly hair and 1.75 metres tall.

    Investigators said they were confident of catching the robbers sooner rather than later.

    [09] Top general to visit occupied areas

    TURKEY'S Chief of Staff will visit the occupied areas tomorrow, military forces in the occupied areas said yesterday.

    The announcement said General Ismail H. Karadayi, Turkey's top military man, would spend two days in the north. His visit comes in the wake of tension caused by the tit-for-tat visits of Greek and Turkish fighter jets to the island last month.

    That tension was again highlighted yesterday as the British Foreign Office sought to play down crisis fears in the wake of report on the British satellite news network Sky News about contingency plans to evacuate the island. The Foreign Office said that it did not think there was an imminent crisis on the island, and "had made it quite clear" that there was no reason for caution with regard to visiting Cyprus.

    "I do not think Sky News knows of something in Cyprus that we do not," a spokesman said.

    The comments came as the new Austrian presidency of the European Union called on Britain's European Union presidency representative for Cyprus, Sir David Hannay, to continue his work, even though Britain has now passed on the presidency.

    Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima went on to say that Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schussel would make every effort on behalf of Cyprus during his country's presidency, and expressed the hope that these efforts would lead to an agreement.

    [10] Carpenters go on strike

    OVER 300 workers in 13 carpentry workshops across the island downed their chisels and went on strike yesterday to demand increases in pay and benefits.

    Further strikes in other carpentry workshops are threatened by unions following a deadlock in negotiations with bosses over renewal of collective agreements.

    Sek union representative Andreas Clitou described the one-day strike as a "100 per cent success".

    "After today, the union councils will meet again to review the situation and decide on what further action will be taken where and when," Clitou said.

    Four workshops in Nicosia, five in Limassol and four in Paralimni remained idle thanks to yesterday's action.

    For the bosses' side, Employers and Industrialist Federation Oev issued a statement slamming unions for adopting "blackmail" measures.

    "Unions are showing complete indifference towards the desperate efforts of what is by general admission an ailing sector," Oev stated.

    "We warn unions that their actions will harm both the economy and workers themselves," Oev concluded.

    [11] Lufthansa boasts increased market share

    GERMAN airline Lufthansa has increased its market presence in Cyprus, the company announced yesterday.

    Josef Bogdanski, Vice President of Passenger Sales and Services for Southeast Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Pakistan, told a press conference in Nicosia that sales of tickets in Cyprus in 1997 had risen by 22.3 per cent on the previous year, with 48,000 tickets sold. The total number of passengers flying to and from the island in 1997 (53,000) had also risen by 5 per cent.

    For the current year, Bogdanski commented that: "Even before the traditionally strong summer season had started, 22,500 tickets were sold in Cyprus, an increase of 19.7 per cent compared to (the same period) last year."

    Bogdanski attributed the rise to Lufthansa's network of connections from Larnaca to Latin America and the Far East through the airline's Frankfurt hub.

    The airline is also working on ways to solve the problem of same day connections from Larnaca to the United States.

    Juergen Dohne, Lufthansa Sales Manager in Cyprus, explained that the problem was being caused by Larnaca flights arriving at Frankfurt in the afternoon and Lufthansa flights to the US leaving in the morning. A work group had been set up to find ways of overcoming the inconvenience.

    For full details on Lufthansa schedules, bookings and flights, members of the public are advised to look up the airline's home page on the Internet. Two sites are offered, one Cyprus-based and targeted to the local market -- at -- and the other international -- at

    [12] Schools to link up to the net

    GOVERNMENT spokesman Christos Stylianides announced yesterday that the Internet would be introduced into schools, possibly starting in September.

    "The Internet is today the best means of tapping into information and current developments in a wide range of topics", he said.

    Asked whether the state school infrastructure was adequate for Internet support, Stylianides said efforts would be made to ensure this was possible. As a first step, the Internet would be introduced in high schools and technical institutes.

    Plans are also under way to bring the internet into the government sector.

    [13] Daylight kidnap backfires

    A KIDNAP attempt by two Turkish Cypriot men brandishing a toy pistol backfired when they allowed their hostage to drive the getaway car into heavy traffic, papers in the occupied areas reported yesterday.

    The hostage, a local businessman, managed to escape when his Mercedes got caught in a traffic jam.

    Ayhan and Ramazan Celik, 21 and 26 respectively, targeted Cevat Recep, a former employer of the younger kidnapper. He had given them a lift in his Mercedes in Nicosia when they pulled the pistol on him and forced him to take the Nicosia to Famagusta road.

    While most would complain about the heavy traffic, for Recep it was a blessing in disguise, allowing him to jump out of the car and make his escape.

    With nowhere to turn, the brothers drove off at lightning speed. But that speed proved too much for them to handle the sharp curve near the Mia Milia junction.

    Out of control, the car flipped over and became a total wreck, bringing their daring daylight abduction to an end.

    The younger brother sustained fractures to various parts of his body while the elder broke his back and was paralysed.

    [14] Iranian jailed for pretending to be Swede

    AN IRANIAN man tried to pass himself off as a Swede, but his ploy was uncovered and he was sentenced to two months in jail by Larnaca District Court yesterday.

    Admitting his guilt, Abdullah Afshiar, 41, told the court that while in Teheran he had purchased a Swedish passport and planned to travel to Stockholm where he hoped to find work as an electrician.

    [15] Prosecutor calls for deterrent sentence on captain of Cyprus ship

    STATE prosecutors have told a Singapore district court that it should hand out harsh "deterrent" sentences against the two captains whose ships were involved the region's worst ever oil spill.

    According to a report in yesterday's Singapore Shipping Times, chief prosecutor Wong Keen Onn said the Greek master of the Cyprus-flagged ship Evoikos, had showed "callous negligence" during the incident.

    Michael Chalkitis, 58, pleaded guilty last week to charges of failing to take the necessary evasive actions to avoid collision with another vessel and also of failing to maintain a proper look-out.

    The captain of the other vessel, Jan Sokolowski, 54, pleaded guilty to charges of negligent navigation of his ship, the Orapin Global, and failing to proceed at a safe speed.

    The court had set aside five weeks for the trial because of the complexity of the case. That was before the surprise guilty pleas were registered last week.

    On October 15 last year, the Thai vessel Orapin Global left a huge gash in the hull of the Evoikos, a ship half its size, after they collided in Singapore waters. The Evoikos leaked 29,000 tons of oil into the sea.

    The massive clean-up operation that followed was estimated to have cost $13 million.

    Wong argued that Singapore could not afford any blockage of its sea lanes nor any closings to its port. There were, however, no reports of the port ever having closed.

    "The prosecution therefore submits that a sufficiently deterrent sentence should be imposed on the accused in this case," the Singapore Shipping Times quoted Wong as saying.

    Chalkitis' lawyer argued that his client only had five minutes warning that his ship was on a collision course. Until then, Chalkitis had believed the Orapin Global would proceed into the westbound lane only once it passed the Evoikos, not while it was still in front.

    Chalkitis faces a maximum of two years in jail and a $50,000 fine. Sokolowski faces six months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

    The two captains are scheduled to be sentenced on July 14.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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