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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-03-30

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Tuesday, March 30, 1999


  • [01] Ex-offshore businessman deported
  • [02] 'Overwhelming response to call for Serbia volunteers'
  • [03] Michaelides forms his own party
  • [04] Government challenges legal action over S-300s
  • [05] Cyprus protests airspace violations
  • [06] Four cars burn in spate of arson attacks
  • [07] Police to tighten up on temporary officers
  • [08] Easter warning on home-made fireworks
  • [09] Bakery staff become first foreign workers to picket for rights

  • [01] Ex-offshore businessman deported

    By Anthony O. Miller

    WITHOUT even notifying his lawyer, Cyprus Police yesterday deported a Pakistani national and former offshore businessman, who was jailed when he complied with Immigration Department instructions to apply for a visa to extend his stay in Cyprus.

    Eric Ernest, 31, "was deported back to Pakistan yesterday ... without anyone telling us anything," grumbled his Nicosia lawyer, Yiannakis Erotocritou, a well-known human rights lawyer.

    "They never contacted me. Nobody!" said Erotocritou, who had successfully petitioned Attorney-general Alecos Markides to spring from jail 11 days ago.

    Ernest was originally arrested on March 16 for allegedly ignoring what the Migration Department claimed were written denials last year of his requests to stay in Cyprus for three months to arrange to join his American wife in the United States.

    Freed from jail two days later by Markides, he was jailed again on March 19, when he went - on Migration Department instructions - to apply for the visa to let him stay in Cyprus.

    The arrest warrant and deportation order were issued by the Migration Department, Erotocritou said, while the actual airplane ticket purchase and deportation was done by Cyprus Police, "acting on law and regulations on the books since 1957."

    That way, Chief Migration Officer Christodoulos Nicolaides could honestly claim not to have known anything about Ernest's actual deportation, when Erotocritou asked about it, he said.

    "I am going to send a letter, myself, to National Organisation for Human Rights Chairman George Stavrinakis," to demand an investigation of the deportation, said Erotocritou.

    He noted Ernest's deportation was carried out early yesterday, some eight hours before the Migration Department issued a two-page press release justifying its re-arrest of Ernest, after Markides had ordered his release from jail.

    He slammed the press release as a falsehood for claiming the Migration Department had responded - negatively - to two letters of Ernest's, last Autumn, requesting a visa extension.

    "They never wrote to him," he said, acknowledging that, since such records are not computerised, but are strictly paper files, the Migration Department could well have inserted `copies' of letters post-dated last autumn to Ernest's files to appear to back its claim to having written him, denying his requests.

    Tuesday, March 30, 1999

    [02] 'Overwhelming response to call for Serbia volunteers'

    By Jean Christou

    ANORTHOSIS football club said yesterday there had been an overwhelming response to its call for volunteers to join Serbian forces in Yugoslavia.

    Kikis Constantinou, the president of the Famagusta refugee football club, made his appeal in Politis daily yesterday, saying he was ready to go and fight.

    According to the newspaper, Constantinou, who could not be reached yesterday, called on Cypriots to enlist to help Yugoslav forces. The club is also appealing for humanitarian aid.

    A source there said yesterday afternoon the club had had a "huge response", not only to its plea for humanitarian aid, but also to its call for volunteers.

    "We don't have the exact number," the source said. "But there were an awful lot of calls with offers to go and fight."

    The source said the club would be pursuing the issue today and would have more information in coming days. It has also approached the Yugoslav embassy, but officials there could not comment yesterday because meetings were being held with a mystery "Cypriot delegation", the embassy said.

    Diko deputy Marios Matsakis said he was all for the idea of Cypriots volunteering to go to Yugoslavia. "I will be the first one to join," he said. "I have already given my name to the Yugoslav ambassador."

    But Matsakis, a forensic pathologist by profession, cautioned that he would not like to see people volunteering unless they could offer some sort of practical assistance.

    "I don't think 10, 20 or 100 Cypriots is going to make any difference," Matsakis said. "It's symbolic. We can't fight planes."

    Matsakis said that during the war in Bosnia he had gone to the region four times. "I would like to tend the wounded in the field, but I will fight if necessary."

    Yesterday the Cyprus Church rallied around the Serb cause, calling for collections of food and clothes to send to Yugoslavia. Bishop Chrysostomos of Paphos announced he would give up his monthly salary for the cause.

    "We must help with all our strength our brother Serbs who must not be abandoned because tomorrow our turn will come," Chrysostomos said. "If the US gets away with it they will do what they like in the world dictatorially."

    The Bishop also called on fellow Paphians to contribute to the Serb cause.

    "Kosovo belongs to Serbia and they have their roots there and Tito brought Albanians. Just because the US and Nato have strength, is it right that they should do what they like?" he asked. "They did the same to Cyprus. Americans brought the Turks. Just because the US is powerful, does it mean they should do what they like in the world?"

    Archbishop Chrysostomos meanwhile has announced that the Church will be launching a huge fund-raising campaign on April 4 in all churches across Cyprus.

    The Archbishop expressed his sorrow at the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia and said it was taking place because of the "Muslim element" in the region.

    Meanwhile, the American embassy has urged US citizens to review their security practices, remain alert to the changing situation and avoid areas where demonstrations are in progress.

    "The US has increased security at United States government facilities worldwide," the warning said.

    The US embassy in Nicosia has already been the focus of two pro-Serb demonstrations, and is bracing itself for more.

    Yesterday, a group of some 500 technical school students left classes early and gathered to march to the US embassy, but changed their minds at the last minute, preferring to hit trendy local cafes and the streets of the capital.

    The House of Representatives announced yesterday that it would be passing a resolution condemning the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia at the plenum on Friday.

    Tuesday, March 30, 1999

    [03] Michaelides forms his own party

    UNPERTURBED by the persistent corruption allegations that forced him to resign from the cabinet, former Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides has formed his own party.

    Michaelides was elected leader of the new party, the Movement of Democratic Struggle (Adik), during its first meeting in Limassol on Sunday.

    The ex-minister is confident the abuse of power allegations levelled against him by House watchdog committee chairman Christos Pourgourides - which precipitated his exit from government earlier this month - will not effect Adik's image.

    Adik's inaugural conference is set for June.

    Michaelides said his new party's aims would be to promote unity and consensus on the vital issues of the day.

    "Our goal and our ambition is to contribute to finding the golden mean for a commonly accepted strategy for dealing with the Cyprus problem and our course to a united Europe in the 21st century," Michaelides said on Sunday.

    He said Adik would co-operate with both the government and other parties on matters of economic and social policy related to EU accession talks.

    Michaelides has been without a party ever since he abandoned Spyros Kyprianou's Diko in the run-up to the February 1998 Presidential elections. Michaelides was among a handful of Diko figures who left the party in protest at its decision to back George Iacovou's ill-fated challenge to President Clerides.

    Michaelides backed Clerides and was rewarded with a return to the Interior Ministry after the President's re-election victory.

    Tuesday, March 30, 1999

    [04] Government challenges legal action over S-300s

    THE GOVERNMENT is challenging a one-man campaign to declare the controversial decision not to bring the S-300 missiles unconstitutional.

    Nicosia resident Andreas Efthimiou recently lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court, claiming President Clerides' decision to redirect the Russian-made missiles to Crete was illegal because only the cabinet had the authority to take such a decision.

    When Clerides announced the redirection on December 29 last year, he made it clear it was his own decision.

    In a injunction against Efthimiou's appeal lodged with the Supreme Court on Wednesday last week, and publicised yesterday, the Attorney-general's office dismisses the plaintiff's claims as baseless.

    "Taking the decision was within his (the President's) remit of authority as provided for in the constitution," state attorney Yiota Kyriakidou states in the injunction application.

    "The decision was in keeping with principles of good government, the law, and constitutional provisions," the application reads.

    The unpopular decision not to bring the £200 million ground-to-air missiles came after months of pressure from the US, UN and EU, who feared deployment might spark a Greco-Turkish war. Turkey had threatened to strike the S-300s if they were deployed in Cyprus.

    Tuesday, March 30, 1999

    [05] Cyprus protests airspace violations

    CYPRUS has strongly protested to the United Nations against violations of its airspace and of the Nicosia FIR (flight information region) by Turkish warplanes this month.

    In a letter to UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan, Cyprus Chargé d'affaires James Droushiotis said, "These new, provocative acts by Turkey demonstrate its blatant disregard of international law, the UN Charter" and all relevant UN resolutions on the Cyprus question.

    He noted the violations were "not conducive to reducing tension, and run counter to the initiative of the Secretary-general," as announced last September, which aimed to reduce tension and promote progress towards a Cyprus settlement.

    Droushiotis' letter, which was circulated as a UN document, called the "unauthorised Turkish intrusions" violations of international air traffic rules that simultaneously breach provisions of the UN Security Council.

    Tuesday, March 30, 1999

    [06] Four cars burn in spate of arson attacks

    POLICE had their hands full with suspected arson attacks in the early hours yesterday, with four actual and two attempted cases reported in Limassol and Nicosia.

    Two cars belonging to 37-year-old Charalambos Antoniou were completely gutted in a blaze that started at about 4 am in Limassol. The vehicles were parked in Antoniou's garage next to his house on Nagasaki street at the time.

    A car parked in the garden of owner Stelios Stylianou, 40, of Trachoni village outside Limassol, was seriously damaged in a blaze in the early hours.

    Also in the Limassol area, a vehicle owned by House and Garden Ltd was damaged in a fire on Endeson street set sometime between 3 pm on Saturday and the early hours yesterday.

    In the Kaimakli suburb of Nicosia, a car belonging to Petros Hadjipetrou was seriously damaged in a blaze at about 4.20 am. The car was parked outside the owner's home on Michalakis Karaolis street.

    In every case, police found evidence the fires had been started deliberately.

    In the Aglandjia suburb of Nicosia, Lefteris Kokkinos complained to police that he had received a threatening call at about 4.15 am yesterday. The caller told him his car was going to be torched. Kokkinos rushed to his car parked outside his home on Theophilos Georgiades street, to find a petrol can and a box of matches sitting on its roof.

    The other attempted arson was in Limassol, where a vehicle belonging to George Siakides, was doused in flammable liquid but not set alight.

    Justice Minister Nicos Koshis commented that the suspected arson attacks were down to "personal differences" and not organised crime. He also said police expected to make arrests soon.

    Tuesday, March 30, 1999

    [07] Police to tighten up on temporary officers

    By Athena Karsera

    TOUGHER criteria are to be put in place for the appointment of temporary special policemen, once a proposal by the police force and the Justice Ministry is approved by the Plenum, the House Ethics Committee heard yesterday.

    The Committee met to discuss problems in the appointment of temporary police officers and specialised staff in the police force.

    Akel deputy Costas Papacostas, who raised the issue before the Committee, told deputies of the problems that often arose when the police hired often untrained officers on jobs that appeared less demanding, such as policing embassies; but if trouble did arise, the temporary policemen may not have the know-how to deal with the situation.

    Moreover, the 'temporary' officers often remained in their positions for decades, he said, or were moved to posts requiring more responsibility, while trained policemen were sent to cover the less-specialised tasks.

    "Today the phenomenon has arisen where people with no police knowledge work in offices and police stations while trained policemen work at the airports and embassies," he said.

    Papacostas added that temporary policemen were not eligible for promotion, and so had no real motivation to excel at their job.

    The committee also heard of the problems that had arisen over the status of civilian experts serving the police. Pilots, boat captains, computer specialists and others were sometimes called in to assist police in a specific area when no police personnel were able to carry out a specific duty.

    According to committee chairman Andreas Christou: "The essence of the problem is that while police rules mention temporary police officers, these people often end up having permanent position but without the rights and benefits of regular policemen."

    Christou suggested that the police either open up permanent positions to cover these needs or make sure that temporary officers served for only a short period of time with the possibility of being recalled in the future.

    He also raised the question of how these temporary officers were selected, wondering if rumours of nepotism might indeed be true.

    Papacostas blamed the situation on "incorrect handling and neglect" both by the police and the Justice Ministry. He said such mistakes struck at morale in the force and gave a bad public image, while also costing the tax-payer money.

    In his Ministry's defence, Justice Minister Nicos Koshis agreed that the problem had been going on for several years and had damaged the police's image.

    As a solution to the temporary policemen problem, Koshis suggested that candidates for the police academy who passed the necessary exams but were not recruited for lack of places could be enlisted as temporary police officers. This, he said, would ensure that they at least had the necessary academic knowledge for the job.

    If there was no such surplus, Koshis suggested separate exams, with the opportunity of recruits later being taken on as part of the permanent force.

    The Director-general of the Justice Ministry, Andreas Panayiotou, went on to inform the Committee that the new proposal on hiring temporary policemen would appear before the House, "hopefully by the end of April."

    Koshis said that, until then, there would be no more recruitment of temporary officers, "even if positions are open," and that the proposal also included details of specific training for recruits.

    On the specialised officers, Panayiotou said that a study was being carried out on the issue to avoid further complications on their status.

    Deputy police-chief Andreas Christofides admitted that the police were not happy with the way the issues of temporary and specialised officers were handled, but noted that changes were being made.

    The President of the Cyprus Police Association, Stelios Ioannou, said that the temporary officers were "a cancer for the police force."

    He said someone could work as a temporary officer for "more than thirty years and receive no benefits," and suggested that the entire system of temporary officers be scrapped.

    Tuesday, March 30, 1999

    [08] Easter warning on home-made fireworks

    THE POLICE yesterday announced a tougher stand on illegal fire-works, beginning a fortnight-long campaign to inform young people on the dangers of fire-works in the run-up to Easter.

    Several people, many of school age, have been seriously injured in recent years usually after making firecrackers using explosive materials and metal pipes.

    According to a police announcement, the campaign will work in co-operation with school, Church and community authorities to inform young people about the hazards of explosives.

    Pharmacies and other establishments where flammable chemicals can be bought will also be approached and warned about selling even small amounts to anyone under the age of 18.

    In addition, police patrols will be increased during Easter week, and policemen posted outside churches during services.

    In the event of any incidents involving illegal fireworks, police will step in immediately and prosecute the guilty parties, the announcement warned.

    Tuesday, March 30, 1999

    [09] Bakery staff become first foreign workers to picket for rights

    By Anthony O. Miller

    EIGHT Sri Lankan men, who claim Royale Bakeries of Nicosia owes them £134, 000 in overtime pay, yesterday became the first foreign workers ever to picket for workplace justice outside the Ministry of Labour, according to their union and their lawyer.

    Lenia Pantelidou, Deok trade union labour organiser, and Yiannakis Erotocritou, the men's lawyer, said they wanted Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas to keep his pledge to press Royale Bakeries' owner, Symeon Symionides, to pay the pickets their due.

    "We came to work in Royale Bakeries in 1995. We were working like buffaloes, " Rangith Geeganage, 43, spokesman for the eight pickets, told the Cyprus Mail.

    "They worked 12 hours a day" for up to four years, confirmed Pantelidou. "They have a contract for eight hours a day. They were paid for eight hours, but they worked 12. They are (collectively) owed £134,000 pounds," over £13, 500 each.

    Symionides also refused the men any holidays in 1996 and 1997, and never paid their 13th-month pay, Geeganage said. When they complained, he said, Symionides put them off with promises to consider their requests. They say he never kept them.

    After taxes, social insurance and lodging costs, the men netted £300 per month out of £375 gross pay for a 72-hour week. Fed up, Geeganage said, they went to Erotocritou last November.

    Asked why it took three years to see a lawyer, Geeganage said they were afraid: "Nobody explained to us (our rights). Nobody ever opened that door. We were blocked. We found out from the union" in December 1998, he said.

    Erotocritou and Deok helped the men file a complaint with the Labour Department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance. "But for a long time there was no result," he said.

    Faced with a picket line and news coverage, Symionides yesterday offered four of the eight men £3,000 each, including air fares, Pantelidou said. But he refused the other four men anything, she said, adding: "He said he would think about it."

    The men said Symionides did something similar last year: He split off two of their co-workers from their complaint by offering the pair £2,000 and their air fare home. The pair accepted it.

    Fearing another attempt to divide and conquer, Geeganage said the men "didn't take it. We are not going to take the money." They each want £4,000, plus air fare home, so they took to the picket line at the Labour Ministry.

    Symionides dismissed the eight men's claims as false: "We don't owe them any money," he said, adding that, if anything, the eight owed him money for days they did not show up but were paid.

    Asked why he paid their two co-workers £2,000 plus air fare, if the pair were technically owed nothing, he replied: "To show my good will."

    Pantelidou rejected Symionides contention, alleging that other Sri Lankans had also been exploited by him and sent back.

    "Mr Symionides is very well known with the trade unions, because with the Cypriots (who work for him), it's the same problem," Pantelidou said. "He's a very powerful businessman, so he does what he likes," she added.

    By refusing to meet all the men's terms, "Symionides tries to win time," until their visas expire in July. They can then be deported without him paying anything, Pantelidou said.

    Despite not having settled with the eight, "Symionides went to the Labour Ministry and asked for other foreigners, because he needs foreigners to work in his bakery," Pantelidou said.

    "As Deok, we put a veto on his request to the Ministry of Labour," she said. "We said we do not accept his request to hire other foreigners, because if he replaces the eight with other foreigners, the same thing will begin again. We have a veto."

    Labour Department mediator Andreas Moleskis confirmed: "We can black-list the employer, withdrawing all (Royal Bakeries') permits for foreign workers... immediately."

    "This will be the first time foreigners picket outside the Ministry of Labour to show they need our solidarity," Deok's Pantelidou said. "They ask equal treatment with all other workers" in Cyprus.

    "As Deok, we spoke to Moushiouttas about this case, personally," Pantelidou said, "and he said: 'Oh, but this is unbelievable! We can't do things like this.' We gave him the name, the telephone of the Royale Bakeries. He said: 'OK, I will handle this.' But he did nothing," she added.

    "If the Ministry of Labour presses Symionides," the case can be settled before the men's visas expire in July, Pantelidou said.

    "We can stop this by asking the Minister of Labour to give special attention to these people," Erotocritou said. "What I want the Labour Ministry to do is to examine their case and to speed up things. It's about time to speed up things."

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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