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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-03-19

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

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


Friday, March 19, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Michaelides hints he could reveal all
  • [02] 'Humanitarian' House puts off Michaelides debate
  • [03] Arrested man thanks Markides for halting deportation
  • [04] Business as usual in oblivious bourse
  • [05] Lordos strikers take complaint to Nicosia
  • [06] Police seek British help on traffic enforcement
  • [07] Yiolou pupils walk out in school building protest
  • [08] Electricity overhaul to cost 800 million
  • [09] 'Turkey owns Cyprus'
  • [10] Internet Fiesta kicks off today
  • [11] 84 boat people held in Larnaca
  • [12] 'Journalist is new spokesman'

  • [01] Michaelides hints he could reveal all

    By Martin Hellicar

    INTERIOR Minister Dinos Michaelides yesterday handed his written resignation to President Clerides and hinted he would soon reveal all about the "petty politics" he says led to his decision to quit.

    On Wednesday, in announcing his decision to resign after weathering months of corruption allegations, the minister said he was going in order to "protect" Clerides from "increasingly petty politics, which have obvious objectives and goals."

    Michaelides was asked to expand on this statement as he left the Presidential Palace yesterday morning.

    "We'll have time to talk about everything at the press conference I plan to call after receiving the President's letter of reply (to my resignation notice), which I expect him to send tomorrow," the outgoing minister told reporters.

    The press conference is expected today.

    Michaelides - who insists the corruption allegations are false and were not the reason for his going - is not expected to go quietly. He has made it plain he intends to remain politically active and has even asked to be allowed to address the House plenum when it discusses a report on his alleged misdemeanours put together by the House Watchdog Committee, whose chairman, Christos Pourgourides, first went public with the claims that the minister had abused his authority.

    Michaelides said the President had accepted his resignation and had asked him to stay on as minister till his replacement was found.

    He denied he had been pushed into resigning because of the corruption allegations and said the resignation of Government spokesman Christos Stylianides had not influenced his decision either.

    Stylianides resigned on Tuesday in protest at a controversial cabinet decision to exonerate Michaelides. The cabinet last week cleared Michaelides of wrongdoing after a critical ombudsman's report questioned the motives behind planning changes to land which the minister later bought.

    "Mr Stylianides decided to resign for the reasons that he explained. I respect the decision he took, which is not to say that I agree with it, and my resignation was submitted for other reasons," Michaelides said, keeping his cards close to his chest.

    Stylianides' protest resignation had made Michaelides's position untenable coming soon after government coalition partners the United Democrats (UD) made plain their displeasure at the cabinet decision to clear Michaelides, taken in the absence of their minister.

    Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous, the UD member in the cabinet, yesterday said Michaelides' departure meant his party could abandon its stated qualms about staying in government. He called on Clerides to reshuffle his cabinet to create a "broad-based" government.

    Reshuffle speculation was rife yesterday, but Clerides was giving nothing away, saying his intentions would become evident only after he carried them out.

    The leader of ruling Disy, Nicos Anastassiades, indicated replacement ministers would be in place "before the weekend".

    The name of Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou was again linked to the Interior Ministry but Christodoulou himself was cagey. "I am not aware of the President's intentions concerning the possibility of a reshuffle. I don't even know if he will restrict himself to just replacing the Interior Minister and the Government Spokesman," he said.

    He did not comment on whether he had been approached about becoming Interior Minister.

    CyBC later quoted informed sources as saying top accountant Takis Clerides was set to replace Christodoulou as Finance Minister while the new Government spokesman was to be journalist Costas Tserezis.

    Friday, March 19, 1999

    [02] 'Humanitarian' House puts off Michaelides debate

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE HOUSE plenum yesterday decided to postpone a scheduled debate on alleged abuse of power by departing Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides for "humanitarian" reasons.

    The decision means the Michaelides - who officially submitted his resignation yesterday - is now unlikely to get the chance to address deputies during the debate as Attorney-general Alecos Markides has ruled he can do so only as minister.

    The request for a postponement came from Michaelides' triumphant accusor, House watchdog committee chairman Christos Pourgourides, who said it would not have been right to debate the matter on the same day that the minister handed his resignation to President Clerides.

    "We must, above all else, be able to feel that we are human," Pourgourides said, explaining his reasons for asking for the postponement.

    The postponement request was approved by parliamentary party leaders during a meeting yesterday morning and later rubber-stamped by the plenum.

    House president Spyros Kyprianou said everyone had agreed the matter would be debated during an extraordinary plenum session next Friday afternoon.

    "Some considered that it would not be right for the House to discuss the issue of the day of Michaelides' resignation - it is a sensitive matter," Kyprianou explained, adding that many deputies were absent abroad yesterday and would have missed the afternoon debate.

    Pourgourides is confident the plenum will unanimously approve a censure motion against Michaelides, despite the fact that state investigators have cleared the minister of all 16 of the corruption allegations the committee chairman levelled against him.

    Michaelides, insisting on his innocence and angered by Pourgourides' persistent attacks, has requested he be allowed to defend himself during the debate.

    But Kyprianou said yesterday Michaelides could not address deputies after his resignation as the constitution only granted this privilege to an acting minister.

    But this legal point seemed to have escaped Michaelides yesterday.

    "The House has the right to invite me, or to grant my request that I appear and talk before it, either as a minister or as a common citizen. It is up to the House," he said.

    Michaelides's only hope would now appear to be that Clerides, who has asked Michaelides to stay on in office till his replacement is found, might hold off on appointing a new Interior Minister till after next Friday - a somewhat unlikely scenario in current circumstances.

    Kyprianou said the plenum would be debating an ombudsman's report into Michaelides's involvement in planning zonation changes in Limassol as well as the House watchdog committee report.

    The ombudsman's report - which indicated there was reason to suggest Michaelides may have used his position to secure zoning changes which allowed him to build a luxury home - was the catalyst for the minister's resignation.

    The cabinet considered it and found nothing in it to suggest the minister had done wrong. This vindication of Michaelides prompted Government spokesman Christos Stylianides to resign in protest - forcing Michaelides's hand.

    Pourgourides, whose attacks on Michaelides over the past few months have been nothing short of dogged, refused to gloat over Michaelides' resignation yesterday.

    "I don't want to comment further on the issue," he said.

    He said his motives were not personal animosity but rather a concern for honest government. "The issue is that procedures be put in place that stop politicians and those in authority taking advantage of their position to get rich," he said.

    Friday, March 19, 1999

    [03] Arrested man thanks Markides for halting deportation

    By Anthony O. Miller

    A FORMER offshore businessman yesterday thanked Attorney-general Alecos Markides and the authorities for letting him stay in Cyprus, lest his deportation back to Pakistan foreclose all chances of rejoining his pregnant wife in the US.

    Eric Ernest, 31, spent some 48 hours in Unit 10 of the Central Prison, where illegal immigrants are held, after being arrested on Tuesday in a paperwork mix-up that threatened to end in his deportation back to his homeland, Pakistan.

    He was released yesterday evening due to the intercession of Markides and Cyprus authorities, and the legal assistance of the Nicosia law firm of CP Erotocritou.

    "I thank the Attorney-general and the Cyprus government for treating my case on a humanitarian basis and issuing a release order," Ernest told the Cyprus Mail.

    "I hope they will give me the 3-4 month visa that I need to leave Cyprus legally and rejoin my wife in the United States," he added.

    Both lawyer Yiannakis Erotocritou and his partner and son, Pavlos, leapt to Ernest's defence on Tuesday, after a desperate phone call to the Cyprus Mail from his Cypriot friend Carl Tate of the Micromania computer shop.

    Their intercession sparked Markides to assign his assistant, Louisa Zanettou, to the case, and the deportation stay-order was issued late on Wednesday and executed late yesterday.

    Ernest was led away on Tuesday from Micromania in handcuffs, booked, taken home to pack his bags - "Get someone to sell your furniture for you," Immigration police told him - and then jailed in Unit 10 to await deportation.

    According to Tate, and Yiannakis and Pavlos Erotocritou, Ernest's several letters to the Migration Department - one using the aid of a local lawyer - requesting a tourist visa to let him legally remain in Cyprus had gone unanswered since last July.

    That month the Central Bank revoked Ernest's permit to hire expatriates for his business, Main Man Enterprises, for reasons that are still unclear. However, the revocation changed his status, so he wrote to Migration Chief Christodoulos Nicolaides for a tourist visa.

    He needed - and still needs - the Cyprus visa's three extra months to complete his application with US authorities for a US visa, so he can rejoin his pregnant American wife in the United States, Pavlos Erotocritou said.

    But "Nicolaides did not answer" at least three letters, and neither did anyone else, he said.

    Ernest's deportation would "definitely" have ruined his chances of reuniting with his wife in America, Erotocritou said.

    Friday, March 19, 1999

    [04] Business as usual in oblivious bourse

    By Hamza Hendawi

    OBLIVIOUS to the predicament of a government beset by nagging accusations of sleaze and graft, it was business as usual yesterday in the stock market, where shares rose for the fourth successive day.

    On a day when political survivor par excellence Dinos Michaelides resigned from his job at the helm of the Interior Ministry in what is widely seen as a prelude to a major Cabinet reshuffle, the all-share index closed up at 122.28, or 0.14 per cent up on Wednesday. Volume was an average 6.39 million with all seven indices gaining ground except those of insurance and miscellaneous companies.

    Combined, the market has risen by 1.37 per cent since Monday.

    As ever, the day was carried by the blue-chips of the banks, with the Bank of Cyprus the biggest winner. It rose by 3.5 cents to close at 5.61, while the Popular Bank inched only 2 cents to close at 5.89.

    Traders said the present 28-cent spread between the two rivals in favour of Popular Bank was set to widen to 50 cents and perhaps as much as one pound by the end of the year on the grounds of what they saw as the bank's strong fundamentals.

    Such argument, however, is difficult to substantiate since the two banks have consistently shown equally robust expansion and profit increases.

    Hellenic Bank, the much smaller brother of the two, ended yesterday's trade down at 3.44, down three cents on Wednesday.

    The bank is due to announce its 1998 results in a news conference today, when Hellenic's top brass are also expected to answer questions on persistent rumours that the bank was prowling for an insurance company to take over in order to venture into an industry that is fast consolidating through takeovers. The rumours have linked Hellenic with Minerva Insurance.

    Activity in the three banks yesterday accounted for 61.4 per cent of all trade, more than half of which in Bank of Cyprus stocks alone.

    Friday, March 19, 1999

    [05] Lordos strikers take complaint to Nicosia

    By Jean Christou

    STRIKING workers from the two Lordos Hotels in Larnaca yesterday organised a convoy to Nicosia to protest against their ongoing plight.

    Around 160 workers from the Lordos Beach and the Golden Bay hotels have been on strike for almost two months demanding the reinstatement of 73 colleagues dismissed in January when sections of the hotels were farmed out to outside contractors as part of a cost-cutting package.

    Management refuses to discuss the redundancies, insisting it had every right to sack the 73.

    Yesterday, around 300 people - strikers and their supporters, as well as union representatives from all over Cyprus - made their way in a convoy to Nicosia in a show of support.

    From the outskirts of the capital they marched to the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) where they met with officials. From there, they marched to the building of the Commerce, Industry and Tourism Ministry before ending their protest at the Labour Ministry.

    "We handed in a petition to the Minister asking him to become involved in the problem," a Peo union representative told the Cyprus Mail. "They (ministry officials) said they would look into the case."

    The union official said there had been no new developments as far as settling the strike was concerned.

    Lordos Holdings has already gone ahead with its threat to begin replacing striking staff, having issued 25 letters of appointment earlier this week.

    The company claims the ongoing strike is illegal because the workers did not give adequate warning, and the decision did not receive majority backing. The company also claims that the decision was not taken by secret ballot as is required by labour laws.

    It has taken the strikers to court and managed to obtain two court orders prohibiting unruly behaviour and banning pickets from preventing entry to the hotels.

    Lordos Holdings has also given the government notice of its intention to seek damages for the alleged failure of police to protect its hotel properties against unruly strike pickets.

    A letter sent a week ago by company lawyers to Attorney-general Alecos Markides and Justice Minister Nicos Koshis states that Lordos Holdings considers the government financially liable for damages incurred at the two Larnaca hotels.

    Friday, March 19, 1999

    [06] Police seek British help on traffic enforcement

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE POLICE Department, vowing to cut the island's scandalous traffic- accident and fatality rates, invited British traffic experts to Cyprus this week for a two-day seminar to see if its plans for enforcing new road safety laws in July were up to snuff.

    "We know that Britain has managed in the last few years drastically to reduce its road traffic accidents," Deputy Traffic Division Chief Andreas Papas said yesterday.

    With the July 1 implementation date of the new traffic laws fast approaching, "we want to learn from their knowledge and experience whether we have any loopholes" in the new police strategy for reducing road wreck totals, Papas said.

    "The frequency of road traffic accidents is proportionally very high compared to other countries," Papas said. "If we compare ourselves to Europe, for example, Cyprus is one of the worst countries in fatalities from road traffic accidents."

    Worst offenders are "Portugal, Greece and then Cyprus," he said. "Of course, this position goes up and down, but this time we are the third-worst country in Europe. We have about 17 to 18 fatalities per 100,000 people each year, which is very, very high," Papas said. Cyprus also has "too many serious injuries."

    "We thought that by holding this seminar... we will share experience and knowledge (about how to) reduce... road traffic accidents in Cyprus," Papas said. Then "we'll sit down and plan our strategy and implement any new measures" not already part of the department's road-wreck war plans, he said.

    Besides the new laws, effective July 1, "we plan to introduce new surveillance equipment - cameras to photograph speeders" on highways and at traffic lights. "We hope to introduce them soon, before the end of the year, " Papas said.

    Drivers snapped speeding or signal-jumping will have a photograph of their licence plate mailed to their home, along with a ticket and a fine.

    The new traffic laws include bans on using mobile phones, or holding drinks or food or anything but a steering wheel or handle-bars while driving, he added.

    The sole item - one of a package of new laws - still hanging fire in Parliament is a bill to impose a 'points system'. This would allow rating traffic offences on a scale of 1 to 12, and slapping points on licenses until the total accumulated warrants revocation of a driver's licence.

    This is "the main (police) item pending before the House," Papas said, adding: "We hope and expect that it will be soon be enacted."

    The "First Road Safety Seminar", sponsored by the British High Commission and funded by British oil giant BP, featured three British experts and several from Cyprus at the Forum International Hotel.

    Some 100 Cyprus police officers and government officials attended yesterday's session, including all traffic division commanders and a handful of other police brass and traffic street patrol personnel. It wraps up today shortly after noon.

    While the Department has new laws to enforce, it is not getting new personnel this year to enforce them, Papas said. "It's not possible. We had new people about a year ago; our force was increased by 250 people, and we don't see any chance of getting any more than that," he said. "We'll do the best we can."

    Friday, March 19, 1999

    [07] Yiolou pupils walk out in school building protest

    SCHOOLCHILDREN in the Paphos village of Yiolou yesterday walked out of lessons for two hours in protest at the government's procrastination over the construction of a new school building.

    The protest was organised by parents and village leaders, who are angry that 84 primary-age children and 30 nursery-schoolers are currently being taught in an old, unsuitable building.

    A new school is on the cards for the village, but the authorities have said that the owner of part of the land they want to requisition for the building is disputing the requisition and is taking the matter to court.

    The residents claim that the ministry is dragging its heels, and that they've received conflicting reports about the reasons behind this.

    Speaking on behalf of the parents, Spyros Georgiou said the existing building was highly unsuitable and posed a safety risk to the children being taught there.

    "Unfortunately, recent replies we have received are so contradictory that we have no option but to take dynamic measures to persuade the authorities to build a new school building in our village."

    The parents also want Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides to accept their invitation to the village to see the problem for himself.

    Friday, March 19, 1999

    [08] Electricity overhaul to cost 800 million

    By Andrew Adamides

    THE COMPLETE plans for the improvement of the electricity authority, to be completed by 2010, will cost a full 800 million, President Glafcos Clerides said yesterday.

    Speaking on a visit to the new Vassiliko power station, which is currently nearing completion, Clerides said he was very pleased with the progress on the power station, which should be completed by 2008 and will cost a total of 380 million.

    He said the station was especially necessary because the two power stations currently in use, at Dhekelia and Moni, produce just 690 MegaWatts, while the new power station will produce an additional 298 MW during its first phase, which will be finished before the end of the year. On completion of the second phase in early 2000, the output will rise to 820 MW.

    By 2004, a further two of the oil-fired generating units will be operational, with the final phase completed by 2008. Progress is, Clerides said, on schedule. Phase one alone is to cost 160 million.

    In a statement, the Electricity Authority said that the environment was high in their priorities in the construction of the power station.

    As part of its programme to ensure that the environmental impact of the plant is minimised, the authority said it had planted 15,000 trees to make up for those cut down in order to build the plant.

    It added that the plant's smoke-stacks were 125 metres high, meaning the concentration of pollutants at ground level was lower that the maximum level allowed under both Cyprus and EU law.

    He added that security measures for the new plant were being drawn up now, as its coastal location made it particularly vulnerable.

    Friday, March 19, 1999

    [09] 'Turkey owns Cyprus'

    CYPRUS is Turkey's island, according to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    According to Turkish press reports yesterday, Denktash made the statement at a conference at the War Academies in Istanbul on Wednesday.

    The papers quoted him as saying that "Cyprus is Turkey's island, and we in Cyprus defend Turkey's cause."

    Denktash also said that the protocol signed with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel in January 1997 and other subsequent protocols prove that the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' does exist.

    "Agreement with the Greek Cypriots passes through recognition of the TRNC," he continued. "This is the basis for peace. Let the unification come later on. As time passes by, the walls get reduced, borders removed."

    "Cyprus is Turkey's island. We in Cyprus defend Turkey's cause - Turkey is the owner of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriots' freedom is protracted because of this cause."

    The reports also said that, speaking at another ceremony at which the Gebze Higher Technology Institute bestowed an honorary Doctorate upon him, Denktash said Cyprus was a vital issue for "motherland Turkey".

    He also praised the last two Turkish governments for their stance on the Cyprus problem, saying they had a "clear and concrete vision."

    Friday, March 19, 1999

    [10] Internet Fiesta kicks off today

    THE INTERNET Fiesta '99 kicks off today at the International Fairground in Nicosia.

    Aimed at web developers, government and semi-government services, media companies, marketing companies, advertising agencies and electronic games specialists, the fiesta aims to enlighten people on how the internet affects public life and can add a whole new dimension to their businesses.

    The Internet Fiesta is being organised to take place simultaneously across Europe, and the Cypriot fiesta is being organised in Tandem with Greece.

    Alongside the main exhibition, special events are to be held, including the Internet and Education, the Internet and Fun today, the Internet and Medicine, the Internet and Electronic Commerce and the Internet and Art tomorrow. Sunday will see special events highlighting the use of the Internet for those with special needs and its use in the government sector.

    The exhibition is open is from 9am to 10pm. The organisers include Cytanet, Radio Proto, Simerini newspaper and Periodiko magazine.

    Cytanet's Christos Christou said yesterday that, as the major sponsor of the event, Cytanet was looking forward to boosting the internet in as many areas of life as possible.

    "We look forward to seeing you there," he said.

    Friday, March 19, 1999

    [11] 84 boat people held in Larnaca

    By Martin Hellicar

    A BOATLOAD of 84 suspected illegal immigrants was intercepted in stormy seas off Cape Greco yesterday afternoon and steered to Larnaca port under police guard.

    Police were last night trying to make arrangements for the passengers, among them 17 children and 14 women, to be sent straight back to Lebanon - believed to be their point of departure.

    The 84 boat people were said by police to be in a "poor state" and hungry.

    The immigrants' nine-metre vessel was found about 17 nautical miles off the island's southeast tip at about 4.30pm, after police received a tip-off that a boat full of illegal immigrants could be heading for Cyprus.

    "The immigrants were located after sea and air patrols of the coast were intensified because information had been received that about 100 illegal immigrants had gathered in Tripoli, Lebanon, and were ready to embark for another country, possibly Cyprus," a police statement said.

    A coast guard launch and police helicopters homed in on the suspect vessel and tried to stop it from nearing Cyprus.

    "Efforts to prevent the illegal immigrants from approaching Cyprus proved fruitless due to their strong reaction," police stated.

    The immigrants were only persuaded to follow the coast guard launch to Larnaca because the seas off Cape Greco were rough, putting their boat at risk, police said.

    The immigrants' boat was guided into Larnaca port at about 10pm.

    Officials rushed to try and nip this latest immigrant crisis in the bud by securing the boat people's swift return to Lebanon.

    Cyprus has an agreement with Lebanon allowing for the prompt return of illegal immigrants - providing the immigrants have documentation proving they came from Lebanon.

    The agreement was struck in January after relations between the two countries came close to breaking point when Lebanon refused to take back all but six of 29 boat people Cyprus said had washed up in Cyprus from Tripoli.

    Illegal immigrants have become a major concern for the government, with increasing numbers arriving here in recent months.

    Twenty-four of 113 Arab and African boat people rescued off Cyprus in June are still being housed at the Pefkos Hotel in Limassol. Twenty-three of the 113 have been given asylum and the other 66 deported or repatriated.

    Friday, March 19, 1999

    [12] 'Journalist is new spokesman'

    JOURNALIST Costas Tserezis has been appointed Government Spokesman to replace Christos Stylianides, who resigned on Tuesday, CyBC reported last night.

    CyBC reported that Tserezis himself had confirmed his widely rumoured appointment and was to arrive on the island today from Greece, where he has been working in recent years.

    There was no official confirmation of the appointment yesterday.

    Stylianides resigned in protest against a cabinet decision to clear Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides of alleged abuse of authority. Michaelides announced his resignation on Wednesday and Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou is considered favourite to take his place.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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