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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-02-24

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Saturday, February 24, 2001


  • [01] Turkish crisis hammers economy in the north
  • [02] MP tables overseas voting proposal
  • [03] Government denies reports of Turkish Cypriots' 'ill-treatment'
  • [04] Tsiakourmas relatives take their protest to the streets
  • [05] The carnival is fine, but not at school
  • [06] Three years' jail for marriages of convenience
  • [07] New group opposes Larnaca drug centre
  • [08] Ministry insists all precautions taken over foot-and-mouth disease
  • [09] Immigration says Iranian family left willingly
  • [10] Patsalides relatives plead for safety guarantee
  • [11] Pesticide plea from Consumers' Association

  • [01] Turkish crisis hammers economy in the north

    By Jennie Matthew

    THE AFTERSHOCKS of the Turkish currency yesterday continued to shake northern Cyprus, hammering consumers and draining bank accounts.

    By yesterday lunchtime, the lira had nose-dived 37.9 per cent since the crisis began earlier this week.

    All foreign currency transactions were frozen in northern Cyprus, as shops marked prices up 20 per cent before Friday's opening.

    But street prices could hardly keep up as the depreciation crisis deepened with morning losses of 8.5 per cent.

    The lira blitz knocked up prices on imported goods, throwing Turkey's ability to meet the cost of oil into serious jeopardy.

    Kibris newspaper reported hefty increases in cigarette prices for the five top brands in the north. Rothmans, Benson & Hedges were up 12 per cent to 1 million Turkish Lira a packet, Silk Cut mushroomed nearly 23 per cent to TL 1.1 million a packet, while Royals and Craven As rose nearly 17 per cent to TL 750 000.

    Wildly erratic trading saw the Lira plummet to 1.16 million to the US dollar and 1.75 million to the pound sterling.

    As the Turkiye Ish Bank upped interest rates on loans, Turkish Cypriots claimed it would become impossible to pay instalments on debts in pound sterling.

    Economists are alarmed about another banking crash, particularly among mainland banks with large foreign currency commitments.

    The financial crisis also underscored political malaise in the north. As 'prime minister' Dervis Eroglu reiterated the Ankara line, opposition leader Mehmet Ali Talat said the economy had already collapsed, dragging the government down with it.

    He told Turkish Cypriot newspapers that the depression "would mark the official end of the government in northern Cyprus".

    The Turkish government may have insisted that the depreciation was "artificial" and temporary, but fears grew in Europe that Turkey was in for a serious battering.

    Depreciation has already outstripped initial predictions of 20 to 30 per cent losses in the value of the Lira against the dollar.

    Ankara abandoned its controlled currency regime on Thursday, turning its back on the $11 billion IMF-backed anti-inflation reform plan.

    The International Monetary Fund supports Turkey's decision and will continue to give Turkey instalments on loans. In 2000, they pumped $7.5 billion into Turkey.

    The turmoil was sparked on Monday by a bitter row over corruption that erupted on Monday between president Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] MP tables overseas voting proposal

    By a Staff Reporter

    CYPRIOTS studying or working abroad will be able to cast their votes for parliamentary and presidential elections at Cyprus embassies if a bill tabled yesterday by KISOS deputy Andreas Philippou wins approval.

    Philippou's proposed law change comes after days of heated debate about how the estimated 14,000 Cypriot students abroad can cast their votes in the May parliamentary elections.

    Governing DISY, confident of strong support amongst overseas students, has been trying to persuade other parties to shift the parliamentary elections polling date from May 27 in order to allow students to travel to the island and vote during their holidays. The DISY bid has, however, fallen on deaf ears.

    "A real solution, simple and radical and which would suit our 14,000 students abroad, is for them to vote at Cyprus's embassies and consulates," Philippou said in a statement canvassing his proposed law change yesterday.

    DISY leader Nicos Anastassiades has already expressed support for such an arrangement. Anastassiades has even attacked the Interior Ministry's elections service for failing to make the necessary arrangements for embassy voting "years ago".

    But George Theodorou, the head of the elections service, yesterday insisted his department had been ready to move on such a plan since 1998. "It is up to the (parliamentary) parties, we are ready when the parties decide," Theodorou said.

    He also said care had to be taken in drawing up any catalogue of those overseas Cypriots entitled to vote, to ensure "proper" election procedures.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] Government denies reports of Turkish Cypriots' 'ill-treatment'

    By a Staff Reporter

    GOVERNMENT spokesman Michalis Papapetrou categorically denied yesterday that Turkish Cypriots who tried to enter the government-controlled areas were ill-treated by the police.

    He said it is believed that the Turkish Cypriot press reports alleging ill- treatment of 26 Turkish Cypriots by the authorities is a staged affair to substantiate their claims that Greek and Turkish Cypriots cannot live together.

    The spokesman said that because of the gravity of the allegations and the

    sensitivity President Glafcos Clerides has on such matters, the cabinet is set

    to examine at next week's meeting a proposal by Attorney-general Alecos

    Markides to appoint a criminal investigator to look into the matter.

    Papapetrou was commenting on reports in the Turkish Cypriot press that 26

    Turkish Cypriots, 16 adults and ten children, who tried to enter the government-controlled areas were arrested by the police, ill-treated and sent back to the occupied north.

    "The police and the authorities deny categorically that they have done anything of the sort and consider the entire affair staged by the Turkish services with a view to undermine the possibility of peaceful co-existence of Greek and Turkish Cypriots," Papapetrou said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Tsiakourmas relatives take their protest to the streets

    By Melina Demetriou

    PUBLIC frustration at the continued detention in the north of Panicos Tsiakourmas spilled onto the streets with a protest march in Nicosia yesterday.

    The protest, organised by Tsiakourmas' family, was backed by all the political parties, but the lack of any DISY or senior government representatives caused anger among the demonstrators.

    Over 100 people joined the relatives in the rally on Eleftheria Square yesterday afternoon, calling for the release of 39-year-old building contractor Tsiakourmas.

    Protestors chanted: "Free Panicos now".

    Tsiakourmas' wife Niki told reporters: "I went with six nieces and nephews of my husband to see him in the so-called court today. He was a total wreck. He got very emotional when he saw us all and started yelling and crying. He was out of control, I tell you. I am really upset and worried about what he might do in the state he is."

    Niki said that the health of her diabetic husband had deteriorated because he was not receiving proper medical treatment.

    Tsiakourmas' nephew Panicos expressed his anger at the fact that no one from DISY or the government had joined the protest.

    "No one showed up. DISY's president, who knows me personally and who was the first to be informed about this event, didn't come to support our struggle," he said bitterly.

    " I put my children to bed every night. My uncle has not seen his children for two months. I rest my case," he added.

    Representatives from all the other parties, as well as House President Spyros Kyprianou attended the event.

    They all condemned Tsiakourmas' abduction and continued detention, and vowed to stick together in order to ensure his release.

    "But Great Britain has a duty to intervene -- and it can intervene -- to free Panicos. It cannot just stand by and watch this apathetically," said KISOS leader Vassos Lyssarides.

    Tsiakourmas was abducted last December from Sovereign Base Area (SBA) territory bordering the occupied village of Pergamos.

    House President Spyros Kyprianou said the Parliament was continuing its efforts to free Tsiakourmas, contacting diplomats and politicians.

    The protest came after Tsiakourmas had appeared in 'court' earlier in the day, to face charges of cannabis possession.

    One of the 'policemen' who seized Tsiakourmas testified that cannabis had been found in his possession.

    SBA authorities have said Tsiakourmas was almost certainly abducted by three men in plain clothes from the road to Pergamos. His car was found in SBA territory, with the door open, then engine running and the lights on. SBA police found no trace of drugs in the car.

    Tsiakourmas will reappear in 'court' next Wednesday.

    His wife said yesterday she expected the trial to take a long time, as there were about 10 witnesses to the case.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] The carnival is fine, but not at school

    By a Staff Reporter

    NO MATTER how much the nation loves a carnival, the government forbids children from wearing costumes at carnival parties during school hours, because the Church frowns on the practice.

    Parents at one state kindergarten were yesterday baffled by their son's school policy, which allowed a "small party with cakes" but forbade fancy dress.

    Green Monday, 50 days before Orthodox Easter, is the first day of Lenten fasting for the faithful.

    As one last fling, the preceding weekend is traditionally devoted to carnival festivities and parades.

    Limassol football clubs refuse all carnival Sunday fixtures and hundreds of school children parade in dazzling costumes alongside lavish floats in Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos, organised by local government officers.

    But the Church frowns on a practice it sees as pagan.

    For that reason, the Education Ministry is reluctant to integrate carnival celebrations into the curriculum at government schools.

    "It's not a matter of prohibiting it. It's a matter of avoiding it," said Andreas Makris, senior education officer at the Education Ministry.

    "I know the Parents and Teachers Associations organise such things and we can't do anything about that. But we want to avoid it in school, during school hours," he added.

    So strict is the "unwritten rule" that neither are public schools represented in the parades. Instead, children take part with afternoon school clubs or private groups.

    Despite pressure from on high, school policy varies from institution to institution. Several ignore the carnival tradition altogether. Others arrange parties outside school hours, in the afternoons or at the weekend, with or without costumes.

    The private schools contacted by Cyprus Mail yesterday followed the same practice.

    But one father of a three-year-old yesterday told Cyprus Mail the practice was ridiculous.

    "All the kids have costumes and everyone goes to the parades. Why can't they do this at school? They're only three years old. They're not even allowed to carry a mask" he said.

    He and his wife were sent a letter informing them to bring cakes to the kindergarten on Friday for a small party to celebrate the carnival.

    When his wife asked her son's teacher whether she should dress her son in his carnival costume, the teacher delivered the sad news.

    One mother of two from Limassol said her children had always gone to school carnival parties in the afternoons, decked out in their full carnival regalia.

    "Whether it's in school hours or not, it's still at the school, so what's all the fuss about?" said another.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Three years' jail for marriages of convenience

    By a Staff Reporter

    A TOUGH new law providing for up to three years imprisonment for anyone found to be involved in a marriage of convenience came into effect yesterday.

    The amendment, which aims to clamp down on Cypriots and foreigners marrying just so the latter can come into or stay on the island, also punishes those helping such a sham marriage take place. Cypriots or foreigners caught in, or found to have abetted, a marriage of convenience, face a fine of up to £3,000 or up to three years behind bars.

    A relevant bill was unanimously approved by parliament on Thursday evening.

    The new law defines what a marriage of convenience is and provides for the establishment of a special advisory body to guide the chief immigration officer in cases of suspected bogus nuptials.

    The advisory body provision was not included in the original bill submitted to parliament by the Foreign Ministry. The House Interior Committee, which thrashed out the bill in its final form, thought up the advisory body after the Aliens Support group complained that the new law would give too much power to the immigration chief.

    The committee also added a provision allowing an appeal to the Interior Minister against any immigration department decision to declare a marriage "fake". This provision is in line with relevant EU laws. The appeal stipulation allows foreigners to come into the country to join their Cypriot partners or partners-to-be in order to challenge a ruling declaring their marriage suspect.

    Protests from the Aliens Support group also succeeded in reducing the stiffer penalties provided for in the original Foreign Ministry bill, which stipulated imprisonments of up to five, rather than three, years.

    The immigration department has long been pushing for a law empowering it take tougher action on marriages of convenience, which it says are becoming all too frequent. Of the 2,000-or-so mixed marriages taking place on the island every year, about 30 are thought to be sham.

    In one case to make the headlines last year, an 88-year-old local man reportedly confessed to wedding his married son's 20-something Russian girlfriend just so she could stay in Cyprus.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] New group opposes Larnaca drug centre

    By a Staff Reporter

    OPPOSITION to a government plan to set up a live-in community for ex-drug addicts on the shores of the Larnaca Salt Lake appears to be growing in the coastal town.

    A second action group made up of Salt Lake area residents yesterday added their voice to those demanding a rethink of government plans to give the Ayios Charalambos home - the old leper colony - for use by the church anti- drug body, KENTHEA.

    Like the first citizen's action group which raised the issue earlier this month, the new group of Larnaca residents insist ex-drug addicts should not be housed in an building which is a stone's throw from three schools and an army camp. The concern is that the former drug users will encourage school kids and soldiers to try illegal narcotics and also attract drug pushers to the area.

    "This decision is yet another example of the frivolity with which the government acts, without taking into consideration the dangers for society, " the new protest group said in a statement yesterday.

    The government, keenly aware of growing public concern about narcotics abuse, is pushing ahead with the ex-addicts community plans despite these objections from local residents. KENTHEA hope to have the new centre - which they insist will be for recovered users only - will be up and running within weeks.

    Dubious reports of widespread drug abuse and televised interviews with heroin addicts have made drugs a hot issue.

    This week, a 30-country study of teenage drug use put Cyprus at the bottom of the European league for substance abuse. The study found that only 3.5 per cent of Cypriot 16-year-olds had tried illegal drugs.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] Ministry insists all precautions taken over foot-and-mouth disease

    By Elias Hazou

    THE VETERINARY authorities yesterday insisted Cyprus was well prepared to protect itself from any spread of foot-and-mouth disease to its livestock industry.

    On Thursday, Cyprus said it was falling into line with an EU ban on imports all British meat and by-products, including dairy products, following an outbreak of the highly contagious disease at an abattoir in Essex.

    The authorities yesterday said they were taking all the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the disease to the island.

    The British Ministry of Agriculture has sought to contain the disease by ordering a 10-mile restriction zone around the location where the outbreak was first found.

    The Agriculture Ministry said yesterday the ban would be reviewed on March 1, when the EU would assess the situation.

    Andreas Orphanides, acting director of the Ministry's Veterinary Services Department, told the Cyprus Mail that livestock farmers had been given instructions on how to deal with a potential outbreak on the island.

    "We have imposed a ban on all meat and dairy products and by-products from the UK. It is highly unlikely that the disease will come to the island, given that we have taken all the necessary precautions."

    Orphanides said the last case of foot and mouth disease in Cyprus had been recorded in 1964.

    The latest scare is encouraging consumers steer clear of imported meat and dairy products on the shelves and 'buy local', according to one supermarket in Nicosia. A sales manager for the hypermarket said that ever since the BSE scare, consumers - especially in the capital - were becoming more and more careful about what the food they put on their tables.

    "Sales of Cypriot and Greek dairy products have shot up in the past few months. Now you can see people scrutinising packages to look for country of origin and date of produce," he said.

    More and more consumers were avoiding UK-made cheeses, such as cheddar, opting instead for variants from the Netherlands and other European countries, he said.

    Foot-and-mouth disease, also called hoof and mouth disease, is caused by a virus and affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, swine, sheep, goats and deer. Infected animals are invariably crippled, but the disease is harmless to humans.

    Because the virus is airborne, outbreaks often result in epidemics. While vaccines have been developed, they cannot eradicate the disease, and the slaughter of all exposed animals is presently the only effective countermeasure. During an earlier outbreak in the UK in 1967-6, about half a million animals were slaughtered.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [09] Immigration says Iranian family left willingly

    By Jennie Matthew

    THE IMMIGRATION department yesterday denied that an Iranian family with two young children had been deported, claiming instead that they were eager to return home after failing to find a stable life in Cyprus.

    Immigration said they bought the struggling family plane tickets to help them on their way after their visas expired last year.

    Immigration Chief George Theodorou insisted yesterday that the family had left of their own free will.

    He said that 32-year-old Valiunah Nazarian's visa ran out last April. He arrived in Cyprus legally in 1997. His wife, Maliheh, 28, had never had a visa. The couple have two little boys, aged two and five.

    "The husband didn't have a regular job here. That's why they wanted to go back to Iran. They took five bags of luggage with them," said Theodorou.

    Politis newspaper claimed on Thursday the parents had been driven to the airport in tears and forbidden from returning home to collect their personal effects, yesterday publishing pictures of what it said was the family's abandoned clothes and car.

    Asked about the case, the President of the House Committee on Human Rights, Yiannakis Agapiou, said yesterday: "I deplore the behaviour of the authorities, if it was as it was alleged. But sometimes reports are not objective," he told the Cyprus Mail.

    Immigration claimed the only questionable handling of the family's case had been their overnight police detention - not the three days claimed by Politis - while the children were placed with a foster couple.

    Theodorou and Agapiou differed over the family's fate. Immigration said they had returned to Iran. Agapiou said they had gone to another country to look for a better life.

    But Hossein Alikhani, founder of the Centre for World Dialogue in Nicosia, yesterday dismissed the Immigration version of events.

    He claimed the family had applied to the UNHCR for political asylum and that, when they had gone to inform Immigration, they were handcuffed and whipped into police custody.

    "There have been nine such cases in the last few weeks," he claimed.

    The January 2000 Refugee Act prohibits the deportation back to the country of origin of anyone with pending political asylum claim.

    Alikhani also warned, however, that Cyprus was seen as a soft touch for bogus asylum seekers from the Middle East, with illegal workers often trying to spin out their stay with false applications to the UNHCR.

    "The UNHCR system allows people three months to get their case reviewed. By the time they've had the appeal and the re-appeal, they've been here nine months. Of all who come here, 99.9 per cent are not genuine asylum seekers, " Alikhani claimed. "Either the government should not accept anyone at all, or they should appoint more officers to speed up the process and get people out after only a week."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [10] Patsalides relatives plead for safety guarantee

    By a Staff Reporter

    ESCAPED shooting suspect Petros Patsalides, on the run since February 6, was still at large yesterday, amid growing controversy about his getaway and police's apparent inability to track him down.

    On Thursday, Patsalides' father Bambos met with President Glafcos Clerides in an apparent plea for the authorities to guarantee his son's safety if he turned himself over. After the meeting, Bambos Patsalides told reporters he feared for his son's safety and health, and that he had not contacted him since his escape. He also said he was aware of the fact that his house was being "discreetly" watched by police around the clock. He added his son probably refused to hand himself over because he feared he would be charged with attempted homicide.

    Yesterday Patsalides' father and his brother Alecos, a lawyer, met with the Attorney-general to discuss the issue.

    Patsalides is wanted in connection with a shooting incident outside Nicosia's Dow Jones club that left two Russian students injured. A few days later he escaped a police escort after promising to lead officers to a guns haul. The officer heading the escort has been suspended pending an investigation into how Patsalides escaped.

    Police Chief Andreas Angelides, who also met with Patsalides' father, guaranteed on Thursday that the suspect would not be harmed in any way. He even offered to act as Patsalides' "personal protégé."

    Police embarrassment over the escape was worsened on Saturday night, when Patsalides gave an interview to Sigma's Demetris Mamas, taunting police for their failure to catch him. Patsalides told Mamas he had escaped because police had mistreated him while he was detained, a claim denied by police.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [11] Pesticide plea from Consumers' Association

    By a Staff Reporter

    THE Consumers' Association yesterday called on the government to carry out checks to ensure that local market produce was free from chemical residues.

    Recent reports of pesticide residues being found in vegetables exported to Britain from Cyprus had caused "great concern" among Cypriot consumers, the association said in letters sent to Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous and Health Minister Frixos Savvides yesterday.

    "The public wants to know if the vegetables sold on the local market are free of chemical residues and safe for consumption," the association stated. It added that checks on fresh produce should be upped to ensure safety.

    Figures on use of chemicals by local growers are hard to come by, but concerns about over-liberal dosing with pesticides and artificial fertilisers are widespread.

    The Consumer Association yesterday also sent another letter to Minister Savvides, demanding that the government acquire laboratory equipment for testing for genetically modified (GM) foodstuffs. Parliament recently passed a law making the labelling of GM foods mandatory, and the association expressed surprise that the Health Ministry did not have the necessary facilities for testing for such foods.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

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