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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-01-11

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, January 11, 2002


  • [01] Police warning on growing juvenile crime
  • [02] Cleaning up after the snow
  • [03] Keeping the tourists entertained
  • [04] Electricity grid struggling to cope with heating demand
  • [05] Annan optimism over talks prospects
  • [06] Army set for officer redundancies in command structure reform
  • [07] 'Pointless debate rumbles on at plenum
  • [08] School stigma only makes things worse
  • [09] Power restored across the island

  • [01] Police warning on growing juvenile crime

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE NUMBER of juvenile offenders is rising steadily, police have warned, saying four minors were in prison awaiting trial yesterday alone.

    In 2000, 564 minors broke the law, an 11.52 per cent increase on the previous year, police spokesman Lakis Grafias said yesterday. Of these, 552 were boys and 12 were girls. The offences were mostly petty crime, such as burglaries, thefts and damage to private property, he said. Statistics for 2001 have not yet been compiled.

    "In theory, you can send these offenders to prison," said prison director Haris Themistocleous. However, this hardly ever happened, as minors were dealt with differently, he said.

    "Unless the crime is terrible, such as rape, they rarely do time."

    Themistocleous regretted the lack of a juvenile correctional facility in Cyprus, forcing judges to send minors to prison if they committed a serious enough crime.

    Although the law states there should be a separate wing for underage offenders, prison overpopulation and a lack of juvenile inmates in the system means that adult and minor offenders are integrated.

    "Naturally, precautionary measures are taken to ensure nothing happens to the detainees, as we are responsible for them," he said, adding that staff psychologists and social workers were available if minors were suffering from emotional problems.

    At present, the only juveniles in prison are on remand, with no convicted young offenders serving time.

    Toulla Michaelides of the Social Welfare Department said she did not believe jail was the solution to the growing problem, particularly if children were forced to mix with long-term adult inmates.

    "When a minor is accused by the police, his or her file is sent to our department," she said. "A social worker is then appointed to the case, and must examine the offender's family life in detail."

    She explained that living conditions, upbringing and parental interest in the child were all taken into account, as was the child's personality. "This is all done so that an all-round picture of the minor's life can be painted, and to examine whether or not its parents can protect it emotionally and financially."

    Social workers will then come up with suggestions based on their assessment of the case. For instance, a first time offender from a stable background might be allowed to go home, whereas a recommendation for a repeat offender might be to place him or her under the department's custodial care for two years.

    She said the Welfare Department had a special committee for underage offenders that convened once a month to examine each case individually. The discussion is based on the original report written up by the social worker, and although the suggestions are taken into account, the committee is not necessarily bound to them.

    She said the committee was made up of each district's chief of police, a district's social worker or welfare department representative, and the police officer and social worker that first examined the case.

    Measures taken could range from court procedures, to custodial care at the state run Youth Refuge Hostel for a period of two years or more. If a minor refuses to leave home to live in at the refuge, a court order can force him or her to do so.

    The refuge is for 12-18-year-olds and not only designed to meet underage offenders' needs. It's a place for children facing difficulties to go to, and where they can feel safe in a close-knit environment, she said, adding it currently housed 10-12 children there.

    "We arrange for them to go to school, we can find the older ones employment, and even set up psychotherapy sessions for some of them at the Makarios Hospital," said Michaelides.

    All this takes place within a stable environment, which is crucial in their disrupted lives. Court decisions usually resort to the hostel, she said, as there are no foster homes on the island.

    Another form of 'positive' punishment, she said, is community service.

    "A law has been passed compelling offenders to partake in community service. For instance, if you cut down 20 forest trees, you have to plant another 20."

    'It's a cry for attention'

    BROKEN homes and financial deprivation are not the causes behind the current rise in juvenile delinquency, a social worker said yesterday.

    Instead, extreme social and parental pressure to succeed, coupled with a lack of parental attention are the root causes of what is growing into a worrying phenomenon in today's society, said Toulla Michaelides, a Social Welfare Department official.

    Michaelides said she was speaking as a parent in asserting her belief that teenage antisocial behaviour was on the rise because society's attitude and values towards the young had changed.

    "We have become a money-loving, materialistic society, and unfortunately parents today don't realise that their children are more interested in getting love and attention, than fancy cars and clothes," she said.

    Both parents often work, and some even hold down two jobs, she said. What time did the leave for children, she asked?

    Michaelides said young offenders were limited to any particular background. They might be rich or poor, from broken homes or not. "It's a cry for attention," she said. "A way of saying: 'hey I exist'."

    Parents and society as a whole put too much academic pressure on children, and instead of letting them do what they want, force then to study subjects they are not interested in or good at, she said.

    "Parents should sit with their children and give them time and attention. Hands-on care is very important: listening to your child, physical comfort and emotional support are all included," she said.

    But it's not all parents' fault, she added. "Children have become more demanding and parents are told to treat them more liberally and fairly," she said.

    "To make things worse, there's nowhere for these children to go to either.

    "They do not have a choice of interests outside the home and end up spending time in front of the TV instead of being outside and playing."

    And Michaelides warned that childrens' emotional problems would only increase without support.

    "We need to keep our eyes open and work to help our children.

    "There should be organised state-funded basketball or football centres, or painting classes and theatre groups," she suggested as ways of bring children out of themselves.

    "If we get them interested in other things, they won't have too much spare time on their hands when they can get up to mischief because of nothing better to do."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Cleaning up after the snow

    By Jennie Matthew

    THE SUN yesterday melted the snow from all but the highest villages of the Troodos Mountains, leaving only the Platres to Troodos road blocked yesterday lunchtime.

    Mount Olympus was hidden under low-lying cloud and fog, totally cut off from the outside world.

    Platres was empty. Most of the cafes were shut. The streets were slippery and deserted.

    Shutters were down on homes and most cars remained in their drives.

    A group of four youths wrapped up against the elements to fool around, while a family braved the cold to stock up on supplies at the supermarket.

    Two teenage girls chatted to themselves, clutching on to each other's arms to avoid falling over on icy patches.

    Only four-wheel drives found it easy to negotiate the roads. A milk delivery truck, villagers and two Electricity Authority jeeps were the only movers in the area.

    Otherwise, one elderly resident shovelled the snow to clear a path from his home up to the main road. The country land had been ignored by the snow- plough, too busy cleaning the Moniatis to Platres road.

    Only a few rental saloon cars braved the snow. All turned back in Platres, rather than attempt to go higher.

    A police patrol car ran up and down through the village, warning drivers to go slowly.

    When one z-car got stuck in Pano Platres, other motorists quickly jumped out to help.

    The occupants, a British couple on holiday in Cyprus, were left examining their maps in search of an alternative excursion.

    Lower down the slopes, the only traces of Wednesday's winter storms were lingering slumps of mush on the hard shoulder.

    A densely-packed dirty snowman was the only sign that children had been out to play the previous day.

    Lefkara, which on Wednesday had been battered with some of the heaviest snow since 1991, was yesterday fully open for business.

    As the sun quickly melted the last of the blanket of snow, contractor Panicos Tsiakourmas, abducted by the Turks in December 2000 on trumped-up charges of drug smuggling, played with his two children and wife Niki.

    They were the only people to be seen for miles, as residents shut themselves in out of the cold.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Keeping the tourists entertained

    By Jean Christou

    TOURISTS at the island's main holiday resorts are confining themselves to their hotels because of the cold weather, while management is laying on additional entertainment to amuse their guests.

    Hotels in Paphos and Limassol said yesterday some guests had complained, but for the most part they had stayed indoors using the hotel facilities to pass the time.

    Demetris Tsangaras of Le Meridien in Limassol told the Cyprus Mail that guests were spending their days at the hotel's spa.

    "The spa facilities have been operating at full capacity," he said.

    "There is a lot of demand and all of our 20 treatment rooms are full daily."

    Most of Le Meridien's winter guests come from central Europe and the UK, where weather conditions have been sub zero for weeks.

    "The weather here is a bit better today, but it's still cold," Tsangaras said.

    Costas Michaelides, front office manager at the Elias Beach Hotel, said that although they did not have many guests this season, those that had come were staying inside more than usual.

    "We are trying to lay on more activities like bingo and quizzes," he said. "Some guests prefer to take walks but it's the only outside activity they will engage in."

    Michaelides said all the hotel's guests were surprised with the weather Cyprus was experiencing. "But they do understand that this phenomenon is everywhere," he said.

    In Paphos, which experienced heavy snowfall earlier this week, hotels had the same story.

    "We are just carrying out our usual winter programme," a spokesman for the Annabelle said. "We have plenty of entertainment, music daily and nightly in the lounge. But people are still going out a bit."

    At the Paphos beach, some guests were venturing outside, a representative said. "Things were a little better today and some guests went out walking," he said. "They have been staying inside more, but not complaining."

    In Laiki Yitonia in Nicosia, tourists were scarce on the ground yesterday, other than one elderly British couple holidaying in Paphos.

    "This is our first time in Cyprus," said John Willis, 68, from Nottingham.

    "We were not expecting sunshine, but we expected something a bit warmer than this, although we are not overly disappointed and it wouldn't stop us coming again."

    "It's much warmer here in Nicosia than it is in Paphos," his wife Joan added.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Electricity grid struggling to cope with heating demand

    By Rachel Haddad

    ELECTRICITY consumption has risen by 21 per cent over this time last year, the Electricity Authority (EAC) said yesterday.

    "The increase is tremendous, and we are working on maximum demand," EAC spokesman Tassos Roussos told the Cyprus Mail.

    The bad weather has caused considerable problems due to the pressure on power lines. The main problems are caused by the overload of electric heaters, which consume large amounts of electricity. The overload is causing fuses to blow, resulting in power shortages.

    The areas currently most affected include Troodos, Limassol, and the rural areas of Nicosia.

    To make matters worse, electrical engineers are facing problems accessing mountainous areas that are snowed in, Roussos said. Police officials are lending a helping hand by making available four-wheel-drive vehicles, but, Roussos added, "we cannot fight the weather'.

    Roussos said the EAC was appealing to the public to reduce the consumption of electricity by keeping their heating to a minimum.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Annan optimism over talks prospects

    By Jean Christou

    U.N. SECRETARY-General Kofi Annan believes the new round of Cyprus talks due to begin next week could lead to a settlement by the end of June, reports from New York said yesterday.

    Speaking after meeting Annan at UN headquarters, visiting Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said he had had an "an open and friendly discussion" with the UN Secretary-general about "Cyprus, the Balkans and Afghanistan".

    "Annan said he thinks a solution is possible. He hopes that by June there will be a possibility to judge if we have arrived at a solution and the general framework of the solution", Simitis said.

    Both Annan and his special envoy for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto believe that the direct talks, due to begin next Wednesday, should be continuous, Simitis added.

    De Soto is expected on the island on Sunday afternoon to take part in the face-to-face talks, which will be held within the UN-controlled Nicosia Airport. President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash agreed on December 4 to resume direct talks, in a move that took the international community by surprise. The two leaders also made history by crossing the Green Line to dine at each other's respective homes last month. They will also meet at the airport today for discussions on the issue of missing persons.

    Diplomatic sources in New York told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that the UN expected 10 rounds of talks on the Cyprus issue in Nicosia and one in New York.

    "The two parties will meet three times a week. The UN will be cautious, but they will work very hard as they have a positive feeling of a possibility for a solution," the source was quoted as saying.

    Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who attended the Annan-Simitis meeting in New York, said De Soto would be closely monitoring the talks, which will take place in a special building being renovated specially for the meetings.

    De Soto is also expected to hire three experts on constitutional matters for the talks, CNA said.

    Responding to questions about Cyprus, Simitis said that although a settlement was not a precondition for EU accession, "a solution as is understandable to everybody will make accession far more easier".

    "The European Commission has said several times that there will be accession even without a solution of the political problem," he said. "It is in the interest of all of us to solve the political problem as soon as possible."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Army set for officer redundancies in command structure reform

    By Melina Demetriou

    DEFENCE Minister Socratis Hasikos has submitted a proposal to the House aiming to improve the National Guard's performance by restructuring its command structure.

    After a meeting of the Parliamentary Defence Committee yesterday, Hasikos told reporters that, if approved, the bill would reform the National Guard based on "other army models", declining to say which armies he referred to.

    The minister revealed what the new command structure would be like: "Fifty- seven army colonels, one commander-in-chief, two major generals and eight brigadiers will make up the top pyramid."

    "The National Army will be operationally ready, flexible and with capabilities that a small army can have," Hasikos said.

    The minister noted that in the unlikely event that the House rejected the proposal, the government would draft a new bill to serve its purpose.

    The proposal provides for 100 army officers to be made redundant in the space of the next five years.

    "The selection (for redundancies) will be based on officers' age, experience, abilities and needs. Those selected will get a very generous lump sum and bigger pensions than they would normally do," the minister said.

    Committee chairman Yiannakis Omirou of KISOS said the body had started to study the proposal.

    "We need clearly to define the structure of the army," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] 'Pointless debate rumbles on at plenum

    AN admittedly pointless discussion about the forced retirement of a state attorney last night was used as a platform for the exchange of bitter comments, jokes, and even quotes from the teachings of Christ between deputies of ruling DISY and main opposition party AKEL.

    The issue was submitted for discussion by AKEL and DIKO, which had disagreed with the forced retirement of state attorney Akis Papasavvas, arguing that the way it was imposed was undemocratic.

    Papasavvas was retired by the civil service committee, which decided his conduct made co-operation between him and his superior, Attorney-general Alecos Markides practically impossible.

    Papasavvas who wrote a weekly column in the AKEL mouthpiece Haravghi, had repeatedly gone beyond criticism and used abusive language against President Glafkos Clerides, Markides, and even the President's wife, Irini.

    Discussion of the issue at the plenum is pointless because beyond that there was nothing the House could do about the retirement.

    DISY deputy Christos Pourgourides kicked-off the debate accusing DIKO and AKEL of double standards because 20 years ago, when the two parties were partners in power, they sacked the permanent secretaries of two ministries after they criticised the government at a social gathering.

    AKEL deputy Costas Papacostas claimed that Papasavvas was punished because what he freely expressed hindered those in power to implement their policy.

    Papacostas chose a phrase from the Christ's teachings to emphasise his point. "Beware you hypocrites," he said.

    DISY Chief Nicos Anastassiades said discussion of the matter served no purpose as it was up to the Supreme Court to decide whether the retirement was legal or not.

    Despite trying to put his point through without using offensive language, the usually volatile Anastassiades could not resist.

    He said Papasavvas' writings were that of an obsessed man who needed medical attention.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] School stigma only makes things worse

    By Jean Christou

    A LEADING psychologist yesterday criticised the handling of an incident at a Nicosia secondary school where a student was suspended on suspicion of theft and later ostracised by teachers and fellow pupils.

    On Monday, teachers at the Ayios Stylianos Gymnasium in Nicosia refused to teach a second year class when the suspended 14-year old girl turned up for school. The school, and secondary teacher's union OELMEK, also recommended the girl be transferred to another Gymnasium over alleged bad behaviour.

    But psychiatrist Antonis Raftis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that the whole issue had been handled badly under a glare of publicity. He said such incidents regularly took place in schools, but were handled with more tact.

    "There was no reason for so much publicity. It should have been dealt with inside the school limits," Raftis said.

    "This type of incident is not something very unusual, but what was unusual was the decision they took."

    He said that instead of publicly refusing to teach the class because of the girl's presence, the teachers should have called her parents in to discuss what could be done.

    "I'm not saying she should not be punished in any way, but not this way because automatically you put a mark on her. You put an 'X' on her and that might stay with her for the rest of her life," he said.

    Raftis said high school was in many ways a mini version of society.

    "In society, there are the good and the bad, so if someone breaks one rule, we the society - and we are talking about high school society - put a mark on them, banish them and act like they are criminal," he said. "Imagine the traumatic experience this girl is facing right now knowing nobody wants her. It's like we are pushing her to do more even more things, which will affect her life when she becomes an adult."

    Raftis said the only way to salvage the situation is for the teachers to take the lead and show a forgiving example in front of the other students.

    "Punishing her in this way is like putting oil on the fire and makes things worse for her. Teachers shouldn't act like dictators. I believe they made a spontaneous decision without considering the consequences or the psychological effect on the student," Raftis said. "I believe they didn't give it too much thought."

    He said teaching was not always the most important factor. "It's always important, but it is important to teach the right way for the students. You don't only teach lessons, but you also teach people how to behave well," he said.

    Raftis said the teachers should accept the girl back in class. "They have to show her that what happened happened and that things will get better. They should give her the chance to prove that she is a good student and that she's a good person," he said. "It's very, very important to show love and forgiveness because that's what she needs right now."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Power restored across the island

    POWER was by last night restored to all areas of Cyprus following black outs caused by heavy snowfall on Wednesday while roads closed because of the snowstorms were open, freeing communities that had been cut-off for over 24 hours.

    The good weather yesterday helped crews that started work early in the morning to clear the snow.

    While electricity authority technicians struggled to restore power, police in special vehicles tried to get through to Troodos area villages to supply residents with basic foodstuffs.

    Despite the improvement in conditions, the Education Ministry yesterday ordered 95 schools to remain closed due mainly to the lack of heating in buildings.

    The snow at the Olympos peak yesterday reached 1.20 metres while Troodos Square remained buried under one metre of snow.

    In Limassol, strong winds on Wednesday night uprooted trees which cut power lines and damaged cars and homes.

    In the village of Kilani 12 homes were reported damaged by the gusts, which tore the solar panels off the roof and smashed them on the ground while several uprooted trees ended up resting on homes.

    In the Paphos district the situation was much better than Wednesday and all roads leading to remote communities had been opened.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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