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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-04-18

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

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


April 18, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] We're refugees too
  • [02] Christodoulou heads to Syria to broke deal on immigrants
  • [03] Get ready for Viagra
  • [04] Did Kyprianou do more harm than good?
  • [05] The struggle will go on
  • [06] Police search for bakery robber
  • [07] Blind cyclists tour the island
  • [08] KEO posts higher turnover, profits

  • [01] We're refugees too

    By Charlie Charalambous

    SOME 150 Yugoslavs demonstrated outside the American embassy in Nicosia yesterday to protest against continued Nato air attacks against their homeland.

    The demonstration was held simultaneously with similar protests across the world and a one-minute silence was observed for those killed in the bombings that began on March 24.

    It was a well-behaved demonstration, without the usual salvo of eggs, paint and tomatoes thrown at the embassy walls on previous occasions.

    Nevertheless, police did confiscate eggs from several Yugoslav protestors before the demonstration.

    The Yugoslav flag, among the mainly young crowd, was much in evidence as were the now familiar t-shirts displaying a bulls-eye target with a question mark in the centre.

    Others among the well-heeled crowd had targets stuck to their chest and placards warning: "Wake up Europe it could be your turn tomorrow."

    After groups of Yugoslavs had chatted among themselves and exchanged stories about the war back home, the demonstration began in earnest with a simulation of air raid sirens causing a huge din.

    This was followed by the singing of patriotic songs and chants of "Kosovo is Serbia", punctuated with the Serb three-fingered victory sign.

    Some of those asked said they did not agree with what was happening to the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, but that innocent Serbs were also being punished.

    "War is war and everybody loses," said one man.

    Another demonstrator, who didn't want to be named, said: "The Albanian Kosovars are our children as well."

    And as might be expected there was bitterness for what Nato was doing to Yugoslavia.

    "They are destroying the whole country, they are killing civilians, they are cowards," said Mirjana Corlija, wiping back the tears as her emotions got the better of her.

    Like Corlija, many of those in the crowd had friends and relatives in Belgrade and elsewhere in Yugoslavia.

    They charged the Americans with deliberately bombing schools and hospitals.

    "America is breaking international law. They are not hitting military targets," said a Yugoslav protestor.

    "We are going to win because justice is on our side. As hard as they hit, we will rebuild our country and the Albanians are part of that," said Corlija, who is originally from Belgrade.

    While most of the world's attention has been focused on the refugee crisis in Kosovo, the fact that many Serbs are trying to escape the bombings has been overlooked.

    One such is the single mother of a six-year-old boy, Rosy Marinkovic, who arrived in Cyprus three days ago to leave what she said was a "devastated Belgrade".

    "It took me 23 hours to leave Belgrade via Budapest and come here," said Marinkovic, who leaves behind a 72-year-old mother.

    She said a Cypriot family had invited her over and that Bishop Chrysostomos of Larnaca had arranged to find her a job.

    "I'm a refugee, does anybody care about me? Everybody is a refugee, we are all in the same boat," said Marinkovic about the refugee crisis in her country.

    Others believed that if the Nato bombs stopped the ethnic Albanians would return.

    "Nobody should interfere in our internal politics, we did not attack anybody," said Marinkovic.

    April 18, 1999

    [02] Christodoulou heads to Syria to broke deal on immigrants

    By Anthony O. Miller

    INTERIOR Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou heads to Syria today to tackle the problem of illegal immigrants setting sail from the Levant for Europe, only to pitch up in Cyprus.

    Christodoulou said his 36-hour visit to Damascus would seek to reach an agreement, similar to one Cyprus has with Lebanon, permitting deportation back to Syria of illegal immigrants - Syrians or other nationals - setting off from Syria and arriving in Cyprus.

    The agreement might also address boats of Syrian registry carrying immigrants departing from third countries and ending up in Cyprus - as has happened several times in the last year.

    Christodoulou will be accompanied by Chief Migration Officer Christodoulos Nicolaides and other Interior Ministry officials.

    Former Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides, before his recent resignation from office, arranged an agreement in January under which Lebanon undertook to take back all illegal immigrants arriving in Cyprus after sailing from Lebanese shores.

    Many of these immigrants cross Syria's notoriously leaky borders with Lebanon from points throughout the Middle East and Africa. Since Syria, with 40,000 troops in Lebanon, really calls the shots in Beirut, the blessings of Damascus are seen as key to making the deal Michaelides arranged with Lebanon work.

    Christodoulou estimated there were "between five to ten thousand" illegal immigrants in Cyprus, and said the ministries of Justice, Interior and Labour were all involved in trying to stem this tide of illegal immigrants.

    He acknowledged that the European Union, with which Cyprus is involved in membership talks, was very sensitive about the question of boat people.

    "There is not doubt, especially because of our geographic position, that Europe would not like to have a member which would be used as a 'bridge' by illegal immigrants to enter the EU."

    During a recent private visit to Syria and Lebanon, President Glafcos Clerides discussed the question with officials in both countries. On his return home last week, he declared the island's boat-people problems "will soon be settled."

    In March, 89 boat people were sent back to Lebanon after sailing from Tripoli in a Syrian-registered fishing boat newly painted with the Lebanese flag.

    At least 24 boat people remain in virtual house arrest in the Pefkos Hotel in Limassol at government expense. They were among 113 illegal immigrants who were rescued in June 1998 in a leaky fishing boat of Syrian registry in Cyprus coastal waters.

    Most of the 113 have been deported, while a few, from Africa, remain in detention in the old Famagusta Jail, outside Larnaca.

    At least nine of the Pefkos detainees want to go home, having failed to win refugee status in Cyprus. They have ended a sit-down protest outside the hotel to dramatise their desire to return home.

    A total of 68 boat people are being held on the British Base at Episkopi, following their landing last Autumn on the shores of the Base from an unseaworthy Syrian-registered fishing boat.

    Several of them are continuing a hunger-strike, begun on April 7, to protest what they see as delays in deciding their fates.

    Their status remains to be determined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and following that, between the Republic and the British Bases.

    April 18, 1999

    [03] Get ready for Viagra

    VIAGRA, the anti-impotency pill that is causing more than just the stock price of its makers to rise, will be available tomorrow in some 400 pharmacies throughout the Republic.

    The miracle drug, developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, has been available for some time on the black market in the Republic and 'legally' in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus.

    Monday will mark the first time the pill, imported by distributor Pavlides &amp; Araouzos, will be legally available for sale in the free areas.

    It will be available by doctor's prescription only.

    Like anything new and 'miraculous', Viagra does not come cheap. In packs of four or eight tablets and in three strengths - 25 milligrams, 50mg and 100mg - each small, blue potency pill is expected to retail, respectively, for £5.50, £6.50 and £8.00.

    Out of concern for its cost, some pharmacies will not be stocking Viagra routinely, and instead will wait until a prescription is presented before ordering it from the warehouse.

    Others, like Central Pharmacy of Nicosia, plan to stock Viagra in all three strengths and both package sizes, Pharmacist Avgi Stavrou said.

    Despite the expected demand, Stavrou said she did not anticipate any problems obtaining adequate supplies of Viagra from her distributor.

    The introduction of the pill in the United States last year caused Pfizer's stock price to soar on the US stock market.

    April 18, 1999

    [04] Did Kyprianou do more harm than good?

    By Hamza Hendawi

    HOPES THAT House Speaker Spyros Kyprianou's efforts to win the release of three US servicemen held in Yugoslavia would attract international attention to the island's division were sadly dashed when the veteran politician last week flew home empty-handed.

    Instead, the intense publicity generated by the mission appears to have aroused just the kind of outside attention that President Glafcos Clerides' government has been at pains to deflect - that most Greek Cypriots don't share the views of other Europeans on the conflict over Serbia's mainly Albanian province of Kosovo.

    The flock of foreign journalists who descended on the island during Kyprianou's April 7-10 mission, in anticipation of a potentially top world story had the Americans been freed, made sure that the sweeping pro-Serb sentiments in Cyprus and the near total oblivion to the suffering of the Kosovo Albanians received wide coverage.

    Earlier, a unanimous resolution passed by the House on April 2 condemning Nato's military campaign against Yugoslavia had prompted Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides to disclose - albeit cryptically - that some countries had expressed concern at the stance taken by the deputies.

    And in an implicit reply to the parliamentary resolution, Cassoulides explained that the government's public pronouncements on the Yugoslav crisis had to take into account the country's broader national interests.

    Foremost among these is the need to safeguard the fruits of years of diligent labour by successive governments to nurture the image of a modern country, whose rightful place is in the European family, rather than as a Middle Eastern backwater embroiled in a chronic identity dilemma.

    "The government is taking a constructive and thoughtful stance on the crisis," said a Nicosia-based Western analyst. "But Parliament's resolution is peculiar, given the country's EU aspirations and its hopes for a US initiative to restart peace negotiations to reunite the island," he told The Sunday Mail.

    A Western Ambassador in Nicosia put it more bluntly.

    "This resolution did and does raise questions on whether Cyprus, as a prospective member of the European Union, shares common values with EU members," the envoy told The Sunday Mail.

    "You may call this lack of political maturity but you may also call it lack of ability to see things in a rational and clear way."

    In fact, the very man who took upon himself to work for the release of the three Americans is rated among the island's most vociferous supporters of Yugoslavia in its tussle with the United States and its Nato allies.

    Just four days before his shock announcement that he was travelling to Belgrade to negotiate the release of the three - captured on April 1 near the border between Yugoslavia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - Kyprianou had addressed an anti-Nato rally in Nicosia, organised by the island's political parties.

    Speaking at a Larnaca Airport news conference on his return from Belgrade on April 10, Kyprianou made it known that he thought intensified Nato bombardment during his two-day effort had been to blame for the failure of the mission, and vowed to resume his mediation if the situation improved.

    He dismissed assertions by his critics at home, including long-time political rival President Clerides, that he had embarked on his efforts at the behest of the Yugoslav ambassador in Cyprus, rejecting accusations that he had hoped to make political capital from being on the world stage for the duration of his mission.

    Sixty-six-year-old Kyprianou was president of the Republic for 10 years ending in 1988, but has since twice failed in attempts at re-election. Over the years, he has earned a reputation for courting media attention with a trademark mix of bizarre statements and political unpredictability.

    His decades in high-level politics (he was foreign minister at the age of 28) have brought him a vast range of international experience, but the Western analysts and diplomats suggest his love of the limelight might have got the better of his judgement when he undertook his Belgrade mission.

    Kyprianou and his supporters strongly deny this.

    "Kyprianou fell into a trap set by (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic, who used the whole thing to win for himself a higher profile and a measure of legitimacy at a time of a grave crisis," said one Western analyst.

    With no progress on the release of the soldiers, Kyprianou was ferried by Yugoslav officials to view damage caused by Nato air strikes in Cuprija and Aleksinac, where a missile veered off target and slammed into a civilian neighbourhood.

    "It worked perfectly for Milosevic," the analyst said, echoing theories already expounded in the local media that Kyprianou had hurt, rather than enhanced, the image of Cyprus when he accepted to take on the mission.

    The leftist Akel party, the island's second biggest political group after the ruling Democratic Rally, disagrees.

    "It was a good effort," declared Akel boss Demetris Christofias this week. The aim of Kyprianou's mission, he continued, was to help Cyprus appear on the international map as a country suffering from the same problems as Yugoslavia.

    April 18, 1999

    [05] The struggle will go on

    By Charlie Charalambous

    WHAT STARTED in January as a run-of-the-mill industrial dispute over redundancies at two Lordos hotels in Larnaca has turned into a bitter feud between one of the island's top entrepreneurs and the might of the unions.

    Listening to the various sides in the stand-off, the language is more that of a Nato briefing than the usual jargon of strife in the work place.

    "It's not a dispute between the hotel and its employees, but between the hotel and the unions fighting for their existence," said Lordos Hotels Group general manager Andreas Christodoulides.

    "I don't think I'll get my job back, but I will continue the fight for justice because I don't want people working for nothing," said former cleaner at the Golden Bay, Anna Ioannou.

    At the end of January this year, the five-star Golden Bay and the four-star Lordos Beach hotel, both owned by Dinos Lordos, decided to make redundant 73 employees - mainly cleaning staff and those who worked in the gym and bakery.

    So far, so good, but what has really fanned the flames and taken hostilities to a new low, is that the company wanted to outsource those jobs to private contractors.

    The island's influential unions know this could spell doom for their large power base, as it could set a tempting precedent for other companies, who could follow suit and by-pass union members.

    The stakes are therefore extremely high.

    Lordos Hotels (Holdings) Ltd is the first company in the tourism sector to shed staff in favour of outsourcing, turning the issue into a cause célèbre for the unions.

    But it's the way in which they've gone about their task that signals a sea change in industrial relations and the way they are resolved.

    This volatile dispute has involved alleged assaults on tourists and strike- breakers trying to enter the hotels for work, with eggs, stones, tomatoes and paint allegedly thrown at anyone or anything that happens to be in the way.

    Not to mention the distribution of leaflets with the names of those still employed at the hotels: the message encouraged strikers to spit on them and ostracise their families.

    Hotel management is also upset that groups of strikers are allowed to shout slogans and blow whistles at tourists trying to catch some rays of sun on the hotel beach.

    On Friday, around 30 strikers launched their daily beach assault, blowing whistles and shouting slogans through loudspeakers.

    The beach quickly emptied, as tourists hurriedly sought out the confines of the hotel; then it was the turn of staff to get the abuse and be decried as "scabs".

    Christodoulides has obviously grown tired of witnessing such events: "The police should be here to stop this kind of behaviour. It wouldn't be allowed in Europe."

    But the unions hope that if they keep up these tactics, they will hurt the company financially and damage its reputation among tourists.

    "We are causing them problems; they (management) are finding it hard to cope," said a Sek union official outside the Golden Bay hotel.

    "We support a peaceful strike, but they've turned it into a war," the union official said, pointing to the security cameras, iron gates and guards in dark shades.

    And the siege mentality was evident on Friday morning, when a security guard approached me on the pavement outside the Golden Bay to ask me what I was doing.

    When I replied I was a reporter and would like to enter the hotel, he said "No way" like he really meant it.

    But I was eventually allowed into the Lordos Beach after a few cross- references and some inquisitive stares.

    "Many times they send in their relatives to cause trouble," said Christodoulides once I was inside the hotel fortress, with several security guards milling around.

    He strongly denied claims by strikers that tourists had complained about the poor quality of service and that bookings were being cancelled.

    As in any war, truth has become a casualty in this unions-versus-management dispute.

    "The fact that there is a strike outside is not a good thing, but this does not deter people and our occupancy rates are higher than last year," said Christodoulides.

    However, the company does concede that the unprecedented security measures are costing them a lot of money and that some local functions have had to be cancelled; but it is still prepared to tough it out.

    Those on the outside claim they are winning the war on the streets and are gaining increasing public support.

    "British tourists are especially behind us because they remember Thatcher and what she tried to do," said one striker outside the Lordos Beach.

    "The struggle will go on until we win because we cannot accept their position. They want to smash the unions," he added.

    And the strikers - who keep a 24-hour vigil outside the two hotels - are dug in for an a long waiting game, with tents, firewood and provisions all in place.

    Although the sacked hotel employees are not starving (they receive £350 from the union strike fund) their cause is supported by workers and tourists alike.

    "I've been coming here many times and I've never seen anything like this," said Welshman Ioan Williams, pointing to the chairs and the tents.

    "It's very wrong, my wife was made redundant (in Wales) and they employed somebody cheaper," he added.

    The spectre of cheap labour taking Cypriot jobs in the tourist industry is one feared by all who work in the sector, and it seems unlikely that proposed arbitration will change anything on the ground.

    "The reason why they don't want arbitration is because the unions know we are right," said Christodoulides.

    But the unions reject binding arbitration, blaming the company for trying to "trick" and "bully" them into submission and slave wages.

    After almost three months, the battle lines have been drawn and neither side is in the mood for compromise in a conflict that has already scarred the Larnaca coast.

    April 18, 1999

    [06] Police search for bakery robber

    POLICE are searching for a man in his mid-twenties after a Nicosia bakery was robbed early yesterday morning.

    According to a police witness, the man went into the Pandora bakery on Digenis Akritas street on the pretext of purchasing a cheese pie.

    But when he got to the counter to pay, he threatened to stab 63-year-old shop assistant Andreas Papa if he didn't hand over the cash in the till.

    Papa said the attacker brandished the seven-inch blade knife at him and grabbed from the register around £250 in £10 and £20 notes before fleeing the shop.

    The incident happened at around 3.25am - a time when there would have been few eye-witnesses.

    Police describe the suspect as being of slim build, aged between 22 and 25, 1.7 metres high, unshaven with brown hair. He was wearing a dark blue coat with a hood.

    Nicosia CID are continuing their investigation.

    April 18, 1999

    [07] Blind cyclists tour the island

    THIRTY blind bicyclists from France are expected to arrive in Cyprus tonight to begin a 400-kilometre cross-country tour of the island.

    Their journey, which begins tomorrow, will take them to back-country villages and several cities, and will include archaeological sites as well as other historical points of interest.

    The cyclists are expected to arrive at 9.30 am on Tuesday at the Buffer Zone at the Ledra Palace checkpoint.

    April 18, 1999

    [08] KEO posts higher turnover, profits

    KEO, the Limassol-based beverages conglomerate, yesterday announced that its 1998 operating profits reached £5.29 million compared to £4.3 million in the previous year and that it planned to pay shareholders eight per cent in dividends.

    Turnover, it said, increased by £1 million to £31.1 million in 1998. Pre- tax profit, it added, rose to £1.67 million last year, nearly double the 1997 figure of £858,000 before tax and before the cost of reorganisation.

    "This very good result reflects the effectiveness of the measures undertaken by the company within the scope of its Strategic Development Plan to improve productivity and reduce operating costs," KEO said in a statement.

    Despite forecasts that reduced exports of bulk wine products will continue in 1999, the company said results for this year were expected to match a similar level of improvement as that of 1998.

    KEO has in the past few years invested heavily in upgrading its wine-making facilities by introducing new technology and brands. It has also undertaken a structural overhaul that led to a one-off wave of redundancies for scores of workers.

    KEO shares closed yesterday at £1.26 apiece, down 2.5 cents with 11,480 stocks changing hands.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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