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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-03-31

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Saturday, March 31, 2001


  • [01] Pittokopitis under fire from party colleagues in Paphos
  • [02] Poll gives AKEL strong lead
  • [03] Parties fight over student vote plan
  • [04] Amendments water down road camera plan
  • [05] Government seeks ways to cut road deaths among young people
  • [06] Police seek Athinis extradition from Poland
  • [07] Intercollege drums up overseas support to back medical school plan
  • [08] Parents and officials discuss school security
  • [09] AKEL fury at being described as Stalinist

  • [01] Pittokopitis under fire from party colleagues in Paphos

    By Martin Hellicar

    EMBATTLED DIKO deputy Nicos Pittokopitis was yesterday attacked 'from within', with two would-be DIKO deputies urging the party to distance itself from a loans scandal involving Pittokopitis.

    A state-appointed probe committee is currently looking into claims that Paphos deputy Pittokopitis abused his position as chairman of the Paphos co- operative bank by exceeding his overdraft and failing to repay a series of loans. Pittokopitis, who is first DIKO vice-president, insists his actions constituted nothing worse than a "breach of etiquette".

    With the May parliamentary elections just round the corner, the Pittokopitis scandal has embarrassed DIKO. Things got worse for the centre- right party when the Pittokopitis revelations were followed by disclosures about DIKO itself failing to repay loans granted by the same Paphos co-op bank.

    Yesterday, two DIKO parliamentary candidates from Paphos said it was time the party made clear it had nothing to do with the Pittokopitis affair.

    "We have to separate the loans of the DIKO party from the personal actions of Mr Pittokopitis," said DIKO hopeful Savvas Vergas. "The DIKO loans are one thing and Mr Pittokopitis' loans quite another," added fellow candidate Panicos Kourides.

    "The DIKO loans were taken out entirely legally and the delayed repayments will begin to be paid back stage-by-stage," Kourides added, taking a swipe at Pittokopitis.

    "If I was chairman of the savings bank I would resign from my post," he added. Vergas said he would never have allowed himself to get into the predicament Pittokopitis was in.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] Poll gives AKEL strong lead

    By Martin Hellicar

    LEFT-WING opposition party AKEL are set to win the May parliamentary elections hands-down, according to an opinion poll commissioned by state broadcaster CyBC.

    The poll, carried out earlier this month, suggested AKEL would win 30.2 per cent of the vote come May 27, with governing DISY trailing with a disappointing 24.5 per cent. In the last parliamentary elections, in 1996, DISY secured 34.5 per cent of the vote and AKEL 33 per cent.

    While a major blow to DISY, the survey also makes disappointing reading for centre-right DIKO and Socialists KISOS.

    The poll gave DIKO 12.5 per cent and KISOS 4.9 per cent. The two parties won 16.4 and 8.1 per cent of the vote respectively in 1996.

    The United Democrats are also down compared to 1996, securing only 2.6 per cent compared to 3.7 per cent in the last real elections.

    Some 10 per cent of the 1,200 people questioned for the survey were still undecided, so the established parties should get slightly higher percentages come May. Voting is compulsory in Cyprus.

    The poll makes for happy reading for the Green party and the New Horizons party.

    The Green party, which won only one per cent of the vote in 1996, is predicted to get 1.9 per cent in May.

    The poll suggests right-wing party New Horizons, who did not run in 1996, will get a respectable 2.3 per cent of the vote come May. This suggests both parties will make their debuts in parliament after the next elections. The threshold for representation in parliament is 1.8 per cent.

    The survey also suggested that some 61 per cent of the electorate were either only slightly or not at all interested in the May elections.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] Parties fight over student vote plan

    By Jennie Matthew

    THE 10,000 Cypriots who study abroad were the focus of the latest electioneering wrangles as the political parties yesterday scrapped over whether or not to set up election booths in foreign countries.

    Ruling DISY is the only party to support the idea of erecting polling centres in Britain, France, Germany and Greece so that students can cast their vote away from home in May.

    Over 5,000 Cypriots study in Greece, over 3,000 in Britain, about 1,000 in the US and another 1,000 scattered throughout the rest of Europe and Australia.

    In previous elections, parties paid for their student faithful to fly back to Cyprus and cast their votes.

    DISY deputy, Christos Pourgourides, suggested the idea in an effort to give students an opportunity to vote more conveniently and at less expense.

    Opinion polls suggest that the majority of students studying abroad would vote DISY.

    Although the Ministry of Interior backs the venture, the logistics of setting up polling stations in foreign countries and arranging for students to cast their vote, have less than two months to be sorted out before the elections.

    DISY has come under fire for not including Cypriot expats in the plan.

    AKEL parliamentary spokesman Andreas Christou said student-only polling stations would be an unfair disadvantage to overseas workers.

    KISOS deputy Doros Theodorou and United Democrats vice-president George Christofides complained about unequal treatment and questioned whether it was constitutional to discriminate in this way.

    Acting DIKO president Nicos Cleanthous branded the proposal "illogical" and the Interior Ministry's change of mind on the matter as "miraculous".

    The Interior Ministry were initially opposed to the proposal. AKEL added that presidential involvement in the matter could only reflect inside interests.

    DISY denied that there was any discrimination between overseas workers and students, citing the difficulty of calculating the exact number of expat Cypriots, and the ease of rounding up students to draw up electoral rolls.

    Pourgourides accused the opposition parties of abusing democracy and logic, by putting forward non-existent arguments.

    He said the parties were unwilling to co-operate because they knew that 50 per cent of students overseas would vote for DISY.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Amendments water down road camera plan

    By Athena Karsera

    DRIVERS around Nicosia yesterday questioned the effectiveness of a new law allowing cameras to photograph drivers committing traffic offences, after deputies ruled police would have to put up signs warning of the cameras' presence.

    Police say the cameras will significantly reduce offences such as speeding, but amendments to the bill, which was passed on Thursday, have caused some drivers to wonder whether the measures still have any teeth.

    The amendments include warning signs being put up two to five kilometres before the camera.

    In another change, offenders will be subpoenaed in person and not through the post, in response to fears that cameras could violate people's privacy by capturing illicit affairs at the wheel. These fears have also led to provisions for photos to be electronically altered to show only the driver.

    But one driver, 29-year-old Vassos Yiazos, said yesterday he believed the system would only be effective in slowing people down for a few kilometres: "It's like when people flash their headlights to tell you there are police ahead, you slow down. When you get past, most people just speed up again."

    A female driver meanwhile told the Cyprus Mail she thought blacking out the passenger side of the vehicle was ridiculous: "Who knows why people cheat on their partners but if they are going to sneak around, why not just be careful not to break the law."

    The speed camera system, already widely employed overseas, captures drivers speeding past specific points, going through red lights or performing other traffic violations such as not wearing a seatbelt.

    Tickets and a photograph of the car committing the offence will be given to its owner within 45 days and the offender is then given the choice of paying a fine or taking the matter to court.

    The new system will only be introduced in 2002, since this year's budget has not provided for the expense.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] Government seeks ways to cut road deaths among young people

    By Athena Karsera

    ONE IN every two people killed on the roads is under the age of 40, eight out of ten of them were not wearing seat belts and half of all fatal accidents are caused by speed.

    These stark statistics are spurring the government to redouble its efforts in targeting schools and army camps in an education campaign aimed at cutting down on the carnage.

    "One out of every two people dying on the road is under the age of 40. Over the first three months of 2001 we have lost five compatriots, five acquaintances, five friends under the age of 22," Said Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou.

    According to the most recent police statistics, there have been 21 fatal accidents so far this year, resulting in the deaths of 22 people.

    Eighty per cent of those who died had not been wearing seat belts and about half of fatal accidents were caused by speeding, police confirmed.

    One national guardsman yesterday told the Cyprus Mail he wished the campaign, which began this year, had been introduced sooner.

    George Hadjigregoriou, 19, from Paphos and now serving in the National Guard in Limassol had a narrow escape in a traffic accident early last year. His camp has not yet been included in the campaign.

    "I was in a car with a friend of mine from the army when we were both on leave. We went out and had a few drinks and my friend was driving me home when we went round a roundabout too fast and crashed into some parked cars on the side of the road," he said.

    Hadjigregoriou added his friend had been wearing a safety belt, but he had not. "I didn't think about it at the time. I hit my head a bit but was very lucky. Things could have been much worse."

    He said he knew of many soldiers who drove straight back to camp after a night out. "We have all heard about people getting involved in accidents after something like this. Maybe if we are told as part of a class more information will sink in."

    A high-school teacher, meanwhile, also welcomed the initiative.

    The teacher told the Cyprus Mail that most young people saw themselves as invincible. "They may see accidents on the news every day but never think it can happen to them."

    The teacher also blamed parents for giving their children fast cars as soon as they received their licences.

    "I'm not an expert of course but if you give a new driver a sports car it seems like you are just asking for trouble. I often hear my students talking about their cars and how fast they went over the weekend. An inexperienced driver may not even realise how fast they are going in a car that is designed especially for this purpose."

    Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides said 160 teachers had been trained and were going round all the schools and army camps with the goal of completing all initial visits by the end of 2001.

    The classes at schools take place between 10 and 12 times a year.

    Ioannides said that textbooks on the subject had been handed out to all the pupils and that a CD ROM had been prepared in collaboration with a petrol company so that pupils could also learn through working on the computer.

    The minister said a road safety park was also being set up in Nicosia in co- operation with the police. "We believe that this programme will begin in the next few months and that all school age children will have the opportunity to visit and learn to deal with situations they could come up against on the road."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Police seek Athinis extradition from Poland

    By a Staff Reporter

    CYPRUS police have asked for the extradition of Cabaret owner Sotiris Athinis, who was arrested in Poland on Thursday by the local Interpol bureau.

    The 47-year-old from the village of Kilani has been wanted by Cyprus police since last February in connection with an attempt to destroy property, illegal possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony.

    Athinis made the headlines in late 1999, amid spiralling gangland violence in Limassol. In December of that year, he was brought to trial on charges of conspiracy to murder Hambis Aeroporos. But the charges were dropped after the Supreme Court ruled key evidence against Athinis and his sister was inadmissible.

    Two months earlier, while still on trial, Athinis survived an anti-tank missile attack outside his Limassol cabaret.

    Police sources said the Nicosia Interpol bureau was in constant contact with the Polish bureau, but that the extradition date had not yet been fixed.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] Intercollege drums up overseas support to back medical school plan

    By Jennie Matthew

    INTERCOLLEGE is negotiating a series of agreements with universities around the world in order to convince the government to approve its plans for a private medical school.

    The Dean of the medical school of the University of Cincinnati, John Hutton, began a four-day visit to Cyprus yesterday to lend support to Intercollege's efforts to start teaching clinical medicine in the 3.5 million building, completed in October 1999.

    Intercollege signed an agreement with Cincinnati less than a year ago, in which Cincinnati has promised to help develop teaching programmes for the proposed medical school in Nicosia.

    The Education Ministry has still not replied to a licence application, submitted nearly four years ago.

    The law stipulates that a reply should have been given within 75 days.

    The first pre-med students, who graduated from Intercollege in June, were forced to leave Cyprus to continue their studies elsewhere.

    They have all had their pre-clinic studies recognised by the institutions they have moved on to.

    "If they [the government] have a real intention of making Cyprus into an educational centre, they've got to realise that we are already centuries behind other countries, so we've got to run with the speed of light if we are to catch up, let alone overtake, because to become an international centre our facilities have to be so good as to be better. We can't walk with the pace of a tortoise and expect to win a marathon," the dean of Intercollege, Nicos Peristianis told the Cyprus Mail.

    Cincinnati is one of several universities in the US, Canada and Israel that Intercollege has approached for help in formulating their curriculum.

    Although Intercollege is also keen to team up with UK establishments, the North American model of small-intake medical schools for students who have already completed an undergraduate degree is not subscribed to in Europe.

    The Cyprus Medical Association supports the medical school plan and the state-run Cyprus University does not see Intercollege's English-language medical school as a threat to its plans for a Greek-language equivalent.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] Parents and officials discuss school security

    By a Staff Reporter

    A MEETING was held yesterday between parents associations, police officials and the Minister of Education to discuss the recent spate of explosions at high-school premises in Limassol and Nicosia.

    On Tuesday a bomb went off in the lavatories of the Polemidhia secondary school in Limassol. Police later arrested two students, aged 17 and 14. The 17-year old was on Thursday charged and is set to appear before court. His younger companion was questioned and later released.

    This was followed by another near-incident at a Paphos primary school, where students found an explosive device that had been primed but malfunctioned.

    On Thursday a 40-year-old man from Limassol was remanded in custody for two days on suspicion of supplying his 14-year old son with firecrackers, which the boy later sold to classmates.

    Use of firecrackers becomes widespread as the Easter season draws closer. Police have also had to deal with a series of hoax bomb threats against schools over the past week. On Wednesday, a 16-year old student was caught in the act of making a bomb threat call from a phone booth. His success in disrupting classes triggered a string of copycat hoaxes in Limassol on Thursday, when police received at least three bomb threat calls.

    During yesterday's meeting at the Ministry of Education, representatives of parents associations asked for the implementation of greater security measures on school premises.

    Persons found to have caused material damage through the use of explosive materials are liable, on conviction, to up to 14 years imprisonment, although such harsh sentences are rarely passed.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [09] AKEL fury at being described as Stalinist

    By Jean Christou

    POLITICAL parties flew into a rage yesterday over a document circulated at a conference of European right-wing parties in Nicosia, and blamed ruling DISY for the insulting comments directed against them.

    The document, a profile on Cyprus, which was circulated at the two-day session of the European People's Party - European Democrats (EPP-ED) Group Bureau, directed several unflattering comments at island's other political parties and at the Church.

    Left-wing AKEL was portrayed as a "typical Stalinist communist party that resisted the lure of Euro communism until 1988", while socialist KIKOS was described as a "fringe of intellectual radicals whose positions are quite extreme and often contradictory."

    Right-wing non-parliamentary party New Horizon was described as extremist and the Church portrayed as wealthy with "well paid and quite enterprising" clergy.

    But ruling right-wing DISY, which is an associate member of the EPP, and centre-right DIKO escaped the criticism. DISY is said to stand for a market economy and represented the "middle and entrepreneurial classes".

    AKEL held a news conference yesterday to slam DISY over the document.

    Party spokesman Nicos Katsourides said the information was "inaccurate, insulting and demeaning" and said the information could only have been passed on to the EPP by DISY.

    "The largest responsibility belongs to the leadership of DISY, which it seems does not only pass on information on the Cyprus problem and Cyprus' EU accession but also seems to be giving others kinds of information to foreigners," Katsourides said. "If the left-wing European parties issued a document that made unacceptable remarks about DISY, the blame wouldn't go anywhere else except to AKEL."

    KISOS and New Horizons also issued statements calling the content of the document insulting, but DISY spokesman Tassos Mitsopoulos said he did not know what all the fuss was about.

    "First of all it's not a document," he said adding that it should be classed as a non-paper. "Beyond this, if we all want to enter into a state of collective masochism and underline the importance of a non-paper then I'm very sad because we have lost track of what's important," he said.

    "Of course the easiest solution within the small party approach is to blame everything on DISY. I didn't expect anything else."

    Mitsopoulos said the author of the 'non-paper' was a younger member of the EPP who had gleaned his information from the Internet, and that perhaps Cypriots should sometimes try to see themselves as others saw them.

    "It is not realistically possible for foreigners to have the same opinion of us as we have of ourselves," he said. "These reports are prepared wherever they have a conference. There is no political importance attached to it."

    Speaking after a meeting with President Glafcos Clerides yesterday EPP-ED Chairman Hans-Gert Pottering said the document was just a paper used for information. Asked by reporters where they information came from, he said it was from DISY officials. "It was just some information and not a document," he said adding that many such papers were issued within the EU.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

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