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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-07-19

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Sunday, July 19, 1998


  • [01] Two more boat people return
  • [02] We won't fall into Turkish traps
  • [03] UN appeals for restraint at demos
  • [04] Government bows on conscientious objectors
  • [05] Time for a new social contract
  • [06] Streaking Swedes wreak havoc in Napa
  • [07] The Audi and the arms commission
  • [08] Nicosia pays three times more for water

  • [01] Two more boat people return

    By Charlie Charalambous

    ALL FIVE Iraqi boat people who engineered a daring escape from a third- floor hotel balcony on Tuesday have now returned, police said yesterday.

    Limassol police told the Cyprus Mail that two more Iraqi Kurds had handed themselves in at a Nicosia police station on Friday. They were transported back to Limassol, where they were questioned and then taken back to the hotel.

    The three others had returned to the hotel on Thursday.

    However, there still seems to be confusion as to the whereabouts of a sixth Iraqi, who police say escaped in an earlier incident.

    When the Cyprus Mail enquired about the sixth missing person, Police HQ in both Nicosia and Limassol admitted they were still in the dark about what had actually happened.

    Police don't even have a name or nationality for the mystery man, though he is thought to be an Iraqi Kurd.

    Police named the two Iraqis who returned on Friday as Srdear Hasan, 26, and Roni Mohamed, 23.

    Their companions who gave themselves up on Thursday were identified as Soyhaib Saleb, 25, Abdul Latif, 31, and Ali El Kirsani, 29.

    All five are from Baghdad and are seeking political asylum.

    It is understood there desperate bid for freedom was cut short for lack of funds and shelter.

    They escaped from a third-floor hotel balcony, where they had been kept under close guard with 103 other boat people since they were rescued from the battered Rida Allah.

    The five are believed to have escaped their modest two-star existence at the £25-a-night Pefkos hotel in Limassol by jumping two floors, then scaling down the building on to the street.

    They managed to flee despite 20 policemen patrolling the hotel around the clock and strict security measures preventing the Arab and African immigrants from leaving each floor without permission.

    Embarrassed by the escape, police have since deployed extra men at the hotel, sending the cost of looking after the boat people further above the previous £10,000-a-day estimate.

    Police only discovered the Iraqis were missing on Wednesday after the customary body count at the breakfast table.

    According to sources at the hotel, the Iraqis fled because they feared they would be deported.

    A number of the immigrants have voiced complaints about the draconian conditions under which they are kept, saying they feel like prisoners.

    Although the government has said it will meet all its humanitarian obligations and provide all possible assistance, it has not ruled out the option of deporting most of the boat people.

    Since being rescued on June 30, suffering from thirst and starvation, the initial joy at finding a friendly country has now turned into anxiety about their future.

    UNHCR experts are now co-operating with the government in the long bureaucratic process of deciding who has genuine grounds for asylum.

    It is thought efforts to find a third country which might accept the immigrants have so far failed.

    The woefully unseaworthy Syrian-flagged Rida Allah had been drifting for 10 days after the vessel developed engine trouble two days after leaving Tripoli, Lebanon.

    Police said two passengers died of thirst during the fateful trip and were thrown overboard before the Cyprus coastguard intervened.

    The ship's Syrian captain Mohammed Mustafa, 31, has been charged with causing death by negligence and carrying passengers on an unsuitable vessel for financial reward.

    [02] We won't fall into Turkish traps

    By Charlie Charalambous

    TURKISH intelligence claims that a number of S-300 missiles have already arrived on the island were yesterday dismissed as tension-raising trickery.

    "The government is not prepared to fall in the trap which some are trying to spring in order to focus discussions on armaments instead of the substance of the Cyprus problem and demilitarisation, which automatically resolve all problems relating to tension and arms," government spokesman Christos Stylianides said yesterday.

    Stylianides was responding to a report in Turkish daily Yeni Yuzil, which claimed that seven launchers and four missiles had been transported to Cyprus from Russia by air.

    It further quoted Turkish intelligence sources as saying the missiles were being stored in three separate underground facilities at the Paphos air base.

    Prior to their arrival, five radars and control panels for the S-300s had already been received by the National Guard, the newspaper's sources claimed.

    President Clerides has told both the UN and the Americans that he would cancel the deal if substantial progress was made towards a settlement, paving the way for demilitarisation.

    The British Foreign Office said on Friday that its EU partners shared the same concerns on the missiles, believing deployment would "exacerbate tension in the region."

    There was further condemnation of Ankara's brinkmanship yesterday when the government said it would protest against the arrival of Turkish navy vessels and military aircraft in the occupied areas.

    Turkish Cypriot press reports state that six ships docked at occupied Kyrenia port and 10 NF-5 aircraft landed at occupied Lefkoniko to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    "Such actions by Turkey these days constitute a provocation and a challenge to the international community to take a clear cut position against those who create tension on the island," said Stylianides.

    [03] UN appeals for restraint at demos

    UNFICYP yesterday urged anti-occupation demonstrators to show restraint and maturity at rallies near the buffer-zone to avoid unnecessary clashes.

    Around 800 UN troops will be out in force today and early next week to ensure that anti-occupation demonstrations marking the 24th anniversary of the July 20 Turkish invasion are trouble free.

    The number of troops patrolling the buffer zone and the Green Line has been doubled from the usual 400 men in case of trouble.

    UN spokesman Waldemar Rokoszewski said Unficyp had liaised with the Cyprus police to ensure a smooth operation.

    "We've been assured by Cyprus police that all the necessary arrangements have been made to keep things under control and to prevent demonstrators encroaching on the UN-controlled buffer zone," Rokoszewski told the Cyprus Mail.

    [04] Government bows on conscientious objectors

    CONSCIENTIOUS objectors will no longer be forced to do military service or face long prison terms for refusing to do so, but allowed to join the ranks of the civil defence.

    The non-military option for conscientious objectors has been approved by the Council of Ministers.

    According to the decision, objectors will be permanently deployed for civil defence duty and will not wear a uniform of any kind.

    The government has come under constant criticism from Amnesty International for its harsh treatment of conscientious objectors, mainly Jehovah Witnesses, and its insistence that "unarmed alternatives" should be significantly longer than the 26 months that conscripts serve.

    Two Jehovah's Witnesses were jailed for 16 and 18 months last year for refusing to do their military service.

    Henceforth, conscientious objectors will have to report to the Civil Defence offices and work daily from 7.30 am to 2.30pm, but remain on call thereafter.

    As recruits to civil defence they will receive the same allowance of £30 a month as soldiers in the National Guard.

    Because the correct framework of regulations is not yet in place to facilitate the change over from military to civil defence, all applicants are warned to secure a postponement of their recruitment into the army to avoid legal procedures.

    [05] Time for a new social contract

    By Elias Hazou

    MULTIPLE-CHOICE question: what is the problem with the civil service in Cyprus?

    1. It takes up an inordinate percentage of the budget;
    2. Low productivity;
    3. No problem at all.

    Or perhaps all of the above? For this is an example of that rare multiple- choice question where all the answers could be correct -- depending on who you ask...

    A recent poll conducted by AMER on the government's role in the economy concluded that most Cypriots were fed up with the civil service, many describing it as "gangrenous".

    According to Dr Andreas Theophanous, Director of the Research and Development Centre at Intercollege, the public feels that a lot of money is being spent on the civil service, but that the output, i.e. the service provided, is not satisfactory.

    Theophanous stresses above all the huge gap existing between the public and private sectors: "It is unhealthy; we must reverse this trend."

    He believes that a convergence between the two sectors is required to solve the problem.

    What exactly is the problem? For one thing, around 50 per cent of the national budget is allocated to the civil service, with 20 per cent going to service the public debt created by excessive government spending in that sector.

    Civil servants in Cyprus receive salaries, benefits and working conditions that are commonly seen as far superior to those offered in the private sector. It follows that the overwhelming majority of Cypriots prefer to seek employment in the public sector.

    As long as this trend exists, there seems to be no reason for reforming the public service. So what can be done to change the current state of affairs?

    Dr Theophanous believes that the private sector needs to be revitalised, in order to compete with the public sector and therefore create a balance between the two. More people will then be attracted to the private sector, thus reversing the current trend.

    Is this feasible? Theophanous believes that a radical transformation of the civil service is imperative. To achieve this, "we must first change the client relationship existing between the civil service and the political system". While private employers pay more attention to productivity and efficiency, the government as an employer has to take into account the political costs in employee appointments. In a small society such as Cyprus, favouritism and nepotism take on a whole new meaning and attempts to eliminate these have proved ineffective.

    Theophanous thinks that the unions representing the interests of civil servants are overly powerful. These unions are more "aggressive" in their demands than those representing employees in the private sector. Because of the special client relationship they have with the political system, over time they have gained much power and have not hesitated to wield it, most frequently through the use of strikes.

    This week, the pilots' union announced a three-day strike starting July 23 after heated debates in the House on nepotism in Cyprus Airways staff appointments. The pilots strike was called off on Friday.

    Last Thursday, nurses at Makarios Hospital's surgery section walked out of scheduled operations "for their lunch break", in what appeared to be an unofficial work to rule. The fiasco prompted an investigation by the Health Ministry, while the Labour Ministry also got involved by drawing up a bill regulating strikes in the essential services.

    For Theophanous, the nurses' walkout was an "unfortunate event which I hope will never be repeated." Commenting on the recent wave of strikes, Theophanous warned: "These tactics will backfire; the economy cannot stand more setbacks of this kind."

    Traditionally, the problem facing the public finances has been linked to tax evasion and the consequent loss of revenues, prompting the House to consider raising taxes. Theophanous disagrees: "More taxes will not solve the problems in public finances. On the contrary, economic activity would be adversely affected, since purchasing power would be diminished. Let's point out also that during economic slumps more is spent on public finances, while revenues decrease."

    "I believe the time has come for a new social contract, a new economic policy," says Theophanous. The policy he suggests is three-pronged. First, the need for higher growth rates; second, convergence of the working conditions between the public and private sectors; lastly, a boost to the economy so that it can compete on a regional/international environment.

    As Cyprus looks to join the EU, the debate on the state's public finances and on reform in the civil service have picked up pace. To date, Cyprus fulfils all of the Maastricht criteria except the quota on public deficit expressed as a percentage of Gross National Product.

    [06] Streaking Swedes wreak havoc in Napa

    By Charlie Charalambous

    TWO SWEDISH tourists were remanded in custody yesterday after running amok in the holiday resort of Ayia Napa stark naked.

    Tourists David Lassen and Andreas Sandstram, both 21, sparked a furore at around 2am when they stripped off and started causing a disturbance.

    Police were called in when Lassen and Sandstram streaked down the main road of the resort singing and shouting.

    Locals may be used to topless Scandinavian women strutting Ayia Napa's sandy beaches, but the sight of two grown men cavorting the main square with nothing but their bare-faced cheek was too much.

    "The two were obviously very drunk after a night on the town," said a police source.

    Police attempts to arrest the two proved dangerous when fists started to fly and tempers erupted.

    The police officers involved in the arrest received scratches and bruises to the arms and face, said a police statement issued yesterday.

    The naked duo were also slightly injured.

    As a result, all involved were taken to nearby Paralimni hospital where they were treated in casualty for cuts and bruises, and later released.

    Later yesterday, the Swedish tourists were taken to Larnaca district court (fully clothed), where they were remanded in police custody for two days.

    Ayia Napa police said the tourists faced a number of serious charges including indecent exposure, assaulting police officers, resisting arrest and a breach of the peace.

    [07] The Audi and the arms commission

    By Elias Hazou

    AN £80,000 Audi given to President Clerides is linked to commissions from a French arms deal, Akel deputy Kikis Yiangou has alleged.

    Yiangou claims the same company that gave Clerides the car received commissions for securing a contract for overpriced weapons. And the Akel man has called on the President to give up his luxury car.

    "This is about ethics; more than that, it is a question of principles and public order," Yiangou said in a statement yesterday.

    The deputy raised the question after Anna Diogenous, managing director of car dealers P.M. Tseriotis, testified before a Nicosia court in a libel case.

    Testifying under oath, Diogenous stated that Tseriotis had received thousands of pounds in commission from the French company Lucière for the sale of French-made shells to the National Guard.

    The same dealers recently gifted President Clerides an £80,000 Audi.

    Yiangou wonders whether the generous gift to the President was payed for by commissions on arms sales.

    "A major concern here is whether the commissions were concealed from the House and the Inland Revenue Department in violation of the salient laws," said Yiangou.

    According to Diogenous' testimony, the car dealership claims that it was not obliged to declare the commission.

    "If there is a connection, then the President should return the gift," maintains Yiangou. He also called on the House and the Director of the Inland Revenue to investigate the case.

    [08] Nicosia pays three times more for water

    NICOSIA residents have to pay three times as much for their water as people living anywhere else in Cyprus.

    And the reason is that the capital's Water Board is supplied with water by both state-controlled waterworks and privately-owned sources.

    At present there is no unified pricing for water. But Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous told Machi yesterday that the government did plan to set up a state water administration to deal with this problem.

    He added that, for the time being, the price of water would not be raised, despite the serious shortages.

    According to Themistocleous, the House had turned down the Water Board's request to raise the price of water: as a result, the gap between the selling and buying price of water is constantly widening.

    Meanwhile, 50 cases are apparently pending before Limassol court, as the authorities crack down on violations of water rationing measures. A man was this week fined £400 for water wasting.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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