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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-01-19

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Saturday, January 19, 2002


  • [01] Student protest fails to block expulsion meeting
  • [02] Bird-trapping prosecutions are on the rise, wardens insist
  • [03] Document on missing handed to Denktash
  • [04] How about a presidential plane?
  • [05] Government dismisses flu epidemic warning
  • [06] Retailers warn of price war
  • [07] Man remanded over bank robbery

  • [01] Student protest fails to block expulsion meeting

    By Melina Demetriou

    THE UNIVERSITY Students' Union yesterday tried to sabotage a Senate meeting in protest at what it says is an unacceptable expulsion system.

    Around 100 students placed banners across the doors of the University Hall where the Senate was due to meet at 8.30 am yesterday and gathered outside, blocking access to the room.

    "But the Senate sent security men to the scene, so we had to back down eventually because we did not want to cause any trouble," Union President Nectaria Kakoutsi told the Cyprus Mail.

    The Senate finally convened, as it does every semester, to discuss which students should be expelled on the grounds of exam failure or lack of attendance on the course.

    The 24-member-body decided to expel one student.

    The Students' Union is totally opposed to expelling fellow students for failing, without first giving them a chance to re-sit their examinations the following semester.

    "We tried to talk to Senate members before the meeting to make them see eye to eye with us. But unfortunately they stuck to their guns citing high academic standards," Kakoutsi said.

    "It is unacceptable to deprive students of the right to education without giving them a second chance to prove themselves. We promise to continue staging demonstrations until we are vindicated," she vowed, conceding that in a few cases students were allowed to re-sit exams they had failed.

    Kakoutsi said students who were expelled had to re-sit admission examinations for the University to accept them back as first year students.

    "If they go to another university in Greece they will need some extra years to graduate," she said.

    The Students' Union says it is not against expelling students who do not attend class or show up for examinations, but insists weaker students should not be expelled for failing their exams. Students are expelled if they do not achieve an overall 50 per cent grade in their exams or if they fail a core module twice.

    "We want weaker students to be given a maximum of two more years to complete their degree if they need it," Kakoutsi said.

    However, University Dean, Nicholas Papamichael earlier this week described the planned student demo as "forceful, and entirely opposed to the University's democratic nature". "Only 0.3 per cent of the student population is expelled each semester," he argued, denying the union's claim that students were not given the chance to re-sit exams.

    Yesterday's University demonstration came a day after secondary school students in Limassol walked out from classes for three hours, complaining that their schools were ill- equipped. Only 40 per cent of the town's schools have heating.

    Talking to the Cyprus Mail, Intercollege chairman Sofronis Sofroniou yesterday warned that constant demonstrations staged by pupils and University students were leading to "a state of anarchosyndicalism".

    "Pupils walk out from classes all the time," he said.

    "Students should exhaust all peaceful means of voicing their demands before they resort to such action. But I think they usually rush things instead," Sofroniou said.

    The Intercollege chairman cited an incident which took place last year: "Students walked out from classes because they did not want to take certain exams.

    "In this case, the Education Ministry is also to blame because it met this unreasonable demand," he noted.

    Sofroniou suggested the ministry should address problems in education effectively in order to keep students happy.

    "The government must satisfy reasonable demands and put its foot down when it comes to unreasonable demands instead of the other way round," he added.

    However, Neocles Sylikiotis, head of leftwing AKEL's Education Office argued that students sometimes had no other way of expressing their complaints but to abstain from classes.

    "In the case of Limassol schools, it must be pointed out that they are miserable. Students have classes in dire conditions. Classrooms are ill- equipped and more than half the schools have no heating," Sylikiotis charged, noting that schools in other towns faced the same kind of problems but on a smaller scale.

    He went on to accuse the ministry of going back on a promise it had made years ago to install radiators at all schools.

    "This is a very old demand. Limassol students staged a demo a year ago supported by their parents as well as their teachers. So the claim that students take arbitrary action is groundless," Sylikiotis argued.

    The AKEL official stressed the ministry had a duty to address "severe problems in education," and went further, charging it with indifference.

    Sylikiotis also dismissed the argument that Cypriot students were anarchic, saying students in Germany, Spain and Italy had abandoned classes for days "to protest at unfair reforms".

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Bird-trapping prosecutions are on the rise, wardens insist

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE GOVERNMENT Game and Wildlife Service and the British Bases are stepping up measures to stamp out illegal poaching and bird trapping, officials insisted yesterday.

    The assurance came after the Council of Europe formally urged the government and British Bases to take the necessary measures to ensure the protection of migratory birds - "prohibiting all forms of deliberate capture and keeping, deliberate killing, as well as the possession and internal trade in these animals, alive or dead."

    The Standing Committee of the Bern Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats accused Cyprus of mass extermination of migratory birds, and among other things strongly suggested that those found guilty of the activity should be prosecuted, and that more wardens should patrol popular bird trapping areas, making poaching harder.

    But the Head of the Game and Wildlife Service at the Interior Ministry, Pantelis Hadjigerou, yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that the Bern Convention recommendations had been part of Cyprus law since 1974. However, he did admit the Service had not enforced the law rigorously until 1995.

    He explained this was because it had taken a long time to drive home the message, as the capture and consumption of ambelopoulia (Black-Cup birds) - a prized delicacy - was a tradition that dated back centuries.

    "As far as prosecutions are concerned," Hadjigerou said, "we have been doing so more and more." He cited 319 separate prosecutions in 2001, compared to 241 in 2000. These prosecutions also included the confiscation of nets, lime sticks and taped birdsong sound devices.

    He said sentences varied from a fine of a few pounds to jail, depending on each individual case. And he gave an example of a poacher who had been jailed for 45 days in the past.

    "The illegal bird-bird trapping has not stopped," he admitted, "but we are taking a much stronger stand, and even arrested a Nicosia supermarket owner for selling ambelopoulia this week, as well as his Paralimni supplier." He added that he hoped the situation would be greatly improved by the end of 2002.

    If the Service is not able to accomplish this task by then, the Council of Europe has warned the government it will open a file on Cyprus keeping track of its moves.

    But Hadjigerou and another game warden, Panicos Panayides, insisted the Service would be taking an even stronger stand this year, and that they were employing another 10 wardens to increase patrols in the problem areas of Famagusta and Larnaca.

    At the moment, there are 100 game wardens working nationally all year round, 24-hours a day - a figure Panayides said was insufficient.

    But Hadjigerou insisted that, based on experience and depending on the season, they knew where to focus their efforts.

    "In fact, in recent years, we also co-operate more with the SBA (Sovereign Bases Area) police, and game wardens have been appointed to the area. Now, they work together, and help each other combat this problem," he said.

    A Bases spokesman confirmed: "Stringent efforts are being made (by SBA police) to clamp down on this illegal activity."

    He said equipment was confiscated all the time, and arrests were being made.

    "It's very difficult actually to arrest someone for poaching, as you've got to catch them in the act," he said, adding there was no doubt the poachers were being hit in the pocket by the repeated confiscation of their expensive bird-trapping equipment.

    However, on Thursday, Green Party deputy George Perdikis accused politicians and deputies at the House Plenum of telling game wardens to overlook a number of poaching activities and to lay off some of their measures.

    The deputy asked how else it was "possible that in the Famagusta district only 15 cases of illegal bird trapping have been prosecuted".

    However, Panayides said Perdikis must be mistaken in his figures, for he knew that, in the Famagusta district in particular, far more prosecutions had been made.

    "We find poachers and report them to the police. After that, it's beyond our control," he said, insisting the Service carried out its duties with a clear conscience.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Document on missing handed to Denktash

    THE GREEK Cypriot side yesterday handed the Turkish Cypriots a document detailing a series of practical measures to help resolve the issue of missing persons.

    The document was handed to the UN Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative in Cyprus, who delivered it to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday afternoon.

    Denktash told journalists yesterday that he would take into account the Greek Cypriot stance before submitting a paper from the Turkish Cypriot side.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday that the Committee of Relatives of Missing Persons had been briefed on the content of the document at a meeting with Clerides.

    Committee President Nicos Theodosiou said no statements would be made on the substance of the issue, in order to facilitate the discussions.

    The identification of remains from two cemeteries in Nicosia through DNA testing has helped reduce the original list of 1,629 Greek Cypriot missing persons to 1,480. The Turkish Cypriot side lists some 800 people as missing between the outbreak of the intercommunal troubles of 1963-64 and the Turkish invasion 10 years later.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] How about a presidential plane?

    By Elias Hazou

    NEXT up in local aviation developments: an Air Force One for the president - - or maybe not. The government has asked Cyprus Airways (CY) to carry out a feasibility study on the prospect of buying or chartering, a commercial airliner for the head of state and ministers.

    The issue had been raised by the government in the past, but had come to nothing. CY spokesman Tassos Angeli yesterday confirmed to the Cyprus Mail that the national carrier was conducting a feasibility check, adding no time frame had yet been set, as the matter was "not really pressing".

    "The government has asked us to carry out this study so that it decides the best solution for it," Angeli said, noting that no preference had been shown for either buying or chartering a plane.

    Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou echoed this, saying that "no decisions will be taken until the facts and figures are in".

    Amid speculation that the carrier's fleet was already low in numbers, reports suggested CY might propose the plane be used commercially whenever it was not needed by government officials.

    Angeli was also unable to confirm whether the plane would come from the existing CY fleet or from future acquisitions. But he said that, most probably, a business jet-style aircraft would best serve the needs of the president, ministers or deputies travelling abroad.

    That would rule out an Air Force One for the head of state, but certainly would be more comfortable than the RAF's rumbling Hercules military aircraft with which British PM Tony Blair flies on long trips. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his ministers are somewhat more fortunate, travelling in a Bundeswehr (German Air Force) Boeing or Airbus.

    The Cypriot solution to the government's travelling needs would therefore be similar to that in France, where President Jacques Chirac and his ministers fly in small-sized jets manufactured by Dassault and owned by the French government.

    The issue of the government's travel schemes reportedly resurfaced last September, when President Clerides and a delegation were left stranded in Canada aboard a commercial airliner grounded hours after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Government dismisses flu epidemic warning

    By Alexia Saoulli

    WARNINGS that a flu epidemic could hit Cyprus in the next fortnight are purely hypothetical and have no medical standing, the government's senior medical officer Chrystalla Hadjianastasiou said yesterday.

    The Asian flu has infected over half a million Italians, state epidemiologist Michalis Voniatis said on Thursday, cautioning Cypriots to be on alert for a possible full scale national epidemic due to frequent flights to and from Rome.

    However, Hadjianastasiou said yesterday there was no scientific evidence to support the threat of flu outbreak, adding that, every year, all countries equally faced the probability of any kind of flu epidemic.

    House Health Committee chairman Antonis Karas of DISY said yesterday he too had been in contact with the Health Ministry since Voniatis' announcement, and that he was reassured it was taking all necessary measures to prepare for the possible epidemic.

    "However, this is not a deadly flu, and has not come to Cyprus yet, so there is no cause for alarm," Karas said.

    Health Minister Frixos Savvides also assured the Cyprus Mail that measures for flu epidemics were taken every year and were not exclusive to the Asian flu.

    "Part of the Ministry's annual routine is to take preventive measures against the flu, and vaccinations are given to high-risk groups, such as the elderly, people with chronic respiratory and kidney problems, heart patients and diabetics," he said. He added that Asian flu was a worldwide phenomenon with normal flu symptoms, and so there was no risk because all high-risk groups had already been vaccinated.

    Hadjianastasiou confirmed that high-risk groups should already have had the vaccine in the autumn, after being contacted by the Ministry.

    She said there was no more vaccine available at state hospitals, as it was policy to have it all distributed by January, anyone else concerned could still go private.

    "It's not too late to have the vaccine now, because the hospitals have informed me that so far there have only been sporadic cases of the flu on the island. Therefore, patients still have time to develop the necessary antibodies," she said, adding this would take two weeks.

    "It is against policy to save the vaccine after January, because if it is not used, it becomes worthless the following year, when a new flu vaccine is developed," she explained.

    She said only high-risk groups were eligible for free vaccines. Healthy, younger people did not need a vaccine to beat the flu, she said, as they has natural antibodies that did the work just as well.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Retailers warn of price war

    By Elias Hazou

    LARGE hypermarkets, accused of monopolising the local retail market, this week hit back by warning the lack of legislation would trigger a real price war, with one prominent industry figure warning: "you ain't seen nothing yet."

    During the countdown to the winter sales, small and medium-sized stores, represented by the POVEK union, complained larger stores had already begun selling items at discount prices, thereby violating the law. But over the past week, major hypermarket chains intensified their marketing campaigns, leading to stiff competition among a small group of stores and a war of words. They also decried the lack of legislation to regulate the market, echoing the complaints so far exclusive to small shops.

    Christos Orphanides, CEO of the eponymous supermarket chain, warned this week that a ban on below-cost sales would harm all store owners, not just major hypermarkets currently accused of abusing the practice. He went on to hold the government and parliament responsible for an escalated price war in the future if new laws were not put in place.

    For its part, the Competition and Consumer Protection Services department defended itself by citing insufficient staffing as the reason for inadequate market checks. But the department also justified its lack of immediate action saying that its analysis of whether a business monopolised a particular market covered a two to three-year period.

    The Commerce Ministry is meanwhile trying to work out ways of partly regulating the retail market, but it seems a ban on below-cost sales is out of the question for now; the European Commission is currently working on a directive that would bar governments from interfering with below-cost sales. Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis has said he understands the plight of small shopkeepers, but will not jeopardize Cyprus' EU accession course to satisfy them.

    POVEK has announced a campaign to highlight its demands, including a February 7 demonstration and a march through the streets of Nicosia to the House of Representatives.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Man remanded over bank robbery

    By Rita Kyriakides

    LIMASSOL District Court yesterday remanded a 38-year-old man for six days in connection with an armed robbery at a branch of the Bank of Cyprus in Limassol.

    Christakis Patataris was arrested on Thursday afternoon on suspicion of armed robbery and the possession of illegal firearms.

    Earlier that day, a hooded man had marched into the bank in Ayios Tychonas, brandishing a sawn off shotgun in one hand and a kalashnikov in the other. Around 12,000 was handed over and the suspect fled from the scene in a grey car, parked outside the bank.

    Police, who believe the armed robber had an accomplice, also arrested a 39- year-old man from Limassol on Thursday in connection with the raid. But the man was released yesterday because of the lack of evidence against him.

    Justice Minister Nicos Koshis yesterday said the recent rise in bank robberies would be discussed at the House on Monday.

    The General Secretary of the Bank Workers' Union (ETYK), Loizos Hadjicostis, yesterday warned bank owners that staff would take drastic measures if requested security measures were not implemented at banks, and called on the government and police to put pressure on bank owners.

    Bank workers want guards and special entry systems with inbuilt metal detectors so admission can be refused to anyone looking suspicious.

    They are also demanding better surveillance systems and bullet-proof partitions, which would eliminate physical contact with bank tellers.

    The President of the Bank Employers' Association, Christos Taliadoros, said yesterday that three organisations, the police, ETYK and the bank owners, were responsible for safety measures at banks, and so no single organisation could be blamed.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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