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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-07-15

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Saturday, July 15, 2000

CONTENTS

  • [01] 'Water 24 hours a day next year' pledges minister
  • [02] MMAD commander cleared over immigrant beatings
  • [03] Boeing brings its latest to Larnaca as competition for CY deal hots up
  • [04] Traffic fines rise to £50
  • [05] No one wants to work for 192
  • [06] An end to the bureaucratic nightmare?
  • [07] Share prices plunge again as investors jump ship
  • [08] Clerides flies home to barrage of criticism

  • [01] 'Water 24 hours a day next year' pledges minister

    By Athena Karsera

    THIS year is the last year for water cuts B that was the pledge yesterday from the island's Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous.

    From this moment on, the consumers can be certain that next summer they will have water all the time, without cuts. Water twenty-four hours a day,' he said.

    The minister's good news about water came amid continuing sweltering heat and electricity cuts problems , and Themistocleous also said that the authorities were to review next week the frequency of current water supply cuts. There could even be fewer cuts, or possibly a halt to the cuts this year, he said.

    How can it be done? Speaking to reporters yesterday, Themistocleous said that the House Plenum's decision on Thursday to approve funding for a mobile desalination unit should help ensure a 24-hour water supply by early 2001. Another permanent unit, near Larnaca salt lakes, should be on stream in December.

    He said that approval of the ,780,000 grant, on which a Plenum decision had been pending since mid-May, would ensure that the plant would be a fixture off the coast at Moni, near Limassol, by the end of this year. This year is the last when the consumer will be subjected to the arduous cuts we have had over the last years,' he said.

    Themistocleous said his ministry would also be looking into the use of desalinated water for agriculture.

    Commenting on main opposition party Akel's negative stance towards desalination, Themistocleous said, Up until now three budgets on desalination have been presented to the House. One had to do with Larnaca airport -- the only political force that voted against it was Akel.

    Another was the desalination unit in Limassol, not Zakaki. Again, the only political force that was against it was Akel. On the other unit, the mobile unit on Thursday, the only one (against) was Akel.'

    The government sees desalination as the answer to the island's chronic water shortage but plans to add to the existing unit in Dhekelia had until Thursday been hampered by the House. The bill providing funding for the unit was passed narrowly, with Akel, Edek and some Diko deputies voting against, even after lengthy debate during the Plenum's last session before summer recess.

    Residents of areas selected as the location of new desalination units have also repeatedly scuppered plans, complaining that it would destroy the natural environment of their area. Strong opposition has already forced the government to abandon plans to build permanent desalination units at Zakaki in Limassol and at Ayios Theodoros in the Larnaca area.

    Moni residents had their share of objections in May, saying they had not been consulted on the project, but they seem to have since been persuaded.

    The mobile unit will be in a position to provide 25,000 cubic metres of water a day and could be operational within four months of the government signing a contract with a provider. After initial opposition, another desalination unit is being built near the Larnaca salt lakes and is expected to be up and running by December.

    Five straight years of drought have left the island's 101 dams almost empty, while winter rains have made little difference. The government has, meanwhile, been digging deeper into already depleted groundwater reserves to get through the summer.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    Saturday, July 15, 2000

    [02] MMAD commander cleared over immigrant beatings

    By George Psyllides

    A LARNACA Court yesterday acquitted a high-ranking police officer of using excess force in subduing a prison riot by 51 African boat people awaiting deportation.

    On October 23 1998 Charalambos Mavros led the police rapid reaction unit MMAD against a revolt by 51 illegal immigrants angry at a decision to deport five of their number.

    At the time, Mavros, who now heads the drug squad, was deputy commander of MMAD. On the day of the riot, he was standing in as acting commander of the force.

    The court heard that the 51 detainees, who were held at Famagusta Police Headquarters in Larnaca, had armed themselves with pieces of metal pipes, and tried to torch their holding cells.

    Mavros had ordered 56 men of the rapid reaction unit into the holding area, and the use of teargas to flush them out.

    In the ensuing mêlée, police clashed with the inmates, injuring several of them. Television cameras caught riot police officers laying in to rioters with their batons.

    In a 127-page decision that took three hours to read, the court ruled that police had used reasonable force to restore order.

    Mavros was following the orders of then Larnaca Deputy Police Chief Dimitrakis Georgiades, who led and co-ordinated the overall operation, the court said.

    The ruling added that Mavros was physically far removed from the scuffles, and that a netted fence had been obstructing his view of events.

    According to the court’s decision, he did try to avert any use of violence.

    It is understood that Georgiades was not summoned by the prosecution to testify during the trial.

    The court also said that the testimonies of the inmates contained substantial discrepancies and appeared fabricated.

    Mavros’ actions as the leader of the rapid reaction unit were right, the court concluded.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Saturday, July 15, 2000

    [03] Boeing brings its latest to Larnaca as competition for CY deal hots up

    By George Psyllides

    THE BOEING Aircraft Company yesterday demonstrated the newest version of its 767-model aeroplane at Larnaca airport.

    The demonstration, which was attended by the media and other officials, was seen as an effort by Boeing to market its plane to Cyprus Airways (CY) and move in what has long been secure Airbus territory.

    Cyprus Airways said earlier this month that it would decide by the end of summer whether to replace its four Airbus A310s and whether to expand its fleet.

    CY currently has 12 Airbus aircraft — eight A320s, which seat 165 passengers each, and four A310s, with a seating capacity of 241 passengers each.

    Three of the A320s are leased to CY’s charter arm Eurocypria.

    The average age of the fleet is 10.7 years.

    CY Spokesman Tassos Angeli told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that company officials were to attend Boeing’s demonstration.

    He stressed, however, that no formal contacts had been made with Boeing concerning the renewal of CY’s fleet.

    "At this point we are assessing the company’s requirements for the future," said Angeli.

    "We have not yet decided on the aircraft types and if we are to buy or lease," he added.

    "They have invited us to the demonstration and we are going," Angeli said. "If Airbus comes we will see them too."

    Competition between the two rival companies is notoriously fierce.

    Yesterday’s demonstration was part of a month-long tour of Europe and Asia.

    The unique aircraft had a special World Tour design inside and out. The plane’s distinctive livery and its interior featured graphics and fabrics that reflect the human fascination with flight.

    The 767-400ER (Extended Range), sized between the Boeing 767-300ER and the 777-200, features a lengthened fuselage, aerodynamic improvements such as the innovative new raked wing tips, increased take-off capability, new upgraded flight deck and new main landing gear.

    The 767-400ER, according to Boeing, is designed to be the most efficient aeroplane in its size category, and adds an important strategic advantage by also offering the lowest operating cost per seat.

    Efficient design gives the 767-400ER excellent range capability to fly about 99 per cent of the routes currently being served by aeroplanes of this size.

    Certification of the 767-400 ER by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Europe’s Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) is expected to take place later this month.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Saturday, July 15, 2000

    [04] Traffic fines rise to £50

    By Noah Haglund

    TRAFFIC fines almost doubled yesterday in an attempt to encourage responsible behaviour among motorists.

    The new £50 penalty, up from £30, applies to those caught using mobile phones while driving, motorcyclists or passengers not wearing crash helmets and motorists not wearing seat belts – whether in the front or back of the car.

    Transport Minister Averoff Neophytou, announced the hike on television on Thursday night, followed by a public announcement in yesterday’s edition of the Government Gazette.

    Demetris Demetriou, head of the traffic police statistics department, said police would soon follow up these measures with a campaign to make people abide by the rules.

    Demetriou could not say, however, whether this campaign would involve more aggressive police action on the roads, or mounting a publicity drive to raise awareness about traffic safety measures.

    Latest figures show police are handing out about 180 fines a week for crash helmet violations, 500 a week for seat belt violations and 300 a week to drivers using mobile phones at the wheel.

    Police statistics show that most road accident victims died because they failed to take the appropriate safety measures.

    This year’s figures show that only two of 15 motorcyclists and motorcycle passengers killed in Cyprus this year were wearing crash helmets.

    Only eight of 38 car drivers and passengers killed in traffic accidents this year were wearing seat belts.

    Police do not keep any statistics on accidents caused by mobile phone usage and most experts agree it is extremely hard to determine if phone use was a contributing factor in any particular incident.

    Nevertheless, the World Health Organisation (WHO) cautions that: "there is a well-established increase in the risk of traffic accidents while the driver is using a mobile phone, either a conventional handset or one fitted with a ‘hands free’ device." WHO concludes that, "motorists should be strongly discouraged from using mobile phones while driving."

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Saturday, July 15, 2000

    [05] No one wants to work for 192

    By Noah Haglund

    CYTA IS struggling to revamp its 192 directory inquiries service after a barrage of complaints from frustrated customers stuck in lengthy queues or confronted with a continual busy signal.

    Andreas Kassapis, Directory Inquiries customer service manager, conceded that, invisible to frustrated callers, complexities at the other end of the line had hampered the smooth functioning of the service, although the Telecommunications Authority was doing its best to address the situation.

    "We try to match incoming traffic from the public," explained Kassapis, "ideally, we would need 35-40 people at peak hours – right now we have 15."

    In other words, the Nicosia-based call centre, which is responsible for all the inquiries in Cyprus, is severely understaffed, with the result that many callers are stuck on hold and many more cannot even get through, a fact to which anyone who has tried to call directory inquiries can attest.

    Call volume, quiet late at night and early in the morning, rises dramatically after 7.30am, peaking at midday, and staying high until the working day is over. It is this midday onslaught that causes the call centre its biggest headache.

    CyTA’s own figures indicate that on an average weekday, 192 gets 31,000-35, 000 calls, while staff, working at a breakneck pace, can only service about 26,000.

    Each operator handles an average of 600 calls a day at an average turnaround time of 21 seconds, which means answering 160 calls an hour on a seven-hour shift, punctuated with frequent breaks to relieve stress.

    "The agents are very fast, very efficient at their work," said Kassapis, but there are simply not enough of them.

    "We need 95-100 operators," he said. At present, the centre therefore has only half the personnel needed to staff the 24-hour call centre.

    "We tried to hire more operators," but, he explained, "only 16 passed the exams and only 12 accepted the position."

    The dozen new employees will join the ranks next week and should bring about a slight improvement in service, but this will still not achieve the kind of streamlining the department would like to see.

    CyTA will also try to attract part-time personnel, such as students, to cover peak hours, but staffing efforts are often delayed for months because all structural changes, and most significantly budgets, must be approved by Parliament.

    "We don’t have the freedom to act the way we want because we are a semi- governmental organisation, we have to abide by government rules and regulations," Kassapis told the Cyprus Mail.

    He said it was not easy to find people to do such work and the biggest difficulty facing staff was the enormous pressure of the repetitive, demanding nature of the work.

    "Sometimes the girls here leave crying because of the things people say on the phone," Kassapis said.

    The service, which costs the caller 5.2 cents per minute, was intended as a supplement to the printed telephone directory, but appears to have become a primary resource for many, with Kassapis explaining that "we have found that people would rather use 192 service instead of their phone books."

    Due to the huge call volume, directory inquiries is operating at an enormous loss: 1999 figures show that CyTA lost £1 million through the call centres, since each call costs the Telecommunications Authority on average 19 cents.

    However, a sweeping review of charges currently pending approval in Parliament will probably bump the 192 price up to 18 cents per minute as part of a broader effort to make CyTA a viable competitor before January 1, 2003, by when the telecommunications market is set to liberalise in line with EU law.

    If everything goes as planned, queue time will be reduced to an average of 20 seconds, every customer will have their inquiry met within 20 seconds after their call is answered, and nobody will be met with the frustrating busy signal of an engaged line.

    With more staff, better working conditions and better equipment, Kassapis is optimistic that 192 can improve its customer service image.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Saturday, July 15, 2000

    [06] An end to the bureaucratic nightmare?

    By Melina Demetriou

    IT WILL soon take only half an hour to have your passport, ID card or other official documents issued or renewed, instead of the current 15 days or so, Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou announced yesterday.

    The Ministry has decided to bring together the offices responsible for issuing birth certificates, passports, IDs, refugee cards and voting cards into the same department, the Population Records Centre.

    The Centre, which started operating on June 28, communicates with all regional offices, receiving and circulating information through its upgraded electronic network.

    Officials hope the changes will mean the end of Kafkaesque bureaucratic procedures that often see applicants being sent from office to office and put on waiting lists for weeks, even months.

    "This innovation aims to tackle bureaucracy, to simplify procedures and to service the public quickly and effectively," Christodoulou told a news conference yesterday.

    Anyone wanting to issue or renew an official document, such as a passport or an ID card, will no longer need to go to the regional office of his hometown nor bring any certified documents or photographs.

    "Anyone can go to whichever office suits them, be it in Paphos, Paralimni or any other town, regardless of where they were born. There, his picture will be taken electronically and for free, and in 15 minutes minimum or a couple of hours maximum they will have their new document," the minister said.

    The good news didn’t stop there. Members of the public will be given a copy of the ‘Citizen’s Rights Index’, an Interior Ministry booklet outlining the services offered by the Population Records Centre, and giving people instructions on where to turn and what to do -- as well as how long it will take -- to issue or renew a document. The ‘Citizen’s Rights Index’ was issued yesterday and will be circulated soon.

    As soon as a child is born, its record will be entered into the system. Whatever documents they later need will be issued immediately thanks to the information stored in the system, which will be updated every few years, Christodoulou said.

    The Minister also referred to the new type of plastic ID cards, which will start being issued in September and will gradually replace the old ones.

    Christodoulou also announced similar reforms in the Immigration Department, which he said should now be able to issue a residence or work permit in no more than 24 hours.

    Christodoulou said reorganisation of the department meant it could operate and carry out its work speedily and systematically.

    Seventeen and a half thousand cases -- such as replies to applications and issuing of visa extensions – which had been pending for years had been carried out in the last seven months as a result of the new regime, he said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Saturday, July 15, 2000

    [07] Share prices plunge again as investors jump ship

    By Michael Ioannou

    SHARE prices troughed to a new low yesterday as cash-starved investors either jumped ship or sat worriedly idle to the thumping of securities this week.

    The all-share Cyprus Stock Exchange index lost a net 6.30 points to end at 414.13, its second successive year low after hitting 420 points on Thursday, and the third this week.

    The market opened a whisper higher than Thursday but soon lost its grip on meagre gains, rapidly tumbling down to the 410 level. It flirted with that level throughout trading, and was trailing by 2.8 percent until five minutes before the closing bell.

    But the bourse showed signs of recovery towards the end, paring losses to 1.5 percent.

    Block trades in heavyweights Bank of Cyprus and Cyprus Popular Bank prevented the market from skidding further. Bank of Cyprus, strongly resisting any downward pressure, ended one cent lower to seven pounds and with relatively limited trading range of £6.95 to £7.09.

    The same couldnot be said of Laiki, which saw some strong swings in its share price before closing at £10.45, five cents higher. It opened at £10.45, but sank to an intraday low of £10.15 beforemoving higher again.

    On a weekly basis, the market has lost 8.7 per cent.

    "The mood on the market is very subdued because of all the recent declines, " said a Nicosia-based analyst.

    "There really isn't much interest from investors at the moment."

    Turnover was a thin £19.29 million on 16.2 million shares traded.

    Investment companies, which absorbed millions from the market in recent initial public offerings were not being seen active on investing in equities, said traders.

    Commercial banks have also pulled the plug on loans for bourse investments at the urging of the Central Bank worried about spiralling inflation expected to reach almost five percent this year.

    Right now the main problem is the shortage of liquidity," stockbroker Costas Hadjigavriel told reporters.

    Most actively traded shares were Dodoni nil paid rights with 1.5 million titles changing hands as it slipped 1.5 cents to 65. Aiantas followed with 838,460 shares changing hands, sliding a cent to 34.

    Toy store Jumbo Investments put in a mixed performance on its debut. It opened at 99 cents, but fell on strong selling pressures to a close of 74 on a volume of 590,246 shares.

    Declining stocks had a strong lead over advancing ones 94 to 22 and eleven issues were unchanged on 127 traded. Forty-eight issues hit year lows.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Saturday, July 15, 2000

    [08] Clerides flies home to barrage of criticism

    By Athena Karsera

    TEMPERATURES rose in the political arena yesterday as party representatives reacted to President Glafcos Clerides’ statements on his return from proximity talks in Geneva on Thursday.

    The angriest reaction came from main opposition party Akel leader Demetris Christofias, irked by Clerides’ statement that the importance of opposition reactions to the talks depended on who was in opposition and on "what ailed them."

    Christofias yesterday told CyBC that Clerides was straying from democracy with such statements: "He makes statements and says whatever he wants with no one criticising him. This is a diversion from the democratic framework. We have every right to say to the President of the Republic is making a mistake.

    "Excuse me, but must the opposition applaud a President who has led us to where we are today?" he wondered.

    Asked what Akel expected from next Tuesday’s National Council meeting, where party leaders are to be briefed on the Geneva talks, Christofias said: "Akel has got tired of asking for things and to have its requests go in one ear and out the other. We have for a year now asked for a campaign by the National Council, by the Cyprus government, our side in general, towards all sides, to ensure that the Cyprus problem stays within the correct framework, so that the principals be defended."

    But the acting president of ruling Disy, Panayiotis Demetriou, said Akel’s reaction was exaggerated, adding that the opposition should wait to be informed about what had happened in Geneva before making comments.

    Demetriou said some of Clerides’ statements should be looked at with understanding: "We have to see the things humanely as well…Clerides has had problems, has the responsibility of the future of this country on his shoulders… and he comes back from overseas ready to discuss and to look over the issue with the rest. We do not yet know what his position is on the next step, and he finds himself facing unfair and exaggerated criticism."

    Demetriou said Christofias and the public should put themselves in Clerides’ position before passing judgment, drawing attention to the talks being carried out on a more complicated international level, "Not with Limassol, Paphos, the Kokkinochoria or Nicosia".

    House and Diko president Spyros Kyprianou said yesterday he was more concerned about the proposals put forward by the UN and international community over the last few years.

    Kyprianou said they seemed to based on the philosophy that the Cyprus problem was between two states that had to agree on the formation of a new government, and added he expected little from the Turkish Cypriot side in the near future, "I agree with Clerides that there is international interest but have to see where it is focused."

    United Democrat deputy Androulla Vassiliou, meanwhile, said that progress was expected in fourth round of proximity talks, resuming on July 24 in Geneva.

    "What’s important is that the talks will continue, we hope that the fourth round will have some results," she said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail


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