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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-01-09

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, January 9, 2002


  • [01] Cem: Cyprus logjam may be resolved this year
  • [02] Police probe VAT official's confession
  • [03] College chief defends suspending students over NATO bombing
  • [04] Poachers' gear to be burnt
  • [05] More names on 'meter list' to be released
  • [06] CSE caught in the grip of lethargy
  • [07] Extortion suspect remanded
  • [08] Scabies: Savvides using 'scare tactics'
  • [09] Selling below cost 'a threat to the economy'
  • [10] Teachers blasted over 'problem girl' walk-out

  • [01] Cem: Cyprus logjam may be resolved this year

    TURKISH Foreign Minister Ismail Cem was quoted yesterday as saying a resolution of the conflict over Cyprus could be achieved by the end of 2002. In an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Cem said he believed the conditions for solving the Cyprus dispute had improved. "A mutually acceptable resolution should be achieved before the end of 2002," Cem said. "We have a new platform which has created improved conditions for mutual understanding." The government of Cyprus is a frontrunner in talks to join the European Union that involve 12 countries, mainly from central and eastern Europe. Turkey, which backs the self-proclaimed Turkish Cypriot 'state' in the occupied north, has warned it could annex that territory if Cyprus joins the EU without resolving the current division. Cem said Turkey "supports the Turkish Cypriots in the search for a solution that both sides will find acceptable". Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and President Glafcos Clerides are to meet on Friday to discuss the fate of 2,000 people missing on the divided island. "What is decisive for the progress of the dialogue is that the two leaders develop a joint vision and a joint goal for the future of Cyprus," Cem said. "Without a joint vision and without an agreement on the result, the process will probably not be successful." The meeting between Denktash and Clerides, designed to smooth the way to open-ended talks on the future of Cyprus starting on January 16, will take place at Nicosia airport in the United Nations-controlled buffer zone between the two sides. It will be the fourth meeting of the two leaders in less than five weeks. They had their first encounter on December 5 after a gap of more than four years. The two rival leaders are poised to start intensive talks about resolving the Cyprus logjam next week. Both sides have agreed that any progress should be apparent by June, several months before the EU is to decide which countries it will include in its next round of expansion from 2004. Friday's meeting will be a media-free event, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday. It will begin at 10.30am at the residence of the Acting Special Representative of the UN Secretary-general and Chief of Mission Zbigniew Wlosowicz. "Interested parties believe the decision to keep journalists away is the appropriate one at this stage," Papapetrou said, stressing this is not a new practice to be implemented for future meetings, including next week's start of direct talks. The UN Secretary-general's special adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, is expected to arrive in time for the beginning of the talks. He conducted proximity negotiations between the two sides from December 1999 until November 2000 when Denktash withdrew from them, backed by Ankara.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Police probe VAT official's confession

    By George Psylides

    THE FINANCE Ministry yesterday sought to play down the case of a VAT official who admitted he had pocketed thousands of pounds of government money.

    The official, who was suspended on Monday, has been under investigation since December 28, the Ministry's Permanent Secretary Andreas Tryfonides said.

    Tryfonides said it would not be wise to disclose the details of the case, adding that the official admitted his action to the department's director on his own and returned the money he took on the same day.

    "What differentiates this case from the other kinds of scandals is that the revelation was made by himself to the department director," Tryfonides said.

    "The official also returned the money, which according to him he had taken, on the same day."

    The Permanent Secretary said police were currently investigating the case to determine if the official was telling the truth about the amount of money.

    Finance Minister Takis Klerides yesterday rejected reports that the government had tried to keep the case under wraps, arguing that if that were the case his ministry would not have informed the Attorney-general and the police.

    Klerides stressed that no other official was involved in the case, and he rubbished reports that the officer had been collaborating with taxpayers to reduce the money they owed.

    In response to reporters' questions, Klerides said it was not up to his ministry to decide whether the official would be arrested: that question should be put to police, he said.

    The Minister said he could not tell how much money was involved, adding that it would be wrong to say anything because the investigation was ongoing.

    Press reports yesterday claimed the official had pocketed 40,000.

    Klerides said he has instructed VAT officials to co-operate with the Auditor-general's service to find ways to plug any holes in the system.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] College chief defends suspending students over NATO bombing

    By Jennie Matthew

    THE DIRECTOR of a private Nicosia college yesterday defended his decision to suspend British and American students in protest at the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, after he was pardoned from his 45-day prison sentence on Saturday.

    Michalis Papachrysostomou, director of Palace College, was found guilty of racial discrimination against two British students on December 27 and sentenced to 45 days in prison.

    He went on hunger strike foreight days before President Glafcos Clerides and Attorney-general Alecos Markides sanctioned his pardon.

    He was released on January 5 after serving 10 days, less than a quarter of his sentence.

    Papachrysostomou suspended 20 to 30 British and American students from their courses for the duration of the Washington- and London-led NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999.

    He also sent 2,130 - the equivalent of two sets of tuition fees - to Serbia to help with the relief effort for victims of the bombardment.

    A female American student lodged an official complaint against the director, but he was only found guilty of discrimination against two British pupils.

    "I didn't stop their education just like that. I explained it was nothing against them personally. They were students from a Greek background and I was very proud that they came to study at my college," he told the Cyprus Mail.

    Very few of the students returned when invited back at the beginning of the 1999 autumn term.

    What was expected to be a swift campaign turned into 70 days of bombing, finishing in June - too late to catch the rest of the summer term.

    Papachrysostomou refused food for the first two days of his imprisonment, until he was promised that he would be released the following day.

    That was Friday, so he ate on Saturday and Sunday, thinking he would be released on Monday in time to celebrate the New Year at home.

    When that didn't happen he resumed the hunger strike until he was freed on the following Saturday - the eighth day of his fast.

    Commenting on the case, President of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and President of the Bar Association Anthi Christoforou said: "We must be very proud of our justice in Cyprus. I believe the judge acted in a proper way." But she also defended Papachrysostomou: "I believe Mr Papachrysostomou wanted to express certain feelings about those days. He's a person who cares about education, young people and their future," she said.

    The NATO campaign was widely reviled in Cyprus by the Church and political parties.

    The British High Commission yesterday responded to accusations that Papachrysostomou had been arrested under pressure from foreign countries by saying that it knew nothing at all about the case.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Poachers' gear to be burnt

    BRITISH BASES police are to destroy confiscated poaching equipment worth up to 10,000 on Friday, at the end of the illegal lime-sticking season when trappers try to ensnare millions of protected birds that migrate through Cyprus. Since August 2001, officers say they have impounded 588 mist nets, 274 lime sticks, 207 loudspeakers and more than 10,000 metres of wire and cables, among other assorted poaching items. Since August a total of 28 people have been arrested suspected of poaching, and 900 birds have been released. Convicted poachers face a fine of up to 10,000. "We have been conducting a very pro-active campaign against the poachers, and the amount of equipment we have seized during the past few months is valued at between 5,000 and 10,000" Dhekelia police sergeant Panayiotis Panayi said yesterday. The equipment will be burned on Friday morning in Dhekelia.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] More names on 'meter list' to be released

    By George Psyllides

    A 71-year-old Nicosia man suspected of altering electricity meters to register less consumption was yesterday re-remanded in custody for six days as the government said it would publish a new list of names of people under investigation for alleged involvement in the case. Yesterday, Limassol District Court heard that the suspect, former EAC technician Michalis Masouras, has refused to co-operate with police. Police told the court they had found an invoice for 190 with the suspect's name name on it after a search of one of the businesses which allegedly paid Masouras to adjust their meter in order for them to save money on electricity bills. The government last week published a list of 56 people and companies whose meters were allegedly found to have been tampered with. The case has sparked a bitter public exchange between Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou and AKEL deputy Kikis Yiangou, who insists the government is trying to cover up the case. Yiangou claims a former minister is involved in the scandal while Papapetrou has repeatedly urged the outspoken deputy to present the evidence to back his claims. Papapetrou on Monday rejected the deputy's claims, charging that his behaviour was ethically unacceptable and politically immoral. Trade and Industry Minister Nicos Rolandis yesterday backed Papapetrou, saying no former minister was named on the new list, which is expected to be published today. Rolandis said he would present the new list to the cabinet and after that he expected the list to be given to the media.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] CSE caught in the grip of lethargy

    THE all-share index dipped 0.5 per cent on the Cyprus Stock Market yesterday, closing at 132.13 and with just 2.08 million in volume. The FTSE similarly retreated by 0.46 per cent to close at 531. All sectors posted losses after a run on selling pressure early in the session, except technology that managed a 1.74 per cent gain. Losers outpaced gainers by 66 to 22, while 49 shares remained unchanged. "Judging from the anaemic trading volume, the market is at a standstill and investors are in a lethargic state, patiently waiting for an event to ignite their buying mood, " wrote the commentator on the stock market's official website. The shift in focus from the banking sector has forced volume to new all-time lows. Bank of Cyprus dropped 0.51 per cent to close at 1.93; the Cyprus Popular Bank dipped 0.62 per cent to finish at 1.58, and there was no change for Hellenic Bank which stayed at 90 cents. "Short-term wise, no major fluctuations are expected and only the talks concerning the Cyprus problem could awaken the lazy bull. An injection of good news is essential for revitalising the market, which is at a complete standstill," the commentator continued. Farm Renos Hajioannou was the main attraction as the share absorbed 22 per cent of the total volume, climbing 1.36 per cent to close at 22.2 cents. Beverage giant KEO finished in second place, down 0.86 per cent to close at 1.15 after 123,620 negotiated deals.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Extortion suspect remanded

    A LIMASSOL court remanded a 52-year-old man in custody for two days yesterday in connection with an attempt to extort money from a bank last week. Andreas Michael from Pelendri was arrested on Monday on suspicion of threatening Hellenic Bank employees in Limassol with intent to steal money. Police said the suspect pleaded guilty and gave a statement of his own free will. Last Thursday a prankster caller phoned the Hellenic Bank Branch manager in Paphos Street in Limassol and threatened to detonate a remote controlled explosive device if he was not given money at a specified drop- off point, said police. The authorities were called to investigate and found a look-alike explosive device underneath one of the bank's chairs. Looking over the bank's closed circuit camera tapes the police said they were able to see who had placed the object under the chair.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Scabies: Savvides using 'scare tactics'

    By Jennie Matthew

    HEALTH Minister Frixos Savvides yesterday admitted that threats to close old people's homes were just scare tactics in order to frighten institutions into acting quickly. Speaking on television on Monday night, Savvides said that the government would close homes that failed to co- operate over tracking down the source of a scabies outbreak in Limassol hospital at the New Year. Some 26 patients and staff on the pathology and cardiology wards were affected by the irritant skin condition, which would appear to have been introduced by a geriatric patient admitted from a private old people's home. Sufferers are being treated and the Health Ministry has promised a firm crackdown on the source of the highly contagious disease. A Thursday deadline was imposed on old people's homes nationwide to certify whether or not their establishments are scabies free. But threats of closure where not welcomed by carers in the profession. "Why don't they close the hospital? This is not the solution. The solution is to eliminate scabies, which is quite easy to do," said Dr Michalis Charalambous, director of the Galini Geriatric Clinic in Limassol. "What would happen to our patients?" asked Yiota Stavrou of the Ayia Zoni Old Age Home. "I suppose they would be sent back to their children or to another home. But I'm not sure their families want them -- most are very much on their own." But Savvides softened the blow yesterday, insisting that his threats were merely intended to hammer home to establishments how serious the government was. The Health Ministry requires confirmation by tomorrow that a doctor has given the homes the all clear -- or highlighted that there may be a problem with scabies. If the latter were the case, "government health inspectors would take over and decide how to proceed", the Minister said. "It was just to make them realise that we were serious. You could say that it was scare treatment rather than policy. Whoever doesn't respond, we will take steps to revoke their licence," he said. But professional carers yesterday criticised the Health Ministry for inadequate regulation of old people's homes and insufficient funding. The director of one of Limassol biggest nursing homes, who preferred to remain nameless, said annual hygiene inspections were insufficient to enforce standards. "It should be four times a year. Thank God we have a doctor and qualified nurses who check all our patients when they come back from hospital," the director said. Charalambous, meanwhile, was annoyed that the government was insisting on certification from a specialist dermatologist, while not implementing regular medical checks on the homes. "I'm a doctor and director. I know the situation in my clinic very well. Requiring a certificate from a dermatologist questions my professional opinion. If I had any uncertainty at all I'd call a specialist, but when I'm sure that all my patients are clean, it's a different issue," the GP said. "The government needs a special group to better control the problems in old people's homes. They need to employ qualified doctors to inspect medical practice," he said. Another criticism was the funds paid by the government for each patient who qualifies for free medical care -- less than 400 a month. "We can barely pay our expenses. It's not that we can't pay for them, we do take care of all their needs. But it's tight," said Yiota Stavrou. Fending off criticisms that there is no medical analysis of nursing homes, Savvides said that this was done "daily, on a need-to-do basis". He also said that he and Welfare Minister Andreas Moushouttas had agreed that more regular hygiene inspections were necessary. "A scheme is pending at the House that we will require inspections at regular intervals not exceeding three months," he said. In terms of meeting tomorrow's deadline, only one hom

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Selling below cost 'a threat to the economy'

    By Melina Demetriou

    THE PRACTICE of selling at below cost price could cause unprecedented damage to the economy, EU negotiating team chief George Vassiliou warned yesterday at the House of Representatives. Addressing the Parliamentary Commerce Committee, Vassiliou described the slashing of prices by certain hypermarkets during the holiday season as "unique, provocative and a threat to medium-sized businesses".He said a lack of legislation on the issue had led to things getting out of hand. Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis, who also attended the meeting, said that the government would look into the possibility of introducing such legislation in order to protect consumers' rights. But he added that such a law might be difficult to implement because of different European practices. "There is no other country in Europe where supermarkets sell bread cheaper than they buy the flour to make that bread," Vassiliou said. "When supermarkets sell products at extremely low prices then suppliers might be left unpaid. If one of those hypermarkets goes bankrupt the economy will suffer even more than it has because of the depressed stock market," he warned. "We have already received complaints from suppliers saying that they have not been paid for eight or nine weeks," Rolandis added. "This is the first time that two hypermarkets, Orphanides and Chris Cash and Carry, have launched such a war of prices," he added. A meeting last week between Rolandis, shop owners' unions, the Supermarket Association and suppliers ended with a verbal agreement to end selling below cost price for the time being. Shopkeepers' unions yesterday reiterated their demand, calling for a law banning supermarkets from indulging in the practice. The European Commission has proposed a regulation that would not allow governments to interfere with such sales, however. Vassiliou said that the regulation had to be adopted by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament for it to become applicable in all member states."We will examine all aspects of the matter with Vassiliou, ministry officials as well as experts in Brussels, and we will decide whether we can go ahead with drawing up legislation to stop the practice in question," Rolandis said. Greece and France are currently the only EU countries with legislation barring selling goods at below cost. Rolandis said his ministry was conducting a study on general merchandising, the results of which would be known next month. Committee chairman Lefteris Christoforou cited information according to which there were plans for the construction of a large supermarket in Polis tis Chrysochous in the Paphos district. "The operation of such a supermarket would cause all medium-sized businesses in the area to close," he said, charging that there should be a stronger law defining the zones in which supermarkets can operate. Christoforou also spoke of other alleged irregularities: "The quality of goods sold at below cost price is sometimes bad, and advertisements can be deceiving," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [10] Teachers blasted over 'problem girl' walk-out

    By Alexia Saoulli

    TEACHERS at the Ayios Stylianos Gymnasium in Nicosia on Monday refused to teach a second year class when a suspended student suspected of stealing turned up for school. The President of the Pancyprian Secondary Education Parents' Association Elias Demetriou yesterday condemned the teachers, calling their behaviour unacceptable and incomprehensible. The 14-year-old girl in question had been suspended for two weeks for allegedly stealing money from her fellow classmates and for bad behaviour. Demetriou said the Ministry of Education had appointed an official to investigate the matter, and that the members of the teachers' association within the school had no right to act in the way they did without first receiving the go-ahead from the Ministry. "They do not have the authority to act as judge and jury. By behaving in the way they have, they have stigmatised a young girl within Cypriot society," he said. The thefts had not yet been proven, he said, and even if they had been the teachers had still not behaved in an appropriate manner. Suspending a young girl for 15 days and suggesting that she be transferred to another school is not a manner in which to punish a minor, he told the Cyprus Mail. He said that the measures being taken by teachers to punish students were anachronistic. They dated back 40 years, and the rules on punishment should be revised, he said. "Teachers should guide students by talking to them. Showing a level of compassion and understanding is all part of the education process. Instead, these extreme forms of punishment only end up being counter-productive," he said. The teachers' stance had not affected only the girl in question, Demetriou said, but also her classmates as they too had been forced to miss lessons. The Parents' Association chief suggested that a secondary body be set up for punished students to appeal to if their punishment was deemed too harsh, as a way of improving the system and of working with students rather than against them. He also pointed out that in this particular case the girl was under severe psychological stress as she was from a broken home, and had recently lost her brother in a car accident. Greater understanding should have been shown, he said. But Takis Gavrielides, President of the teachers' union OELMEK, said the student should be moved to another school as a way of defusing an already highly charged situation. This would give her a chance to make a new beginning, he said. He also stressed that such situations should not be widely publicised in future as publicity hinders solving the problem. Cases such as this should be handled internally, which would achieve more effective results, Gavrielides said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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