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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-01-29

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

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


Tuesday, January 29, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] 'Masked men threaten Pittokopitis'
  • [02] Clerides: weapons systems will stay
  • [03] Football rocked by bribery allegations
  • [04] Conflict resolution critics 'playing a political game'
  • [05] Customs officers under fire for massive overtime payments
  • [06] Vassiliou denies link to electricity scam
  • [07] Resident's fury over chemical levels in water supply

  • [01] 'Masked men threaten Pittokopitis'

    THREE hooded men - one of them armed - were waiting outside the Paphos home of DIKO deputy Nicos Pittokopitis when he returned from his office late last night, CyBC reported.

    According to the state television channel, Pittokopitis returned from DIKO offices at around 10pm. He told police that he saw a car with the driver's door open parked outside his house. He asked the two men in the car if they wanted something or were waiting for someone.

    One of the two men then told the deputy, apparently in broken Greek, that they were waiting for a friend, but the other immediately pulled out a pistol and placed it on the car seat, CyBC said.

    Pittokopitis ran to his car to call police on his mobile phone. As he was doing so, a third hooded man appeared from inside his yard. The third man headed for the car with his accomplices and the three sped off.

    The deputy told police the men had been in a rental car and that he had managed to catch the first four letters on the licence plate. Police went to the scene to begin an investigation.

    Police said they could not rule out the possibility that the three men were Pontian Greeks, attempting to intimidate the deputy for his outspoken views on the Pontian community in the Paphos area.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Clerides: weapons systems will stay

    By George Psyllides

    PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides yesterday denied being pressured by foreign diplomats to remove high-tech National Guard weapon systems from the island.

    In a written statement read by Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou, Clerides said that no foreign ambassador - including the US ambassador - had ever suggested or raised the issue of removing any weapons from Cyprus.

    The President's statement sought to put an end to damaging rumours sparked by reports in Simerini and on Sigma, which revealed sensitive information about specific weapons systems.

    Clerides said no decision had been or would be taken concerning the removal of any National Guard system.

    He said he had repeatedly told the public that there were weapons that the National Guard would not demonstrate in parades and exercises, and added he was annoyed such sensitive issues had become public through irresponsible statements often involving deputies.

    What was actually discussed, said the statement, was that National Guard personnel would be trained in Greece or in the country where the weapons originated so as to safeguard secrecy.

    Clerides said reports claiming Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos was to resign over the issue were nothing but fables.

    House President Demetris Christophias, who met Clerides yesterday, said that he had been assured there was no issue of removing any weapons.

    Christophias struck a note of caution, saying the publication of sensitive military issues could only do damage to the Republic.

    DISY deputy Antonis Karas said he did not have any specific weapon system in mind, but criticised members of the media for revealing information.

    "I think that members of the media who reveal information on weapons systems are not doing any good to our defence; the issue here is not who reveals information first," Karas said. "They should safeguard the National Guard."

    But Karas took the chance to issue a warning to all sides.

    "We won't consent to weakening our defence in light of the talks; we could consider it if those interested imposed the same principle on the occupying troops," Karas said.

    "Being the good guys unilaterally doesn't do anyone any service," he added.

    Karas said there had been no scaling down of armaments in the occupied north, there had been constant pressure on the government to stop bolstering its defence.

    AKEL deputy Doros Christodoulides said it has been known for many years that the Americans were constantly putting pressure on Cyprus not to procure high-tech weapon systems.

    He said he was obliged to accept the official assurances from the President.

    "I do not want to believe that the Clerides government would do the same as they did with the S-300 missiles," he said.

    In 1999, Clerides buckled under heavy pressure from the international community to cancel deployment of the highly potent Russian-made S-300 anti- aircraft missile system.

    The 250 million missiles, whose procurement sent the Turks in frenzy of threats, were instead deployed on the Greek island of Crete.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Football rocked by bribery allegations

    By George Psyllides

    AFTER the Stock Exchange, land scams, electricity theft, and other scandals, it's the turn of football, with a club chairman on Saturday charging that a match official was routinely 'fixing' games.

    The accusations were made at the end of the cup fixture between Olympiakos of Nicosia and Anorthosis of Famagusta, which Anorthosis won 2-0.

    As soon as the final whistle blew, Olympiakos Chairman Christoforos Tornaritis accused linesman Antonis Papapanayiotou, a police officer by profession, of routinely fixing games.

    The allegations became the focus of discussion on sports shows throughout the weekend, with bitter exchanges between club officials and promises from the Football Federation (KOP) that the matter would be investigated.

    Anorthosis slammed the allegations as an effort to degrade the team's victory.

    Anorthosis official Christakis Pittas on Saturday said this kind of behaviour would not be tolerated, and counter-charged that his team's goalkeeper Nicos Panayiotou had been approached before the first leg between the two teams by people who allegedly tried to bribe him.

    The linesman has refused to comment, saying his lawyers had been instructed to take all necessary actions against Tornaritis.

    But the fracas took a new twist on Saturday, when a Cypriot who used to play for a first division team but now lives in London backed Tornaritis' claims, adding that club officials and other referees were involved too.

    The man claimed he had also been approached by Papapanayiotou to fix a game, and said he had evidence he was ready to submit.

    On Sunday, KOP Chairman Costakis Koutsokoumnis said he expected Tornaritis to hand over all the evidence backing the allegations he had made.

    The federation's Deputy Chairman Andreas Akkilides said yesterday the body would investigate the charges, adding, however, that it would be difficult to prove a case.

    Akkilides said KOP would be working closely with the police, who have also launched an investigation.

    He said such reports had emerged before, but nothing could be done because no one was willing to produce any evidence.

    The Chairman of the Referees' Association said he was deeply disturbed by the whole situation but was determined to get to the bottom of it.

    He said he had spoken to Papapanayiotou, who denied all the accusations.

    The General Manager of Olympiakos, Christos Elia yesterday said his club expected the Papapanayiotou to resign, saying it was the least he could do for the good of football.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Conflict resolution critics 'playing a political game'

    By Jennie Matthew

    ACADEMICS yesterday branded criticism of conflict resolution workshops as blatant political manoeuvring at a time when face-to-face talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders heighten the immediacy of a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    Last week, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou, Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou and the President's daughter Katie Clerides were condemned for their involvement in the "Harvard Group" - a conflict resolution workshop.

    On Sunday, Politis went front page with "shocking" details from the "Oslo Report", written by a group of 52 Greek and Turkish Cypriots who met in Norway in 1998.

    A report that was circulated to the press three years ago was effectively ignored until last weekend.

    Frequent criticisms slam participants for being "hand picked by the Americans" and "betraying the pain" inflicted by the Turkish invasion.

    Others claim such workshops are pointless psychological efforts to deal with a geopolitical problem.

    Yet for years, bi-communal activity and conflict resolution projects have continued on the sidelines, before being whipped up into periodic press frenzies.

    Academics and participants see the most recent storm as linked to the face- to-face negotiations between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and the 2003 Presidential Elections.

    "I guess the reason it erupts at certain times depends on how journalists and politicians perceive the immediacy of a solution. People feel now is a crucial time, whereas two years ago nothing was happening," said Nicos Peristianis, sociologist and dean of Intercollege.

    Member of the Oslo Group and chartered accountant Michalis Avraam sees the attack as a direct attempt to slander the Government Spokesman.

    "Papapetrou is part of the negotiating team and quite a few people are annoyed by that. They are using this as a weapon to play against him," he said.

    President of Intercollege Sofronis Sofroniou agrees, as does Oslo participant and human rights lawyer Achilleas Demetriades.

    "There's nothing much in it. The people who accuse others take part in similar seminars. I know that for a fact. They exaggerate their importance and distort what happens," said Sofroniou.

    "There are political reasons behind it. They're going for people in government," said Demetriades.

    The other major bone of contention is American input, often seen as seeking to promote unacceptable compromises. The US Congress approves $15 million every year for efforts to help solve the Cyprus problem. As a result, the US Embassy in Nicosia and the American Fulbright Commission are the major sponsors of conflict resolution groups.

    But is there any truth behind the complaints, or is conflict resolution valuable?

    Participants and financiers certainly think so.

    "They are valuable in free exchange. They are run by academics and I don't think they have a hidden agenda, other than bringing the sides together. I participated and benefited without having to change my ideas. Instead, I had an opportunity to project my ideas," said Sofroniou.

    He referred to it as second track diplomacy, working hand-in-hand with top- level contacts.

    "There are three ways to solve the Cyprus problem. We can kill them. They can kill us or we can live together. If we live together, the least we can do is talk to each other. If we don't, how can we live together?" said Demetriades.

    The prominent lawyer has been accused of "hypocrisy" in prosecuting Turkey's abuses of human rights before the European Court in Strasbourg, while being willing to come together with Turkish Cypriots. Demetriades sees no conflict.

    For him, human rights are intrinsic to a solution, so that each minority has those rights guaranteed, just as it is his right as an individual to talk to who he likes.

    "The US embassy doesn't think it's a waste of time," said press officer Walter Douglas and chairman of the Fulbright Commission.

    Asked to comment about allegations about American propaganda, he said: "We have no doubts about our programmes, nor does Congress."

    UN spokesman Brain Kelly admitted such contacts could be misunderstood.

    "Conflict resolution comes with certain connotations and you have to be careful about overloading your story. Our emphasis has always been on encouraging bi-communal activity, which leads to heightened awareness, sensitivity and understanding," he said.

    But perhaps the real irony is that conflict resolution workshops tend to align more with the Greek Cypriot side's vision of a bi-communal, bi-zonal solution, rather than the confederal system advocated by Ankara.

    This is what infuriated Avraam.

    "The process is more important than what's being discussed," he said, referring to 25 people from both sides coming together for the first time and agreeing on a document.

    "It just shows that when there is a will there is a way," he said.

    So is he depressed for the future in a country with so much squabbling about a productive process?

    "I don't feel that society at large has rejected it, only that society is not informed."

    And for that he blames "ignorant" press frenzies.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Customs officers under fire for massive overtime payments

    SOME customs officers take home more than double their annual salaries by working overtime, the Auditor-general's report for 2000 has revealed.

    Apparently, some employees earned a whopping 25,600 in overtime, on top of a fixed annual salary of just 15,000.

    Therefore an officer on a 15,000 grade can bank up to 40,000, in practices that some fear are a deliberate effort to shunt as much work as possible into the afternoons.

    As civil servants, their official office hours are 7.30am to 2.30pm. Work done after their contracted time is paid extra.

    Phileleftheros yesterday claimed that the cost of customs' house salaries had jumped 300,727 to 2.72 million in 2000, compared to 2.42 million in 1999.

    By contrast, the profit margin grew by only 212,480, up from 1.86 million in 1999 to 2.07 million in 2000.

    Overtime payments amounted to 643,711 in 2000, compared to 55,472 in 1999.

    The Auditor's report allegedly singled out 25 specific employees, who commandeered overtime pay worth a total of 640,000.

    The newspaper claimed that employees admitted to being in no hurry to process some cargo, in order to reap the impressive benefits of overtime pay.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Vassiliou denies link to electricity scam

    By Rita Kyriakides

    FORMER President George Vassiliou yesterday categorically denied reports of involvement in the electricity theft scandal.

    A television station on Sunday claimed that Vassiliou - who head's the island's EU accession team - was named on a list of people who allegedly paid former Electricity Authority (EAC) technician, Michalis Masouras to tamper with electricity meters to indicate lower readings. Masouras has been in custody since December.

    Vassiliou's wife Androulla saw the report, and contacted the President of the EAC, George Georgiades yesterday morning to request a meeting.

    Georgiades met with Vassiliou and his wife later in the day.

    "Vassiliou asked me to send technicians to their premises to investigate the matter," Georgiades said.

    The EAC released a report yesterday afternoon stating that no evidence of tampering had been discovered on any of Vassiliou's electricity meters on all three of the family's premises.

    Androulla Vassiliou also contacted the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to request an investigation into the source of the information.

    "The police had no idea. After investigating the matter, they said it had not come from a leak in the Department. Apparently the technician's associate has said that Masouras was using the names of well-known people to convince new customers," said Androulla Vassiliou.

    The head of CID, Tassos Panayiotou, said yesterday it was not the police's place to reveal any information before they had evidence.

    "It is not right for the police to reveal information without completing our investigations," he said.

    Panayiotou said they had no way of knowing who revealed the information.

    Police are examining a 176-page notebook belonging to Masouras. It contains the names of prominent people and businesses, with meter readings and sums of money.

    Another man, Charalambos Kitromilides, was arrested on January 23, after Masouras named him.

    Kitromilides admitted to collaborating with Masouras to adjust an additional three meters police had not known about.

    Masouras, who apparently operated across the island, has been in custody since December 19 last year when he was arrested in the Famagusta area after he admitted he had adjusted the clock on the meter to show less consumption.

    The suspect got paid according to how many kilowatts of electricity he saved for the owner of the meter, police said.

    Police said 61 meters in the Nicosia district were initially found to have forged EAC security seals.

    When Masouras was arrested, police found two pincers used for sealing electricity meters as well as several used seals and 79 new ones, as well as his notebook.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Resident's fury over chemical levels in water supply

    By Alexia Saoulli

    AN OFFICIAL at the Water Development Department yesterday admitted that chemical levels in the drinking water supplied to Makedonitissa were way above the allowed EU maximum, but insisted it posed no risk to human health.

    The confirmation came after Olga Salangos, a civil engineer at the Dhekelia desalination plant, told the Cyprus Mail she had carried out her own tests on the drinking water at her home in Makedonitissa, near the Makarios Stadium in Nicosia, and found that it was not "suitable for consumption".

    But a civil engineer at the Water Development Department assured the paper that, although the water was indeed theoretically classed as "unsuitable and dangerous" for public consumption, this was not meant to be taken literally.

    Salangos said she was not acting as an official for the desalination plant, but merely as a concerned citizen, who was being forced to drink unhealthy water since November 21, when she first carried out an analysis on the quality of her home's drinking water at the Dhekelia plant's laboratory.

    "Last summer, we had some problems with our water quality," she said yesterday, "but it was quickly remedied by the Nicosia Water Board. Nonetheless, I've carried out checks on it every now and again."

    On November 21, during one of her routine samples, Salangos found that the "quality of water was not good, and could not be called drinking water". Thinking it to be the same problem as in the summer, she called the water board and was told to wait for an improvement.

    Since then, she said she had conducted an average of 20 tests on her water and on that of five other neighbouring houses. All show the same results: excessive levels of chloride, sodium and total dissolved solids (TDS).

    "I kept being told the Water Board would get back to me, and that the water quality would be improved - but nothing," she said.

    On Friday, Salangos conducted her final analysis before contacting the media. The results showed 347mg/l of sodium, 315mg/l of chloride and 1, 200mg/l of TDS. The European Union stipulates that these levels should not exceed 200mg/l, 200mg/l and 500mg/l respectively, she said.

    Salangos asked another civil engineer who specialises in water to analyse her sample in order to confirm her results.

    "He could not believe that this water sample had been obtained from my own home supply," she said, because the three parameters were so far out of range.

    Although she could not say what adverse effects drinking the water had, she insisted that it had to be unhealthy.

    But the civil engineer at the Water Development Department assured the Cyprus Mail that although the levels of sodium, chloride or TDS in the water sample were high, there was no scientific evidence to suggest that they were unhealthy. "All they do is give the water a strange taste," he said.

    "When we say it is unsuitable for consumption and dangerous, it does not mean that it poses a health risk," he said. The civil engineer explained that it was classified in this way so that people would not drink it: not because of its side effects, but because of its bad taste.

    "For instance drinking seawater is not dangerous, but is classified as so, because if you drink too much it will make you throw up due to the high salt concentration. However, it won't kill you. In other words, this is what we mean by 'dangerous and unsuitable'," he said.

    He added that the World Health Organisation (WHO) said "no health-based guidelines were proposed" for levels of sodium, chloride and TDS in drinking water.

    But the WHO guidelines did add: "However, concentrations in excess of 200mg of sodium may give rise to unacceptable taste," and a "chloride concentration of about 250mg can give rise to detectable taste".

    Makedonitissa's drinking water was not unhealthy, he said, it just did not taste nice.

    But this has not stopped Salangos from taking up the matter.

    She said she spoke to the Water Board last Thursday and they never got back to her. Tired with being ignored time and time again, she decided to go public over the weekend. By yesterday, the Water Board were on the phone to her and set up a water sample analysis for today at 9am, she said.

    Even the Mayor of Engomi was conducting an analysis of the water, she said, and would decide what measures to take once the results were back.

    No one at the Engomi municipality or the Nicosia Water Board was available for comment yesterday.

    Salangos said she suspected her home and those in the surrounding area were being supplied drinking water from wells.

    "I was told we were getting water from the Larnaca desalination plant, but I cannot believe that, because I know how it operates and I am 99.99 per cent sure the water it produces is good," she said.

    "What I believe is that we are given water from wells, and so all they have to do is close them down."

    She added that, they had had a similar problem in the area in 1995, and that she had been part of a group that had put a stop to the water supply from wells, as it had proved unsuitable for consumption.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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