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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-06-29

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

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


Friday, June 29, 2001

CONTENTS

  • [01] Will the voters turn out if they don't have to?
  • [02] Government reconsiders moves to open Turkish Cypriot graves after Denktash's refusal to co-operate
  • [03] Airport transit buses could be operational by Monday
  • [04] Ministry says pesticide fears exaggerated
  • [05] Parliament approves witness protection scheme
  • [06] Defence Ministry to call up conscientious objectors
  • [07] DISY moves to dispel rumours of discontent
  • [08] Support group threatens legal moves over maid's deportation
  • [09] 98-year-old marries his carer of 45

  • [01] Will the voters turn out if they don't have to?

    By Jennie Matthew

    COMMENTATORS and politicians said yesterday that the abolition of compulsory voting was unlikely to erode political activism and herald a new era of low turnout on polling day.

    Genuine interest in politics fuelled by the continuing Cyprus problem was cited as the main reason for things staying as they were.

    Chief election officer George Theodorou on Wednesday said there were plans to end compulsory voting by 2004.

    Failure to vote is at present punishable by a court trial and a fine of up to 200.

    In this year's parliamentary elections, 9.5 per cent of the electorate abstained from casting their ballot, whereas in June's British general election, 40 per cent of those registered to vote failed to turn up.

    The decision to make voting voluntary is part of a wider electoral reform package that must be implemented before Cyprus becomes a full member of the European Union.

    Although the EU does not object to compulsory voting, Theodorou told the parliamentary refugee committee that Cyprus would follow "the European trend" of voluntary ballot casting.

    What EU harmonisation insists on, however, is that permanent residents from EU member states must be allowed to vote in municipal and European Parliament elections.

    Theodorou was yesterday unavailable for comment.

    But politicians and academics yesterday welcomed the move.

    "It's a very wise decision. This is a weakness in our democracy and you can't use undemocratic means to promote democracy," said sociologist and executive dean of Intercollege Nicos Peristianis.

    But he disagreed with social commentator Sofronis Sofroniou over the speed and extent to which Cyprus would catch up with politically detached societies in Britain and the United States.

    "Many feel they have to vote and when they're not forced, a large percentage won't vote," said Peristianis.

    But he agreed with Sofroniou that the lingering Cyprus problem would keep turnout relatively high for some time to come.

    "Cypriots still fell very crucial matters are debated in public, life or death issues and they want to make their voice heard," he said.

    But Sofroniou put greater emphasis on the grip political parties have on society as a means of forestalling apathy still longer.

    Besides, he insists non-attendance has nothing to do with voter apathy.

    "The number zero is not nothing. It's very significant. Not voting can be significant," he said.

    Peristianis predicts that once the Cyprus problem is resolved and policy hinges on making more marginal differences to people's lives, turnout will tumble in line with older democracies elsewhere in Europe.

    Much of the future lies with the younger generation, who are far more politically indifferent, if not apathetic than their parents.

    Although some journalists yesterday predicted that the larger parties, DISY and AKEL might suffer dramatic loss of support, others pointed towards a possible battering for smaller parties.

    "Votes for small parties are seen as protest votes. I'm not sure whether the protest vote is so articulate. Those protestors might not turn up at all. A lot of it is uneasiness or unhappiness," said one.

    The first-ever Green Party deputy George Perdikis said the issue had nothing to do with politics.

    "I don't think it'll be a problem for big parties. This decision is not political. It's the modern approach, giving people the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. It's not a duty," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] Government reconsiders moves to open Turkish Cypriot graves after Denktash's refusal to co-operate

    By Jean Christou

    THE GOVERNMENT is reconsidering plans to open up mass graves believed to hold the remains of Turkish Cypriot missing persons, following the refusal of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to co-operate.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday that the original announcement had been made "in the hope that the Turkish Cypriot side would respond to it."

    "We now have before us statements by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash that Turkish Cypriots will not give blood to Greek Cypriots, something that precludes any co-operation on their part," Papapetrou said.

    He said the government would have to rethink its strategy on the matter

    before it made any further move.

    Papapetrou called on Denktash to honour a pledge made during a UN-brokered agreement in July 1997, which called for the exchange of information on the location of graves, the exhumation of remains and the return of remains to the families concerned.

    Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides announced last week that the government intended to exhume remains from specific areas of the Republic where it is believed the remains of Turkish Cypriot missing are buried.

    He called on relatives of Turkish Cypriot missing persons to come forward and give blood to help scientists in their efforts to identify remains through DNA methods.

    The government has already exhumed remains in two cemeteries in Nicosia in an effort to identify Greek Cypriots buried in unmarked graves during the Turkish invasion in 1974.

    So far, the remains of 108 persons have been identified: 26 of them belong to persons listed as missing, 76 are military personnel and six civilians.

    The exhumations are being carried out by forensic experts from Physicians for Human Rights, led by Dr William Haglund, in conjunction with a team of scientists from the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] Airport transit buses could be operational by Monday

    By Jean Christou

    CIVIL Aviation authorities have decided to hire their own drivers in an attempt to resolve a dispute over the transfer of transit passengers to the departure area at Larnaca Airport.

    Workers at the airport had refused to hand over an airport bus to a Cyprus Airways (CY) driver to transfer the passengers from the controversial transit lounge and twice staged a work stoppage in protest.

    "The airport workers reacted to the Cyprus Airways driver," Vassos Pyrgos, permanent secretary of the Communications and Works Ministry said yesterday. "The union members consider it to be their job."

    Pyrgos said the only solution to the long-running saga was to hire new airport drivers and said his Ministry had already requested approval from the Finance Ministry for four new drivers.

    "We are expecting the final word tomorrow," he said. "If it comes, then by Monday we could have the bus up and running."

    Last month, France's biggest Middle Eastern tour agency threatened to break its contract with CY over the treatment of transit passengers, who were being herded into a former luggage room with no windows, no air conditioning and no toilets to await onward flights to the Middle East.

    After years of protesting to the Communications and Works Ministry, CY was last month promised a bus to transfer the beleaguered passengers, and went ahead with the employment of a driver, which led to the dispute by airport staff.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Ministry says pesticide fears exaggerated

    By Martin Hellicar

    RECENT reports about high pesticide levels in local farm produce had blown the problem out of all proportion by misinterpreting official figures, the Agriculture Ministry's pesticides expert said yesterday.

    "Generally speaking, the situation concerning pesticides is satisfactory," said Dr Antonis Constantinou, head of the Agriculture Ministry's pesticides advisory board.

    Politis newspaper caused a stir earlier this week by reporting that state lab tests carried out last year had found that 15 per cent of locally grown fruit and vegetables contained traces of two to five pesticides.

    Constantinou said the lab report had actually stated that only one per cent of local fruit and vegetables contained pesticide residues higher than permitted under Cypriot law.

    The 15 per cent figure quoted by Politis, Constantinou said at a news conference, referred to the number of samples which tested positive for pesticides which contained traces of two to five chemicals.

    The Ministry man said the overall level of pesticide contamination detected in all types of local produce last year was 3.5 per cent. He did admit, however, that if EU rather than Cyprus standards were used, than 11 per cent of local produce exceeded acceptable pesticide residue levels.

    But Constantinou said the fact that a fruit or vegetable contained pesticide levels defined as high by law did not mean it was dangerous to eat. He said the safe pesticide residue levels set by law were not definitions of toxicity but rather designed to encourage good practice among farmers.

    Reports about carcinogenic pesticide residues were also misleading, Constantinou said, arguing that there were "divergent views" on the issue amongst scientists. Politis said 14 per cent of local produce contained pesticides classified as carcinogens.

    The expert also said the state lab focused its sampling programme on produce known to be prone to accumulating pesticides and was thus more likely to detect high levels.

    The Ministry carried out regular checks and inspections to ensure pesticide use was controlled and the overall situation was "satisfactory", Constantinou said. But he also acknowledged that pesticide use was a "necessary evil" rather than desirable and noted that the Ministry was working on introducing an incentive programme to encourage organic farming.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] Parliament approves witness protection scheme

    By a Staff reporter

    PARLIAMENT yesterday approved a law establishing a witness protection programme and rubber-stamped the extension of the automatic adjustment system for petrol pump prices till October.

    The House of Representatives plenum approved both bills unanimously and without debate during a brief afternoon session.

    The witness protection legislation provides for the establishment of a programme ensuring the physical protection of those testifying in court or otherwise co-operating with police in serious crime cases. The law is part of the island's EU harmonisation effort and aims in particular at helping the fight against organised crime.

    The new automatic pump price adjusting mechanism approved by parliament last year was extended till October. The mechanism allows for prices for petrol, diesel and kerosene to change each month in keeping with fluctuations in the price of crude oil and the exchange rate for the Cyprus pound against the US dollar.

    Deputies also approved a law allowing for reduced import tariffs on certain fruits, fruit juices, powdered milk, chocolate, beans and olive oil. The relevant bill was approved by all deputies except Green party member George Perdikis, who abstained from the vote, saying the reduced tariffs hit local production.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Defence Ministry to call up conscientious objectors

    By a Staff Reporter

    CONCIENCIOUS objectors are to be called up for military service for the first time ever, though they will be offered the option of unarmed service, albeit for an extended period.

    Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos yesterday told the House defence committee that it had been decided to implement the relevant law for the first time ever.

    Not only will the conscientious objectors in this year's National Guard intake be called up, but those who refused to serve on such grounds in the past will also now be enlisted, Hasikos said. The Minister said about 10 conscripts declared themselves conscientious objectors every year, while the total of those making such a declaration in the past amounted to about 300.

    "Unfortunately, till today, the state did not call them up, even though the law clearly states they have three choices," Hasikos said.

    The choices are 42 months of unarmed, non-uniformed service away from army camps, 34 months of uniformed unarmed service in a camp or the standard 26 moths of armed service in a camp.

    A large proportion of conscientious objectors to military service are Jehovah's Witnesses, whose religious beliefs bar them from serving under arms. In the past, many Jehovah's witnesses faced imprisonment for refusing to serve in the National Guard.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] DISY moves to dispel rumours of discontent

    By a Staff Reporter

    DISY chief Nicos Anastassiades yesterday rushed to quash rumours of serious strife within the governing party, saying relevant reports were wildly exaggerated.

    Anastassiades was reacting to press reports about what had gone on during a four-hour meeting of the DISY political bureau on Wednesday. The reports suggested deputies Prodromos Prodromou and Rikkos Erotokritou had accused others of "anti-party" behaviour, while new party deputy Eleni Theocharous had charged that the party's Limassol secretary, Andreas Themistocleous, was "out to get her".

    Anastassiades said the political bureau's first meeting since the May 27 parliamentary elections had been a lively affair, but had ended amicably.

    "In a party where there is freedom of thought and speech, some bitterness might come out, but there were no differences between members concerning political positions," he said.

    The DISY leader said journalists had picked up on the airing of "certain complaints" and had proceeded to give the "wrong picture" to the outside world.

    "What matters is that everyone admitted we must end whatever gives the impression of strife within the party, and all issues were withdrawn after explanations were given," Anastassiades said.

    He said Wednesday's meeting had been "productive and useful".

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] Support group threatens legal moves over maid's deportation

    By a Staff Reporter

    THE IMMIGRANT Support Action Group are threatening to take the government to court over the deportation of a Filipina woman, who they say was a legal resident in Cyprus.

    Maria Marbello, the housemaid at the centre of a national appeal to fund an urgent stomach operation in January, was deported on Friday.

    She was allegedly waiting for the Labour Office to process a complaint against her employer after he refused to pay for the life-saving, 3,000 surgery.

    Contracts between foreign workers and employers stipulate that employers should meet all immigrants' necessary medical expenses incurred while in their employment.

    Marbello filed a complaint six months ago in January. Staff shortages and a massive workload mean people have been waiting up to eight months to have their problems dealt with.

    Immigrants are legally allowed to stay in Cyprus until their complaints are processed.

    The ISAG claim Marbello was sent home without reason, without being able to consult a lawyer and without being able to appeal against the deportation order.

    They say she had just $10 in her possession - not enough to take a bus from the airport to her hometown upon her return.

    Community workers are desperately trying to contact Marbello in the Philippines to see whether she would be willing to pursue a court case.

    Immigration chief George Theodoros yesterday refused to comment on the case.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [09] 98-year-old marries his carer of 45

    By Rita Kyriakides

    A 98-YEAR-old man has finally married his beloved companion from Belarus on her return to Cyprus.

    Alexandros Nicolaides and Elena Chakhovets were married at the Ayios Dhometios Municipality on Wednesday afternoon.

    They have been living together for seven years since Nicolaides employed her to take care of him in 1994.

    "Elena is my sight, my hearing and my legs. She is the solution to my problems," Nicolaides said yesterday.

    At a reception after the wedding, Chakhovets, aged 45, made a toast to "health, happiness and love".

    At their house in Ayios Dhometios, Nicolaides and Chakhovets looked happy the day after their wedding.

    Chakhovets was forced to leave the country late in February after the failure of repeated efforts to have her residence permit renewed. She was only allowed to return after the intervention of Sigma chat show host Demetris Mamas.

    Nicolaides thinks immigration might have suspected a marriage of convenience when the couple applied to get married in February.

    "I would like to see someone trying to trick Alexandros," Chakhovets laughingly told the Cyprus Mail.

    Chakhovets said Nicolaides' friends and her relatives had been asking them for years why they hadn't got married.

    Nicolaides said he and his bride had become celebrities of sort, with people recognising them everywhere they went. Although they did not want their wedding to be publicised, two television stations found out about the ceremony.

    "We are running around to get Elena's permanent residency organised now. There are many forms to fill out and people to visit," said Nicoliades.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001


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