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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-05-29

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

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


Saturday, May 29, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Work begins on exhumations of missing
  • [02] Army wife fined for false rape claim
  • [03] New tax looms over tourist industry
  • [04] Hoteliers hit back at unions
  • [05] Government defends decision to splash out on new cars
  • [06] New US ambassador named
  • [07] Jeweller arrested over Stylianides theft
  • [08] Emergency meeting to discuss potato crisis
  • [09] Prodromou to contest Disy vice-chairmanship
  • [10] Body found in burning car
  • [11] Police find bomb in field behind Limassol hospital
  • [12] VAT, fuel, road and tobacco tax to rise?

  • [01] Work begins on exhumations of missing

    By Jean Christou

    PREPARATORY work began yesterday on a series of exhumations at two Nicosia cemeteries, which are expected to turn up the remains of some of the Greek Cypriots listed as missing since the 1974 invasion.

    At the Lakatamia cemetery early in the morning, three American exhumation experts, two men and a woman from the non-governmental organisation "Physicians for Human Rights, watched as workers began clearing decorative stones.

    It was only a year ago that two women whose husbands are on the missing list began digging graves at the cemetery with their bare hands, convinced their menfolk were buried there.

    Some 65 graves of unknown soldiers from 1974 are to be exhumed. Results of DNA tests on the remains are not expected for another three months.

    The team includes anthropologists, archaeologists and pathologists.

    Findings will be tested at the Institute of Neurology and Genetics, which has set up a DNA databank with samples from relatives of the missing.

    A complete plan of action has not been worked out yet, a source at the Foreign Ministry said.

    "We want to treat this issue with as low a profile as possible for the sake of the relatives," the source said.

    A government statement said the exhumations were taking place solely for humanitarian purposes and their main objective was to restore and respect the rights of relatives of war dead to be informed of their identity in a convincing manner.

    "When the identity is established, the relatives will be informed and the remains will be given to them for proper burial," the government statement said.

    "The government of Cyprus is taking all the necessary steps for the completion of this humanitarian project with dignity and respect to the feelings of all, especially to the relatives concerned."

    Nicos Theodosiou, president of the Committee for the Relatives of Missing Persons, said yesterday they would be working closely with the American experts and would be informed every step of the way.

    He was unsure whether the fact that work finally started was a relief after 25 years of uncertainty.

    "We have mixed feelings," Theodosiou said. "On the one hand, we want to put a stop to the agony and on the other we don't want to hear bad news."

    The exhumations are part of an agreement reached in July 1997 between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader

    Rauf Denktash on the exchange of information on missing persons.

    The Greek Cypriot side lists 1,619 people as missing since 1974, while the Turkish Cypriot side has 803 missing since the outbreak of intercommunal troubles in 1964.

    In January 1998, the files relating to the whereabouts of the graves of some 400 Greek Cypriots and 200 Turkish Cypriots were exchanged under UN auspices.

    The Turkish Cypriot side pulled out of the deal a few weeks later, but the Greek Cypriot side decided to go ahead with the exhumations, starting at the Nicosia cemeteries.

    Last Saturday, Clerides issued a personal plea to Denktash to work together to put an end to the missing issue once and for all.

    Saturday, May 29, 1999

    [02] Army wife fined for false rape claim

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE 31-YEAR-OLD wife of a British army officer stationed in Cyprus was yesterday fined 250 after pleading guilty to making a false rape claim.

    Caroline Ann Morgan was taken to a Limassol district court yesterday, where she pleaded guilty to causing public mischief after telling police she had been raped by an unknown attacker.

    "I did not set out to mislead the police. I had drunk a lot. I have a small girl whom I love very much. That's all," a nervous Morgan whispered to the court before being fined.

    She hurriedly left court with a senior army officer and a leather jacket draped over her head. Her NCO husband did not attend the hearing.

    Her actions were roundly condemned by the British Bases.

    "We are very pleased the Cyprus legal system has taken its course and the appropriate punishment given. We don't condone such behaviour," said bases spokesman Rob Need.

    The relatively light punishment - the maximum penalty for wasting police time is 1,000 and/or a one year jail term - was because the accused had a clean record and had admitted to the offence.

    "The allegations of the accused caused Limassol CID and Bases police to use considerable and unnecessary time and resources; her claim may have implicated another person with severe consequences," said judge Despo Michaelidou yesterday.

    Police launched a manhunt after Morgan alleged she had been raped on a Limassol beach after leaving a disco last Sunday morning. But when police took her to the scene earlier this week, and started to ask questions, she withdrew her complaint.

    On Thursday, she was charged with wasting police time.

    "She made a statement to police saying she had problems with her memory and with her drinking. She was charged and did not respond," said the judge.

    It is understood that police possess a CCTV picture of the woman leaving the Limassol disco with a man, and also had testimony from a taxi driver, who said he took the couple to the beach.

    The witness gave a police statement saying he took Morgan back alone to the married quarters at Episkopi garrison when she had "finished".

    "He also described how she injured herself to the face when she fell over getting out of the taxi," said the judge, explaining how Morgan suffered her injuries which were supposedly rape-related.

    The woman's husband was in the UK on a military training course at the time of the alleged incident, but relations with his wife were said to be "strained" on his recent return.

    Saturday, May 29, 1999

    [03] New tax looms over tourist industry

    By Anthony O. Miller

    IT WAS more bad news yesterday for the island's hotel industry, whose leaders met with Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis to discuss the government's plans to re-impose a three-per cent tax on hotels.

    The industry is already facing a profits squeeze and a tourism shortfall linked to the Yugoslav war. This week it sustained a nationwide six-hour strike, with the promise of more serious walkouts. And it is further feeling pressure to lower room rates, following the merger of two British tour giants.

    "Such a tax will cause more problems" in the tourism industry, Rolandis said, adding "we already have competition problems" with Greece, Egypt and Turkey.

    The tax, which Rolandis estimated to be worth 10 million to 12 million a year, would not take effect until November or December 2000, and then only if it passes both the Council of Ministers and the House of Representatives.

    Rolandis said he opposed the tax, and that his was the lone vote against it when the proposal to reimpose it recently won the "preliminary approval" of the Cabinet.

    With hotel profits already treading tight margins, hoteliers cannot absorb the extra tax, and will have to pass it on to guests, Rolandis said.

    The Hoteliers Association, with whom Rolandis met to discuss the tax yesterday, has confirmed that the war in Yugoslavia has indeed hurt tourist arrivals this season, adding that the shortfall shows signs of worsening as the war drags on.

    But Rolandis said the war cut both ways.

    While some European tourists may be staying away from Cyprus while a war rages just up the road, he said tourists who might have gone to Italy, the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Turkey are coming to Cyprus. He could not say if the gains offset the losses.

    Italy, Hungary and Turkey are Nato countries. Most of the Nato aircraft bombing Yugoslavia are using air bases in Italy, while many other allied warplanes are using bases in Hungary and Turkey.

    Nato's flotilla of ships assaulting Yugoslavia is in the Adriatic, between Italy and Yugoslavia, and its presence and the war are affecting such other Adriatic destinations as Slovenia and Croatia.

    Pressure to lower room rates has followed the recent 1-billion takeover of First Choice Holidays by Airtours, both of Britain, cutting from three to two the number of major British tour operators servicing Cyprus.

    With the competition reduced, the hoteliers face pressure from the remaining mega-operators to lower room rates for their tour packages.

    As if this were not enough, Rolandis noted that hoteliers - uncertain of whether the three per cent tax would ultimately pass the Council of Ministers and Parliament - would probably tack the extra charge onto their rates just to be safe.

    But this will discourage tour operators, he said, as they will soon be publishing the costs of their packages for 2000 and beyond, and if Cyprus rates rise by another three per cent, the tour operators can always look to the island's competition.

    Rolandis said the tax proposal was working its way through the Finance Ministry's budget offices for a final vote by the Cabinet, for submission to the House for enactment.

    Saturday, May 29, 1999

    [04] Hoteliers hit back at unions

    By Athena Karsera

    LORDOS Holdings, hoteliers' associations and the Chamber of commerce and industry yesterday all condemned Thursday's nationwide hotel strikes.

    Staff at many of the island's hotels took part in the six-hour sympathy strikes, while most hotels claimed to have remained comparatively unaffected by the walk-out.

    Unions Sek and Peo called the action in sympathy for marathon strikes at two Larnaca hotels, the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach, both of which belong to Lordos Holdings.

    The strikes began on January 31 after 35 employees at the hotel were dismissed when sections of the hotels were turned over to outside contractors.

    Lordos Holdings has throughout said that the dismissals were necessary to combat chronic losses at both hotels.

    In an announcement yesterday, Lordos Holdings said that while the unions spoke of their own rights, they forgot the rights of other people, "such as the rights of ownership and free use of a property by its owner."

    The management statement said the Company had the right to run its property in "a productive way and to employ those they wish to within the requirements of the law."

    Lordos Holdings said that they also had the right to enjoy the government's legal protection, "which the unions want to deprive us of with their daily violent and illegal action."

    The statement concluded with management again calling on the unions to submit to binding government arbitration. The unions have so far refused the idea of arbitration unless the dismissed staff are reinstated.

    Hoteliers' association Stek said yesterday that Thursday's strike and the threat of a two-hour sympathy strike by civil aviation and port workers on Monday, combined with threats against tour operators collaborating with Lordos Holdings, were all actions that would "slander the country's tourist industry."

    Pasyxe, another Hoteliers' association, yesterday sent out copies of two letters from Sek and Peo, saying that employees at Larnaca Airport would take part in a two-hour general strike on Monday May 31, starting at 2pm, and that their members would stop offering services to all tour operators sending clients to the Lordos Beach and Golden Bay hotels after May 31.

    The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Keve) condemned the unions' decisions to take further action, and called the unions to take part in binding arbitration. Keve warned the unions they would be responsible for "disastrous results" to the island's economy because of the strikes.

    Saturday, May 29, 1999

    [05] Government defends decision to splash out on new cars

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday defended its decision to splash out on a new fleet of top-of-the-range official cars, dismissing a Politisreport that it was "inexcusably" spending taxpayers money.

    The front-page report, headlined "Multi-cylinder scandal of the Ministerial BMWs," said that the government had undertaken an unnecessary expense, "while at the same time never ceasing to talk about moderation and the need to limit public spending."

    The report came after a Thursday Cabinet decision to replace a number of five-year old cars belonging to Ministers and other high-ranking government officials.

    But in his statements to reports, government spokesman Costas Serezis said the government was in fact saving money by replacing the 17 older vehicles instead of maintaining them.

    He added that, according to a Commerce Ministry report, the government would in fact be saving thousands of pounds by replacing the cars.

    "The government will not only not be burdened with any additional amount but, because of lower prices, will have immediate financial profit," Serezis said.

    He said that the decision had been taken in the framework of current laws and that the purchase of the cars had been awarded to the lowest tender put forward by interested companies.

    Serezis said that, apart from being five years old, the cars had already clocked up 200,000 kilometres each.

    Referring to a Finance Ministry statement, Serezis said that once the old cars had been traded in at 9,500 each, the new cars - BMW 523s - would be purchased, duty free, for just 8,875 each.

    He said tenders had fluctuated between 8,875 and 24,359.

    Serezis said that shortly before he was appointed government spokesman, his own official car had been serviced for 629 and that only two days before he took up his position on March 26, the car went in for another service costing 747. The car was still experiencing problems, he said.

    In response to reporters' questions, Serezis said an investigation would be carried out to ascertain whether government officials used their appointed vehicles only for official use.

    Saturday, May 29, 1999

    [06] New US ambassador named

    DONALD K. Bandler, a career diplomat, is being nominated by US President Clinton to be the next US Ambassador to Cyprus, replacing outgoing Kenneth Brill in Nicosia, the State Department announced yesterday.

    Bandler, a Senior Foreign Service Officer, is currently a member of Clinton's National Security Council, where he is senior director for European Affairs and counsellor to the National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, for the Nato Summit.

    Bandler's prior postings include Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Paris, Director of the Office of Israel and Arab-Israeli Affairs, and Minister-Counsellor for Political and Legal Affairs at the US Embassy in Bonn.

    He is fluent in French and German and the recipient of four Superior Honour Awards.

    Bandler earned his J.D. from George Washington University Law School, his Masters in Political Science from St John's College and his B.A. from Kenyon College.

    He is married and has three children.

    Saturday, May 29, 1999

    [07] Jeweller arrested over Stylianides theft

    POLICE yesterday made a third arrest in connection with the theft of jewellery belonging to the former government spokesman and his wife.

    According to a police report, jeweller Nicos Ioannou, 65, was arrested yesterday afternoon after Koulla Michael and her husband George Petrou, also known as 'Koukoumas', implicated him in the theft and resale of the former spokesman's property.

    Koukoumas, 39, and Michael, 31, were arrested on Thursday. Both have been remanded for eight days.

    Ioannou is expected to be remanded today.

    The robbery at the house of former spokesman Christos Stylianides was carried out on January 6 this year.

    Stylianides' wife, Thoulla, recognised one of her stolen broaches while attending a jewellery exhibition by Ioannou's company. When she asked the price of the broach, she was told it cost 18,950.

    The incident was reported to police, who searched Ioannou's jewellery shop on Onasagorou Street in Nicosia and uncovered 40,000 worth of jewels that Stylianides identified as her own.

    Ioannou told police he had purchased the jewellery from Michael for 15, 800.

    Further investigations at Michael's home uncovered more jewellery, which was confiscated by police for further investigation.

    Michael confessed that had she sold the jewellery to Ioannou, saying her husband had given it to her. Appearing in court on Thursday, she added that her husband had received the jewellery from another person.

    Koukoumas yesterday named the person as someone who is currently serving a sentence in Nicosia prison.

    Saturday, May 29, 1999

    [08] Emergency meeting to discuss potato crisis

    THE CYPRUS Potato Marketing Board will hold "an emergency meeting" on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the deluge of potatoes on the world market that are cutting deeply into sales of Cyprus potatoes, Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis said yesterday.

    "We are having a problem selling potatoes in the UK and on the continent, which are 50 to 60 per cent of the Cyprus market," Rolandis said.

    "There is very tough competition" from such countries as Syria, Spain and Egypt, all of whom sell a potato grown in red earth, making them similar in appearance to the "red earth" potatoes which are a Cyprus trademark crop, he said.

    An abundance of the tubers, plus an earlier crop in Europe than expected upended hopes of Cyprus potato growers for bumper crop returns on sales this year, he said.

    Potatoes are Cyprus' largest single crop, responsible for generating between 30 million and 40 million in sales yearly, he said.

    Reports from Britain this year have suggested that some stores, both large and small, are buying up the cheaper non-Cyprus potatoes because they are grown in red earth, mixing them in with genuine "red earth" Cyprus potatoes, and advertising the mixture as exclusively the Cyprus "red earth" item.

    Saturday, May 29, 1999

    [09] Prodromou to contest Disy vice-chairmanship

    DISY DEPUTY Prodromos Prodromou announced yesterday he would run for the vice-chairmanship of his party in upcoming elections for the post.

    Announcing his candidacy yesterday, Prodromou said that, while no one had actively pressured him not to stand, he had received suggestions his candidacy might cause divisions within the party.

    "We are not essentially talking about pressures, but about advice or prompting from various sides, of which the central meaning was that my candidacy should be avoided if possible in order to avoid political confrontation in the party."

    Prodromou said that he had a meeting with Disy chairman Nicos Anastassiades just before yesterday's news conference to inform him of his intention to run. He said that Anastassiades had not pressured him in any way and that they had discussed was the party's general path.

    He said he was submitting his candidacy because he wanted to contribute to the creation of a "modern and dynamic Disy", which he said had begun when Anastassiades was elected party chairman.

    Prodromou also said he had taken into account previous statements by current vice-chairman Panayiotis Demetriou that Demetriou was exhausted and ready to leave his position, even though he was running for re-election.

    Prodromou said that he and Demetriou had an excellent relationship and that Demetriou had said he was feeling the strain of his responsibilities towards the party, along with his many other obligations.

    "I think that by having the willingness and by not having other responsibilities except for being a deputy, I will be completely able to fulfil the position," Prodromou said.

    Another candidate is petrol station owner George Christodoulou.

    The fourth candidate, former Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides has decided to withdraw his candidacy.

    The three-day elections are set to begin on June 18, with applicants formally submitting their candidacy on June 1.

    [10] Body found in burning car

    A CHARRED body was yesterday discovered in a burnt-out car on the old Limassol to Nicosia road.

    Police said last night that preliminary investigations suggested the body belonged to the vehicle's owner, Demetris Andreou, 56, a mechanic from Latsia.

    Police said there was little to indicate the accident had been caused maliciously, and said that an autopsy would be carried out on Tuesday.

    Andreou's identity would be confirmed by DNA testing, police continued.

    Larnaca and Kofinou fire-brigades were called to the scene shortly before noon, when a passing driver saw the burning car.

    Once the fire services had extinguished the flames, they discovered the remains of a human body in the diver's seat.

    Police said the driver had been wearing a safety-belt, but would not confirm reports that canisters possibly containing flammable material had been found in the car.

    The vehicle, a Volkswagen van, was completely destroyed by the time the flames were extinguished.

    Saturday, May 29, 1999

    [11] Police find bomb in field behind Limassol hospital

    LIMASSOL police last night reported that they had found a two kilogram bomb and remote control device in a field behind the town's new hospital.

    Police representative Miltiades Neocleous said the bomb had been found at approximately 8pm, following a tip-off half an hour earlier. The bomb was disarmed and taken to Limassol police headquarters for further examination.

    Earlier yesterday, Ayia Napa police found a black bag containing explosives in a field. According to a police report, the stash included two hand- grenades, three slabs of TNT, two dynamite charges, fuses and other explosives.

    Police said that preliminary investigations indicated the explosives were in working order. They are continuing investigations.

    Saturday, May 29, 1999

    [12] VAT, fuel, road and tobacco tax to rise?

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE GOVERNMENT is to submit an "economic recovery" package to the House within the next few weeks, Finance Minister Takis Clerides stated yesterday.

    The package is not expected to be good news for taxpayers, though the minister wasn't giving away any details at the House finance committee yesterday.

    Newspaper reports this week have suggested the package includes a two per cent rise in VAT, an increase in diesel and petrol prices, a 20 to 25 per cent hike in road tax and a new 10 to 15 per cent tobacco tax. The minister called on all parties to seek consensus on the package so it could be passed before the summer, emphasising how vital it was for the health of the economy.

    "I would like to stress that we consider that these recovery measures will have to be taken as soon as possible. Because the longer we delay, the tougher the economic situation will become, and we feel these measures have already been delayed," Clerides told deputies. He said this delay was not the fault of deputies but rather the government's.

    Last year, Clerides' predecessor, Christodoulos Christodoulou, suffered the embarrassment of having the House throw out his biting tax package. Christodoulou was subsequently attacked from all sides for what was seen as a failure adequately to consult with parties before tabling his tax package, and Clerides was keen to show he wasn't about to make the same mistake. Parties would be presented with the package next week to allow them time to examine it before it was tabled at the House, the minister said.

    Clerides told the committee the details of the package were still being ironed out and it would not be "right" to divulge them before parties had had a chance to study them.

    The most important provisions of the package were the liberalisation of interest rates and a "review" of VAT rates, he said. He urged parties to look at the "essence" of the issue of VAT rises rather than the amount proposed. In the EU, the average VAT rate was 15 per cent, deputies were told, whereas in Cyprus it currently stands at eight per cent.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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