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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-06-04

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

June 4 , 2000


  • [01] Importers threaten to turn off fuel supply
  • [02] MoD probe shows paramilitary group ‘never existed’
  • [03] Court rejects town’s appeal against desalination plant
  • [04] Court official ‘took £300 bribe’
  • [05] From Siberia to Cyprus: a fruitful move
  • [06] 1974 war victim buried
  • [07] Soldier held as LSD suspect
  • [08] Central Bank denies Turkish Cypriot deposits flooding south
  • [09] Klerides in Diko deal on VAT

  • [01] Importers threaten to turn off fuel supply

    By Martin Hellicar

    A MAJOR fuel crisis is looming as the government finds itself between a rock and a hard place over oil imports. The refusal of the House of Representatives to approve petrol pump price rises on Thursday has now led oil importing companies threatening not to bring in any more crude.

    The government's only realistic option appears to be to carry on subsidising oil imports, as it has been doing ever since the turn of the year, when the price of crude hit the roof and the Cyprus pound began to slide.

    But these subsidies have already made a £14 million dent in state coffers and would, if continued, cost the state some £50 million by the end of the year -- an unthinkable burden for already badly depleted public finances.

    The other way open to the government is to refuse to subsidise oil imports and hope that this will force the House finally to approve pump price rises. But the fact that parliamentary parties have refused to approve such an unpopular measure twice already this year makes such a course of action highly risky.

    The government would run the risk of the country grinding to a halt if parliament dug its heels in and oil companies carried out their threat.

    Existing reserves of oil on the island would last only until the end of the month.

    Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis said yesterday the oil companies had told him during an emergency meeting late on Friday that they would not buy "a single barrel more" of crude unless pump prices went up or subsidies continued.

    At the moment, oil companies are losing about £5 million a month.

    According to Rolandis, the government's promise to bail out the companies by covering these losses expired on June 1.

    The oil companies will have another meeting with Rolandis tomorrow or on Tuesday, before the whole issue is again examined by the cabinet on Wednesday.

    Rolandis was giving nothing away yesterday about what course of action the cabinet might choose.

    The only hint of which choice he would favour was his suggesting that the House might change its tune "when it realises the extent of the consequences" of not increasing pump prices.

    Both Rolandis and Finance Minister Takis Klerides have already hit out at deputies for their refusal to approve fuel price rises, arguing that the stability of the island's economy was being sacrificed for the sake of populism.

    The price hikes the cabinet tried to get through the House last week would mean petrol costing 44 instead of 40 cents a litre and diesel 16.6 instead of 14.6 cents a litre.

    These prices did in fact come into effect for about 29 hours last week.

    Prices at pumps were raised as soon as the relevant bill was tabled before the House on Wednesday afternoon, only to be adjusted downwards again when the bill was thrown out by the House plenum on Thursday evening.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    June 4 , 2000

    [02] MoD probe shows paramilitary group ‘never existed’

    By Melina Demetriou

    A CLANDESTINE paramilitary secretariat has never existed, according to results of the investigation carried out by the Ministry of Defence.

    The probe was launched after allegations by Akel deputy Costas Papacostas that a paramilitary secretariat had been tasked by Disy to keep tabs on the political persuasions of National Guard officers, with the aim of ensuring favourable treatment for ‘Disy men’.

    "There is no evidence to prove the involvement of any officers in a clandestine paramilitary committee," Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos told a news conference in Nicosia yesterday.

    "But there are indications that Sergeant Loizos Fessas, who was found carrying an unsigned document outlining the structure of the alleged secretariat, has committed a disciplinary offence, and he is therefore under investigation," the Minister added.

    The document found on Fessas indicated the involvement of himself and army officers and Disy members in the clandestine committee.

    "The publication of such documents might compromise the National Guard, casting doubt on its integrity, values and discipline," Hasikos said. Fessas will be investigated for allegedly breaking Rule 3 (i) of the National Guard’s disciplinary code, he added.

    Fessas had admitted he authorised the document but denied he had anything to do with other documents relating to the mysterious committee that had been handed over to the Minister.

    Regarding claims by Akel deputy Nicos Katsourides that certain officers had been pressurised not to testify on the matter, Hasikos said these allegations were "proved faulty", and the whole thing was a result of a misunderstanding.

    He said no action would be taken against Avram Marangos, the officer who had told Papacostas of the existence of the suspicious document found on Fessas, because he had followed regulations and procedure by notifying the National Guard hierarchy.

    The Minister did not say anything yesterday about Disy’s position in the light of the investigation’s findings.

    But Akel was quick to insist on the validity of Papacostas' claims. "The result of the ministry's investigation proves there is indeed a paramilitary secretariat," an Akel statement said. "There is no way Sergeant Fessas, acting on his own behalf, had attempted to harm National Guard's image. We cannot accept that Fessas acted out of naivety or foolishness."

    Meanwhile, the results of a police investigation ordered by the Attorney- general’s office are still pending.

    Disy has repeatedly denied Akel's accusations over the past two weeks, saying the whole thing was ridiculous as Disy had nothing to do with any clandestine group. It in turn accused the opposition communist party of having once been funded by the former Soviet Union’s intelligence arm, the KGB.

    Disy said that once the investigation was over, it would release details about Akel's "many skeletons in the closet", including allegations of embezzlement.

    Yesterday Hasikos accused Papacostas of causing much ado about nothing, and said it was not his place to let the public know of the existence of Fessas' document.

    "He should have gone straight to the Attorney-general instead," the Minister said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    June 4 , 2000

    [03] Court rejects town’s appeal against desalination plant

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE SUPREME Court has thrown out Larnaca municipality's appeal for a temporary halt to construction of a desalination plant near the town's salt lakes, prompting an angry response from Mayor George Lykourgos.

    The Larnaca Mayor yesterday insisted his town deserved better treatment, especially when it had come to the rescue when the country needed somewhere to build an airport after the 1974 invasion.

    "When it came to the airport, and at a time of great emergency for Cyprus, Larnaca made the right response and acted in a statesmanlike manner -- I have no further comment to make," Lykourgos told The Sunday Mail.

    The municipality argues that construction of the desalination plant will damage the unique salt lakes habitat.

    The appeal rejected by the Supreme Court on Friday had been for a temporary injunction on work on the desalination plant to allow time for the Larnaca municipality's appeal against the legality of the plant to be heard.

    With one eye on the island's chronic drought problems, the court stated in its decision that halting construction of the desalination plant, even temporarily, would be against the public interest.

    The court also noted that the municipality had not objected when the airport and the Larnaca sewage works were being built near the salt lakes.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    June 4 , 2000

    [04] Court official ‘took £300 bribe’

    A COURT official has been caught red-handed accepting a £300 bribe in order not to deliver a summons, police reported yesterday.

    The 28-year-old official, from Pallouriotissa in Nicosia, was arrested at Pera Chorio village at around 7pm on Friday after allegedly receiving bribe money from the man to whom he was meant to issue the summons.

    According to a police statement, the man named on the summons later admitted to police he had handed over the £300 to get the official to tell the court that the summoned man was nowhere to be found.

    The court official was released later that same day, police saying he would be charged at a later date.

    The undelivered summons concerned a civil suit.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    June 4 , 2000

    [05] From Siberia to Cyprus: a fruitful move

    By Graham Tait-Cooney

    IT’S quite a way from Siberia to Cyprus. Yet that was the extraordinary route travelled by a young David Slonim in the early years of the last century.

    David was just seven when his family left Siberia in 1912. Nineteen years later, he arrived in Cyprus via Palestine, where the family was caught up in the First World War.

    He arrived in 1931 with a degree in Agriculture and in Engineering, and has been here ever since -- this week he celebrated his 95th birthday in Nicosia.

    As a young part-time inventor it had been his dream to meet Guglielmo Marconi, the man who invented radio, with the hope of putting his engineering skills to work.

    But in the end it was his agricultural skills that came into their own, in the red earth of Cyprus. David had wanted to emigrate to America, but his application was denied by a quota system, so he came to the then British colony of Cyprus instead.

    With his agricultural knowledge, it took him only two weeks to find fertile red soil in the Fassouri region west of Limassol, which he decided to cultivate.

    "People thought I was crazy," he told The Sunday Mail. "The whole area was marshland and strong winds blew in from the sea. They thought I would never manage."

    But he bought 2,000 donums of land from a bankrupt Englishman and persevered. "Eucalyptus trees use plenty of water, so I planted them all around the marshes and they sucked the water up," he said. "Then I planted Cypress trees to shield the wind."

    David contracted malaria through his daily visits to the marshes, as did many of the workers, some of whom died. But he recovered, and never gave up.

    The hardiest of citrus trees is the bitter orange, which he used to graft sweet orange. The mother tree produced 8,000 seeds, which were planted and later produced tons of oranges for export to Britain.

    He later introduced grapefruit and sultana grapes using similar methods of grafting.

    Impressed by his abilities to manage agricultural land, the Archbishopric and the Hellenic Mines Company employed him to manage approximately 20,000 donums of their land.

    Slonim eventually did make it to America, courtesy of Caterpillar Tractors, and there he met his wife-to-be Elsie. They married in the US, but returned to Cyprus to start a family.

    The children have long since grown up and left -- a son in Israel and a daughter in America -- but David and Elsie have remained in Cyprus, a long, long way from his native Siberia.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    June 4 , 2000

    [06] 1974 war victim buried

    THE REMAINS of 19-year-old Sotiris Hadjikyriakou, who was killed during front-line fighting against Turkish troops during the 1974 invasion, were buried yesterday morning at Makedonitissa cemetery after a funeral service in Ayii Pandes church.

    He had been identified by DNA tests during exhumations carried out by the international Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) team, which is working to discover and identify the remains of missing persons.

    Hadjikyriakou was the most recent in a long list of missing persons to be identified by the PHR team, which has carried out exhumations at the Lakatamia and Constantinos and Eleni cemeteries.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    June 4 , 2000

    [07] Soldier held as LSD suspect

    A BRITISH soldier was arrested in a Larnaca nightclub in the early hours yesterday on suspicion of LSD possession.

    Larnaca police said a substance believed to be LSD had been painted on the underside of nine postage stamps found on the 25-year-old soldier. The suspect was arrested at about 5.30am by Larnaca police officers acting on information supplied by a bouncer at the nightclub.

    The suspect was yesterday afternoon handed over into the custody of British military police at the Dhekelia base. The soldier, a member of the First Battalion of the Cheshire regiment, is expected to appear before a Larnaca court today.

    Bases spokesman Rob Need said yesterday that the British army in Cyprus comes down hard on drug abuse among soldiers. "We have zero tolerance of use of illegal drugs and we enforce this through a programme of compulsory random drug testing, which is carried out regularly," Need said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    June 4 , 2000

    [08] Central Bank denies Turkish Cypriot deposits flooding south

    By Jean Christou

    THE CENTRAL Bank said yesterday it had firmly established that Turkish Cypriots were not depositing their money at banks in the south.

    Following a furore in the Turkish Cypriot press this week, the Central Bank said it had made enquiries at local banks, which all came back negative.

    The reports suggested that the current banking crisis in the north was prompting Turkish Cypriots to deposit their cash in the south, and that local banks were offering them low-interest loans if they could give the names of two guarantors.

    The issue was being discussed between the breakaway regime and visiting Turkish State Minister Sukru Gurel, one paper said. The same paper quoted a Turkish Cypriot as saying: "I too deposited my money in the Greek Cypriot bank. What else could I have done?"

    Andreas Philippou, head of the Central Bank's supervision department, told The Sunday Mail they had made enquiries with local banks.

    "The result was that there is no element of truth to these reports," he said. "If it is happening, then it is on an extremely small scale and nothing as spectacular as has been portrayed."

    He did say that there might be some accounts with the Hellenic Bank in Dhekelia which had been opened by Turkish Cypriots who worked for the British bases.

    He added there was no prohibition on Turkish Cypriots depositing or borrowing from local banks. "But I very much doubt that the bank in Dhekelia has extended any loans," Philippou said.

    Diplomatic sources told The Sunday Mail that finance officials in the north had not made any mention of the issue. If people were concerned about Turkish Cypriot banks, he said, they would be far more likely to deposit their money in Turkish banks or in the UK than in Greek Cypriot banks.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    June 4 , 2000

    [09] Klerides in Diko deal on VAT

    FINANCE Minister Takis Klerides yesterday accepted the conditions set by opposition party Diko for backing his bill to raise VAT from eight to 10 per cent, paving the way for swift approval of the amendment.

    The support of Diko's nine deputies would guarantee the bill's passage through the House of Representatives plenum on Thursday.

    Diko had demanded that a number of tax-relief measures be implemented to counterbalance the VAT hike. These measures include abolition of the inheritance tax and levy for state broadcaster CyBC, as well as raising the tax-free threshold from the current £5,000 to £6,000.

    Klerides said yesterday he had informed Diko that he accepted their conditions.

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