|Sunday, 3 December 2023|
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-03-30
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Friday, March 30, 2001
 Parties struggle for common ground ahead of next week's health voteBy Melina Demetriou
WHAT IS expected to be a marathon meeting of the House Plenum will next Thursday decide the fate of the government's National Health Plan, with parties yesterday failing to find common ground on the matter.
The public service and the banking sector on Wednesday came out on strike against the introduction of the health plan, claiming it would deprive them of the standard of health care they currently enjoy.
Cyprus does not at present have a free universal health care system. Under the proposed scheme, all employees would contribute two per cent of their wages to the plan. The employer would contribute a further 2.55 per cent and 4.55 per cent would be footed by the state.
Civil servants represented by the PASYDY union already enjoy free state health care, and want to be excluded from the scheme, arguing it amounts to a sell-off of public health to private interests.
Bank employees' union ETYK also wants its members exempted from the plan, claiming the schemes offered by the banks are better.
The unions have threatened further strikes if their demands are not met, but Health Minister Frixos Savvides insists the government will not give in to blackmail.
Parties yesterday failed to reach consensus at a meeting of the House Health Committee, held behind closed doors.
After the meeting, Committee Chairman Andreas Parisinos of DISY said: " I can't predict whether the plan will be approved or not. Anything is possible."
Ruling DISY, KISOS and the United Democrats are in favour of the plan - enough to ensure a slender majority in the House. DIKO opposes the plan, while main opposition party AKEL has threatened to vote against the scheme unless certain changes are introduced.
But with elections looming, the government is thought unlikely to force the plan through unless it has AKEL on board.
The left-wing party wants employees' contribution to be reduced to 1.5 per cent instead of the proposed 2 per cent and for more public representatives on the Health Plan Council that will be set up.
AKEL has also proposed that pensioners living on less than £3,600 a year should be exempted from contributions and wants a guarantee that hospitals will remain in state hands and under public management.
AKEL deputy Doros Christodoulides yesterday stressed his party would not approve the bill unless all his party's amendments were introduced.
"And it looks like the Cabinet does not see eye to eye with us," he said.
DIKO deputy Zacharias Koullias said "DIKO still opposes the bill," and complained that the Cabinet had not yet given its response to a DIKO report suggesting ways to make the health plan viable.
"No, we will not vote for Cyprus Stock Exchange number two," Koullias said emphatically, suggesting the Health Plan might go the same disastrous way as the stock market.
Doros Theodorou of KISOS reiterated his party's support: "We are 100 per cent for the plan. More than one party has suggested changes to the plan. So, the parties and the Cabinet will study those proposals between now and next Thursday to be able to position themselves in next week's Plenum."
Theodorou noted that his party would only accept those proposals that would be approved by the Cabinet and would oppose any changes that would make the plan unworkable.
The KISOS deputy said his party backed all of AKEL's proposals but one: "I don't think that employees could contribute only 1.5 per cent of their wages to the scheme. I don't know how it could be feasible. If we find oil reserves off Cyprus' coasts then the contribution could be zero," he joked.
"A marathon and laborious meeting will next Thursday make the final decision," he added.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Free museums for all on SundayBy Athena Karsera
MUSEUMS and archaeological sites will be free to all this Sunday as part of Cyprus' contribution to an international effort to open museums to the masses.
The Education and Communications Ministries have joined together with the Antiquities Department to take part in the 'Spring of Museums' programme initiated by France last year. The programme has secured the participation of more than 1,000 institutions all over Europe.
Usually only Cypriots can visit museums and ancient sites free of charge.
Announcing the event yesterday, Education and Culture Minister Ouranios Ioannides and Communications and Works Minister Averoff Neophytou also said that they were co-operating on efforts to make the Antiquities Department a self-regulating authority in the style of the Cyprus Theatrical Organisation (THOC).
Department director Sophocles Hadjisavvas announced that renovation work on Nicosia's Museum was continuing well and that a new museum would be built on the piece of land currently housing the Nicosia general hospital.
Neophytou, under whose Ministry the Department operates, said that making it a self-sufficient authority would not result in any staff cutbacks or pay changes. "We want to put more emphasis on our cultural heritage. One way is to form the Cyprus Antiquities Authority. What this would effectively mean is that the Department would become an authority with its own administrative council and budget and would operate independently, while being put under the auspices of the Education and Culture Minister."
Ioannides said this was not a case of one Ministry taking over the duties of another. "THOC is under the auspices of the Education Ministry but it has its own administrative council to take decisions and its own budget etc."
Neophytou said an architectural competition for Nicosia's new archaeological museum would be announced early next year and that the work had been budgeted at £30-40 million.
He said that renovation work at the current museum, which would remain in place even once the new museum was open, had been begun and was continuing as planned.
Hadjisavvas said that the old museum, built in 1909, was no longer large enough to house new findings. He said renovation work on one room was continuing well and would be finished by the end of April, in time for an international Neolithic conference that Cyprus was hosting in May.
"The conference is being held in honour of new findings that have put Cyprus history 1,500 years before the 8300BC we were working with until now, " Hadjisavvas said.
Neophytou also announced that a new museum would be built at the ancient site of Idalion, near modern Dhali and that tenders for its construction would be called by the end of the year.
The ministers also announced a string of events in a 'Sound and Light' programme in August, with a range of concerts and theatrical performances held at ancient sites. Specific details will be announced at the later date.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Parliament ponders overseas vote for studentsBy Martin Hellicar
LAST minute tinkering with the elections law is being considered to enable Cypriots studying abroad to vote in the May parliamentaries without returning to the island.
Governing DISY is proposing that special polling centres be set up in Greece, Britain, France and Germany to accommodate student voters. The proposal was given a tentative thumbs-up by the Interior Ministry's elections service yesterday.
"Yes, it can be done so long as our service is allowed time to prepare a special catalogue of students who want to vote abroad so we will know who they will be and how many they will be," the director of the elections service, George Theodorou, said yesterday.
Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou was more sceptical about the DISY plan. He did not say it could not be done, but noted that getting polling centres abroad ready in time for the May 27 elections would involve "serious difficulties" for his Ministry. Christodoulou said it was up to parliament to approve the DISY plan if it liked it.
The DISY proposal comes after a proposal from KISOS deputy Andreas Phillipou for voting to be allowed in Cyprus embassies abroad stumbled on opposition from most parties. The proposal from the opposition party deputy would have allowed all Cypriots abroad to vote in the parliamentary elections. The DISY proposal covers only students. The governing party enjoys strong support among younger voters.
Theodorou said only students who came forward and asked to vote would be included in the overseas voting plan as envisaged by DISY.
Voting is compulsory for Cypriots living on the island.
If the DISY plan was approved by parliament, then the ballot boxes from the overseas voting centres would be flown into Cyprus on the night of May 27 to e counted at the offices of the election service, Theodorou said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 SBA officer testifies in the north about Tsiakourmas abductionBy Jean Christou
BRITISH bases policemen testified at the trial of Greek Cypriot contractor Panicos Tsiakourmas in the north yesterday, before the 'court' adjourned until next Tuesday.
During the hearing, the 'court' heard testimony relating to the British bases investigation, which concluded that Tsiakourmas had been abducted from bases territory. Around 120 statements and 90 photographs taken by the SBA testified to this, the 'court' heard.
On Tuesday, a member of the UN peacekeeping force UNFICYP will testify to threats from the Turkish Cypriot side to 'kidnap' a Greek Cypriot following the arrest of Turkish Cypriot drugs smuggler Omer Tekogul from the mixed village of Pyla 10 days before Tsiakourmas disappeared. Tekogul was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment last week.
Tsiakourmas, 39, who is a diabetic, was taken forcibly from his car on the Pyla-Pergamos road inside British bases territory on December 13 and charged with possessing two kilos of cannabis within the occupied areas. He had gone to pick up some Turkish Cypriot workers when he was abducted. His car was found abandoned with the doors open and the lights on.
On Wednesday, a Greek Cypriot SBA officer caused an uproar in 'court' when he attempted to present a photograph album entitled "Photographs related to Tsiakourmas' abduction" in which captions referred to the "Turkish-occupied territories".
According to Turkish press reports, the prosecutor objected to the album, and the court "asked that all writing be removed from the album before it could be admitted as evidence".
SBA Officer Nicos Christodoulou told the 'court' how Tsiakourmas' car had been found and how their search with police dogs failed to reveal any indication that there had been drugs in the car.
On Tuesday, Tsiakourmas testified that he had been seized from somewhere between Pyla and Pergamos, in the SBA, not inside the occupied areas. He said he had neither seen nor ever been to the place where prosecution witnesses claimed he had been arrested.
His wife Niki also testified, saying her husband had nothing to do with drugs and that both were founding members of an anti-drugs group. The prosecution suggested they might have joined to avoid suspicion concerning their alleged involvement with drugs.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Afxentiou maintains blanket denial in face of new Serb cash claimsBy Jean Christou
CENTRAL Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou yesterday categorically denied reports in The Guardian newspaper that Cyprus had refused to had over customs documents to investigators attempting to track down the Milosevic millions.
He also denied that investigators from the Hague War Crimes Tribunal had been working covertly at the Central Bank in Nicosia for the past year.
The Guardian said yesterday that every time someone took Serbian cash to Cyprus, they had to fill in a Cypriot customs slip, which was then lodged with the Central Bank.
"The customs slips would be very interesting," a western diplomat in Belgrade told the newspaper. "Some people at the Cyprus Central Bank want to co-operate but they are being stopped by people higher up." The paper said Cyprus has refused to hand over the customs slips to Serb investigators.
It also said that The Hague Tribunal had had a small team of financial detectives working confidentially at the Central Bank for the past year
"There are no investigators here from the War Crimes Tribunal," Afxentiou said yesterday, commenting on the Guardian report.
Cyprus recently handed over 25 crates of documents to the Tribunal's chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte, who visited the island last October and asked the government to freeze a number of offshore bank accounts.
"Should they request further details, we are ready to give them to them," Afxentiou said yesterday. "We have a commitment, and we will gladly help the international court to show that we do not, in my estimation, have any wrongdoing in Cyprus."
Yugoslav Central Bank Governor Mladjan Dinkic came to Cyprus earlier this month and gave the government information on a number of bank accounts.
Dinkic told reporters that he had evidence of illegal activities in which Cyprus was used by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his associates to transfer money -- an estimated $4 billion -- out of Yugoslavia during the 1990s.
But Afxentiou yesterday denied that Dinkic had given specific information.
"Mr Dinkic has not given any evidence until now," he said. "He is possibly gathering it to be sent on later."
The Guardian, in its three-part investigation, said Cyprus was the hub of an intricate money system allegedly masterminded by Borka Vucic, 73, who spent nine years on the island as the head of Serbia's biggest bank Beogradska. The offshore unit was closed down last year by the Central Bank, citing insolvency.
Speaking to The Guardian in Belgrade, Vucic admitted handling a vast surreptitious exercise in cash dispersal. "I am not authorised to say how much," she said. "A lot of people were taking money in to Cyprus. There were other people on airplanes carrying the money."
The Yugoslav airline JAT was allegedly required to act as a courier for the shipment of large volumes of US dollars and German marks, in cash in bags and suitcases from Serbia to Cyprus, from where it was taken to Beirut, also in cash, or transferred to Switzerland and other countries using accounts at local banks, Serbian and international sources told The Guardian.
JAT's general director, Zika Petrovic, was shot dead outside his Belgrade home in May 1999, allegedly because he knew too much about how the regime used his airline to ship the cash.
The paper said the elaborate operation was centred in Cyprus because of its banking secrecy, offshore companies culture and the sympathy of Greek Cypriots for the plight of their fellow Orthodox Serbs.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 More gypsies cross from the northBy Martin Hellicar
ANOTHER 16 Turkish Cypriots crossed over from the occupied areas yesterday, raising to 65 the number of "fugitives" from the north arriving this month.
Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said the Turkish Cypriots, whom he described as gypsies, would, like those who arrived earlier this month, be granted their request that they be settled in the Paphos area. He also said Cyprus had no choice but to accept the arrivals if it wanted to maintain a good reputation abroad.
"I have already contacted the Paphos District officer and told him to make arrangements for them to be settled in former Turkish Cypriot villages in his district, where we have repaired houses for them," the minister said.
"This is a very sensitive and delicate issue," Christodoulou added. "We are the legal state on the island and as these people are Cypriot citizens we cannot appear to the outside world not to be treating them as Cypriot citizens."
He said the gypsy arrivals proved the occupation regime had made the north an impossible place to live: "Not even gypsies, who make do on a minimum, can manage to live in the pseudostate."
But Christodoulou also suggested the ease with which the gypsy families had crossed over from the north suggested the occupation regime was encouraging them to leave. He said the government could not block these crossings, because the fugitives were Cypriots.
The 16 fresh arrivals, consisting of five families with a total of six children, crossed over in the Astromeritis area, west of Nicosia. This is the same area used by the other three groups of Turkish Cypriots to have come over this month.
The five Turkish Cypriot families said they had encountered no problems in crossing south from the Morphou area.
They were taken to Paphos, arriving around midday yesterday. The 16 reportedly told police that they had lived in Limassol before 1974 but now wanted to live in the Paphos area because they had relatives in the area and had heard that jobs were easier to find there.
The Turkish Cypriot families were later taken to the Paphos Welfare department, where they were promised financial support to see them through till they found work.
They were then moved to their new homes in an undisclosed location. Such Turkish Cypriot "fugitives" are not always popular with Greek Cypriots. Some sections of the media have even suggested the arrivals from the north are part of a Turkish plan to destabilise the government-controlled areas. The government has been quick to dismiss such reporting as alarmist.
Previous arrivals from the north have been housed in Mouttalos, the former Turkish quarter of Paphos town, now inhabited mostly by Greek Cypriot refugees. Others have been housed in remote Turkish Cypriot villages in the Troodos foothills east of Paphos.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Coastguard wards off boat peopleBy a Staff Reporter
A BOAT carrying 14 suspected illegal immigrants was headed off by a coastguard launch as it approached Cape Greco on Wednesday night, police reported yesterday.
This was the second successful interception of a boatload of illegal immigrants in just over 24 hours. Another vessel, carrying five immigrants, was steered away from Cape Greco on Tuesday night, police said.
At around 11 pm on Wednesday, a boat, which police believe had set off from a Syrian port, was intercepted two nautical miles off of the island's south eastern tip. Police said the captain turned the suspect vessel back after being intercepted by the coastguard.
The incident on Tuesday night was similar, except that a boat carrying five suspected illegal immigrants almost reached the cape before it was turned back and escorted out of Cyprus territorial waters by the coastguard.
Illegal immigrants, or boat people, have become an increasing headache for the government in recent months. Police have upped coastal patrols in a bid to stop unwanted immigrants coming ashore and there are plans to buy a radar system to help guard the beaches.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Zavos tells US Congress he will clone a humanBy Jean Christou
CYPRIOT fertility expert Panayiotis Zavos has told the American House Energy and Commerce Committee that he intends to forge ahead with his plan to clone a human being.
According to reports from Washington, several members of the House believe Congress should outlaw human cloning, which is not currently banned in the US.
But despite the criticism, Zavos, who was in Cyprus early this month for talks with health officials, told the Committee he planned to go ahead with the project to clone a human baby on a Mediterranean island, which was beyond the reach of US law. He refused to name the island.
Cyprus has no genetics legislation in place, and speculation was rife during Zavos' visit that the island was the Mediterranean country in question. However, a day after he left, the Cabinet approved the appointment of a committee to look into the drafting of genetics legislation.
Attorney-general Alecos Markides and Health Minister Frixos Savvides have made it clear Cyprus cannot go against a Council of Europe protocol banning human cloning, even for fertility purposes, which the government has signed and must ratify.
Markides also warned that allowing the island to be used in any cloning experiments until such time as legislation was in place would be "unwise".
The US joined the human cloning debate after scientists recently warned it would produce abnormal babies.
According to scientific evidence, most cloned animals are so deformed they die shortly after birth. Rudolf Jaenisch, one of the creators of Dolly, the famous cloned sheep, said it took 276 failed attempts before producing the sheep. And he said that four years down the line, Dolly was overweight and might have other problems. "There is probably not a normal clone around," he said.
Chairman of the subcommittee Jim Greenwood said the disturbing evidence of the defects and deformities should serve as a "stark warning".
Zavos` team plans to use the same technique used to clone Dolly, and the Cypriot specialist admitted to the Committee there was a high rate of deformity among cloned animals.
"This consortium will not step on dead bodies and deformed babies to get this accomplished," he said. "Producing developmentally abnormal children is clearly not ethically acceptable."
He said his team would be able to test embryos for defects before implanting them in a woman's womb, but other researchers have said that would be impossible.
The White House says that President George W Bush is opposed to human cloning and is willing to work on legislation to ban it
After the hearing, Zavos told reporters that 700 couples had offered to take part in his experiments. He said this would be narrowed down to 10 couples.
Congress also has to contend with a second group, which plans to clone humans within the US. A sect calling itself the Raelians, who believe in aliens, say cloning is the path to eternal life.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 £1.02 billion overdrawn from co-ops in 1998By Melina Demetriou
AN INVESTIGATION of the Co-operative Banks' Watchdog Service into the activities of the 365 co-operative companies in 1998 identified a total of £1.02 billion in overdrafts from 293 banks.
The Service yesterday announced the stark results of its investigation to the House Watchdog Committee.
The Service's chairman, Chrystalla Yiorkadji, charged "there were many cases of suspicious delays in paying back unjustifiably big amounts of overdrawn money."
She said one co-operative's committee had been asked to resign after a huge amount of money was found missing from the bank.
The case was under Police investigation, she said.
Deputies accused the Service of allowing things to get out of control.
The co-operative movement's commissioner, Erotocritos Chlorakiotis, said "co-operatives committee members inappropriate for the job" were behind the irregularities.
Meanwhile, a two-member committee appointed by the Cabinet yesterday kicked off an investigation into alleged irregularities at a Paphos co-op chaired by DIKO First Vice Chairman Nicos Pittokopitis.
On Saturday, it emerged that Pittokopitis was one of five DIKO members who took out a loan for £25,000 from the Paphos Greek Co-operative Bank in 1994, and who had not paid a cent in repayment instalments since. Pittokopitis chairs the committee of the co-operative. The loan is now understood to stand at £39,000.
The allegations against Pittokopitis first emerged earlier this month in a leaked report drafted by the co-operative movement's audit service. The report said Pittokopitis had exceeded his overdraft limit of £30,000 by £63, 000.
Pittokopitis admitted borrowing £93,000 from the bank, but insisted he had repaid the loan. But last Friday, Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis, whose ministry oversees the co-operative movement, revealed before the House Watchdog Committee that the cabinet was investigating allegations the money had not yet been paid back.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Limassol junior schools protest against foundryBy Athena Karsera
ALL LIMASSOL'S elementary schools and state kindergartens yesterday held a one-hour work stoppage in support of one school's protest against a nearby foundry.
Omonoia and Zakaki residents have continuously complained about toxin pollutants from the Nemitsas foundry. They claim respiratory problems and learning difficulties in children have been caused by the foundry emissions and that modifications forced on the foundry have either not been implemented or not had effect.
Pupils wearing gasmasks and carrying placards and their parents and teachers from the Eighth Elementary School in Omonoia yesterday held a demonstration against the foundry's continuing operation.
While the event was widely attended by deputies and parliamentary candidates coming out in support for residents, a Labour Ministry official insisted the foundry was no longer a threat to public health.
Tests to determine whether there is link between foundry emissions and health complaints among local residents began in late February after months of delays in awarding the contract.
The UK-based team carrying out the tests is the same that last year forced the closure of Nicosia's Ergates foundry, after tests showed lethal toxin levels well over World Health Organisation danger levels.
Health Minister Frixos Savvides has promised the same fate for the Nemitsas foundry if tests prove that the factory damages the health of local residents.
But the Head of the Labour Ministry's Inspection Department, George Sideras, yesterday said that test results so far had indicated the foundry's current emissions were not a problem.
"During the initial period in October and November 1999, they were found to have been above the limit and were taken to court. Since then, things have changed and from the start of this year, when new directives were enforced of emissions of no more than 50 milligrams of emission pollutants per cubic metre, tests have shown that Nemitsas emits only approximately 10 milligrams per cubic metre, one fifth of that amount."
The Nemitsas foundry was forced to fit filters on its chimneys to cut down the emission pollutants from 300 milligrams per cubic metre to the European Union maximum of 50 milligrams by January 1 this year.
The Labour Ministry is responsible for ensuring that the foundry sticks to the EU levels, while the Health Ministry has pledged that its scientific tests would also be keeping a close eye on the emissions to rule out any question of bias. Former Minister of Commerce Takis Nemitsas owns the foundry.
Local resident Bernadette Charalambous said yesterday that conditions in the area had changed very little.
"The smoke may be less visible from the smoke stacks but the smell is as bad as ever."
Charalambous, who is raising four children in the area, said that while the two largest smoke stacks had been dismantled, emissions were still being let out elsewhere, and "children still have respiratory problems".
My youngest child, who is three and a half, has respiratory problems, which, if not caused by the emissions have at least been contributed to by them. He also has a language development disorder. I don't know what tests they are carrying out, but if they looked at the statistics of illnesses in the area I'm sure something would be found."
Addressing the protest yesterday, Limassol Mayor Demetris Kontides said the Municipal Council had unanimously decided that the foundry should be moved.
House Education Committee president DISY deputy Sophocles Hadjiyiannis told the crowd that parliament would do everything in its power to solve the problem. "Anyone living, working and being educated here should be able to do so without being in danger."
Also expressing their support were deputies Yiannakis Thomas of AKEL, Stelios Stylianou of DISY, DIKO's Marios Matsakis and the United Democrats' George Christofides. Parliamentary candidates from DIKO, KISOS, New Horizons and the Ecological Movement also attended the demonstration.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 State ordered to pay massive compensation to accident victimBy Noah Haglund
THE LARNACA District Court has awarded damages of £334,000 to a man who suffered crippling head injuries in a 1991 accident caused by a Public Works Department vehicle.
Jack Ricardo Lambrou, a Cypriot of South African nationality, suffered injuries that his lawyer yesterday qualified as "severe brain damage" and which have prevented him from returning to work and having a normal life.
This damage settlement imposed on the state is one of the highest ever in Cyprus and is in line with amounts expected from similar cases in Europe, Lambrou's lawyer, George A. Georgiou, told the Cyprus Mail.
On December 6, 1993 Lambrou, who was then 17 years old, was driving his motorcycle from Larnaca Castle to the airport near the old fishing port when a Public Works Department car suddenly appeared and hit his bike.
Larnaca District Court determined on Wednesday that the driver of the Public Works car was one hundred per cent responsible for the accident that caused the young man's debilitating injuries.
Georgiou said he believed the decision would set a precedent in Cyprus: "I would say in the end the case was decided in the same way, nothing less, than would be decided in Europe or America. this is my satisfaction, not just that I won a case."
The trial began in 1995 and medical testimony was completed in 1998, but the unusually high settlement was delayed until this week because it was unclear what the permanent consequences of Lambrou's injuries would be.
Although the multiple fractures he suffered in the accident have long since healed and he can now walk normally, he has never fully recovered from the head injuries.
Lambrou was studying at the Hotel Management Institute in Nicosia at the time of the accident.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 M&S closures will not affect CyprusBy a Staff Reporter
MARKS and Spencer's in Nicosia said yesterday it would not be affected by the British retail giant's layoffs in Europe.
"This has nothing to do with Cyprus," said Artemis Antoniadou, managing director of Voici la Mode, the M&S franchise on the island. "The franchises will not be affected," she said.
M&S announced yesterday it would be cutting 4,390 jobs, most of them in Europe as part of a radical restructuring of its business.
The chain, which has seen sales nosedive, is closing subsidiaries in mainland Europe and shutting its direct catalogue business.
M&S chairman Luc Vandevelde told reporters in the UK the moves were not a panic measure. "Two thirds of our stores in the UK will be refurbished within two years. It (M&S) will be very different. It will be a company completely focused on its customers in the UK," he said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001