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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-03-02
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Saturday, March 2, 2002
 EAC bosses get death threats after bills sent outBy Alexia Saoulli
DEATH threats have been sent to the Electricity Authority (EAC) General Manger Costas Ioannou and Financial Manager Moissis Stavrou, EAC spokesman Tassos Roussos said yesterday.
He said the threats, particularly in Stavrou's case, had come in the wake of electricity bills being sent out to companies linked to the recent EAC scandal.
The case first came to light when 71-year-old Michalis Masouras was arrested on suspicion of tampering with electricity meters and adjusting them to show lower readings in December last year.
Police investigations soon revealed that a number of prominent individuals and businesses were linked to the case, allegedly having paid Masouras to adjust their meters in order to pay less on electricity bills.
A list involving around 150 businesses was later published. The suspect got paid according to how many kilowatts of electricity he saved for the owner of the meter, police said.
Last week, the EAC started sending out bills to the people involved, requesting the actual amount owed, the Authority's spokesman said.
"This is why I believe Mr. Moissis was targeted," said Roussos, explaining that as this was a financial matter, the Financial Manager had to sign all the letters and bills addressed to those individuals involved, making him the easiest scapegoat for venting their anger.
"Naturally these threats cannot, and are not, being ignored and all measures are being taken to ensure the men's and other employees' safety," he said, adding that extra security measures had been taken throughout the building, and that police had been called in to ensure the men's safety was protected.
"On the other hand, we don't really believe these threats are serious," Roussos added. "In fact it's all becoming rather ridiculous. We are an organisation working to make things right and to put things in order - we even have the law on our side," he said. "But instead some extremists are behaving as if we'd done something wrong."
Although he did not know how exactly the message had read, he confirmed it was a death threat that had been sent to the men's mobile phones by text message sent over the Internet.
"But the police have told us it is hard, if not impossible, to trace who sent the message because it was sent over the Internet on websites that are tailored to SMS messages," said Roussos.
He said it could be any number of people involved in the scandal, but that they could perhaps be narrowed down to a select few because not everyone had yet received their corrected bills.
"We only started sending out the letters last week, and so have not sent the entire bunch yet. Therefore, I believe, the suspect list could be reduced to a smaller number."
But, he added, even then it would not be easy to trace the actual culprit of the messages, because he or she was not necessarily a person directly involved in the scam.
"It could even be a joke or a threat from someone who simply knows the person involved," he said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 'A monstrosity in the heart of Nicosia'By Elias Hazou
CONTROVERSY over the new location of the Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) building raged on yesterday, with allegations that vested interests had prompted town-planning authorities to rush the project through the back door.
Last week, the CSE called tenders for the construction of its new premises on the site of the old GSP stadium in Nicosia. The stock market building is currently housed under a temporary licence at the former International Merchandising Centre (IMC), an impressive complex on the outskirts of the capital. According to a Cabinet decision, within five years the CSE would have to find permanent premises within the capital's municipal boundaries.
The decision has raised an uproar, with a citizens' action group saying the move disregards aesthetics, environmental concerns and will worsen traffic congestion in the town centre, already nightmarish during peak hours.
For their part, the town-planning authority say the construction of the CSE building, a landmark site, will boost economic activity in the area, considered one of the capital's two major civic centres. In addition to the CSE, plans are under way to make space for shops and an open-air amphitheatre, while an underground parking lot would help solve traffic problems.
The CSE building is to occupy 25 per cent of the site, and will replace an old basketball court where youngsters meet up in afternoons to shoot hoops.
But analysts have speculated the construction of the CSE building will send real-estate prices in the area soaring, suggesting vested interests are at stake in the whole affair.
"Nicosia, our town," the recently formed action group, yesterday slammed town-planning authorities for trying "to justify with technocratic jargon the desecration of a long-time Nicosia landmark."
The group is comprised of environmentalists, archaeologists, architects and people of the arts and culture opposed to the construction of a "monstrosity in the heart of Nicosia". They propose that a park and open- air theatre be built instead.
The group's spokesman Andreas Petrides said yesterday the decision revealed a mentality that was "outdated and dictatorial, because it fails to take into account people's sensibilities". The group is suggesting that back- door tactics were employed to push the project forward; town-planning authorities, they say, reached their decision at the last moment and did not inform the concerned municipalities in due time.
Petrides warned the group would take "drastic measures" if the project went as planned.
Another member, Andonia Theodosiou, an architect, also questioned the wisdom behind such a project, remarking that Nicosia had the least greenery per citizen compared of all European capitals.
The town-planning authority and Nicosia Mayor Michalakis Zampelas hit back, insisting that development plans in the area had been made known and published in the government gazette two years ago, wondering why the group were protesting now.
While the issue is being hotly debated in the media, some analysts have observed that the cost of the new CSE building will be around £10 million, plus another £6-7 million for IT equipment and other fittings. This has raised the question of how the already ailing CSE could raise the money for the project. Others still have proposed the new CSE building be constructed without a trading floor, enabling workers to work from remote locations; this would allow staff reductions and save a considerable percentage of the projected costs.
Commentators in the press have argued that, if the CSE building were truly intended as a landmark construction, it should be built in suburbs in need of economic revitalisation, such as Kaimakli.
Petrides wondered: "Why must it be the old GSP stadium? We could think of a thousand alternative sites, and I am sure Mayor Zampelas could too."
The old GSP stadium was built at the turn of the 20th century. It has been used to host sports and cultural events, and was the venue for major meetings among politicians that shaped the island's history.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Defective grenades blamed for injuriesBy Melina Demetriou
DEFECTIVE grenades were yesterday blamed for Thursday's accident during a National Guard exercise, which caused minor injuries to 18 men.
Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos yesterday called a news conference to clear the air about the incident, which he said had been blown out of proportion by the media.
The minister said preliminary investigation had ruled out the possibility of human error being behind the accident, which took place during an exercise at the Tseri range.
The wounded men, a major, 16 soldiers and a conscript officer, were rushed to Nicosia Hospital, where they were treated for superficial injuries.
"The National Guard is examining the possibility that the grenades which exploded prematurely during the exercise could have been defective," he said.
Hasikos reassured that National Guardsmen were very experienced in fire rounds, stressing that all the necessary security measures were being taken to minimise the risk of accidents in exercises.
The minister complained that the media had made a big fuss over the incident.
"The number of accidents taking place in the National Guard is very insignificant considering that 100,000 people take part in military exercises every year," Hasikos argued in an interview with CyBC before the news conference yesterday.
"The fact that we did not have any victims this time proves that all the necessary security measures had been taken," he pointed out, adding that the National Guard would nevertheless further improve safety standards.
The House Defence Committee will ask the army to brief them on the accident so they can carry out a separate investigation, Committee Chairman and KISOS chairman Yiannakis Omirou said yesterday.
"We must examine all possibilities. Could the grenades have been used incorrectly, could they have expired or were they defective?" Omirou wondered.
He said concerns over the incident were justified.
Meanwhile, the Press Ethics Committee yesterday charged that certain electronic media had reported the accident in a way that had caused unnecessary panic.
The Committee issued an announcement advising media "to report more accurately and with more professionalism."
The minister said yesterday that the National Guard was also investigating a separate accident in which a Greek soldier was seriously injured during exercises at the Kalo Chorio firing range on Thursday.
Hasikos dismissed reports suggesting the soldier had been wounded after an old mortar shell exploded at his feet. He said preliminary investigations had shown he was injured during the exercise.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Looking into the future of a reunited islandBy Jennie Matthew
GREEK and Turkish Cypriots yesterday unveiled a new booklet, Cyprus after a Solution: economic and social activity - the product of two workshops to analyse a post-settlement, united island.
Published by IKME - the Socio-political Studies Institute set up in co- operation with Turkish Cypriot bank Bilban - the book presents the discussions on the social, economic and political future of one state, one Cyprus.
"This is not just another book about Cyprus and its associated problem. This is a testimony that Greek and Turkish Cypriots can sit around a table and elaborate about the future of our motherland," said the president of IKME Takis Hadjidemetriou.
"It is a message of hope that we all must embrace, preserve and develop in order to secure a better future for our country," he said.
Turkish Cypriots were told on Thursday that they had been given permission to cross to the south for yesterday's event at the Holiday Inn in Nicosia.
"It's quite awesome for me to see my compatriots coming to this side despite the severe risks. I'm ashamed I can't speak their language. It's a matter of will and time," said one refugee in the audience.
President of Bilban, Alpay Durduran, said the book was testament to the belief that the island's conflict would come to an end and that the country would be re-united and become "more prosperous and more loveable".
From the audience, there was praise for the transparency with which IKME conducted its work, funded almost exclusively by the Turkish Cypriot bank despite the appalling economic situation in the north.
Criticisms that bi-communal contacts were nothing more than US propaganda missions, propped up by a $12 million annual budget approved by Congress, leave IKME out in the cold.
"I am convinced more than ever before that these meetings are of the utmost importance and I hope our example can be followed by many," said one bystander.
The book includes a series of essays by Greek and Turkish scientists, economists, politicians and researchers, presented in London last March to tackle the of problems of a re-united Cyprus.
The London conference was convened after a previous meeting in Brussels in October 1998 organised by Renos Prentzas.
The chief value of the book is the faith with which it was written and published as a common consensus between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
The merit is in the questions posed, rather than the tentative answers, for the most part limited to idealist rhetoric of security, mutual understanding, respect and co-operation.
But the exception is the chapter devoted to community, social and cultural matters.
Written by Susie Charalambous, it argues for a restructuring of communal infrastructure along the lines of the model that has evolved in the London Cypriot community of Haringey, where Greek and Turk are united in the same tri-lingual organisations.
Yet despite the prevalent optimism of the morning that coincided with the resumption of proximity talks, Hadjidemetriou did question "the value of a book that deals with Cyprus after a solution when this solution is not so near".
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Laiki profits slumpTHE Laiki Group said yesterday its pre-tax profit fell to £2.09 million in 2001 from £69.13 million in 2000, hit by poorly performing Cypriot and Greek stock markets.
Preliminary 2001 accounts showed the group flipped to a loss after tax of £13.04 million last year from a £45.17 million pound after tax gain in 2000, which was boosted by the spin-off of Laiki Investments.
Laiki, which offers banking, finance and insurance services, is 22 per cent owned by Britain's HSBC bank.
Last year's results were depressed by a £40.64 million loss on disposal and revaluation of securities and a 34.5 per cent increase in bad debt provisioning to £17.7 million.
Operating profits before the investment revaluation declined to £60.5 million from £82.9 million in 2000.
The group, Cyprus' second largest domestic bank, said its profits were affected by a slowdown on the Athens and Nicosia stock exchanges, less new business for its insurance divisions and a decline in revenue from foreign exchange activity due to the introduction of the euro.
A jump in provisioning was largely generated in its Cypriot operations. "The Cypriot economy has been affected considerably by the events of September 11 and the negative performance of the bourse," the group said in a statement.
Laiki has units in Greece, Britain, Australia and representative offices in South Africa and Canada. It expanded into electronic banking in the past year.
It would propose a final dividend of 3 cents per share in addition to the interim dividend of five cents, or 16 per cent, up from 14 per cent in 2000.
The group said it planned to introduce a dividend reinvestment scheme this year offering shares at a discount of 10 per cent.
Laiki shares closed two cents higher to £1.27 on the Cyprus stock market yesterday.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Church reaffirms ban on burying suicidesBy Jennie Matthew
THE HOLY Synod this week reaffirmed its ban on burying suicide victims, in an effort to reinforce the drill to errant parish priests who turn a blind eye on the issue.
Bishop Pavlos of Kyrenia raised the matter with the Holy Synod, which duly proclaimed the ban at the end of its session on Thursday.
"The church condemns suicide and has banned church burials for those who take their lives. It is the ultimate sin which shows disrespect to the will of God," a spokesman for the Synod said.
Orthodox theology draws no distinction between murder and suicide, which both end human life, a gift from God that can only be withdrawn by God.
For the Church, suicide signifies loss of patience and hope, running contrary to the very nature of faith, which means true believers can never lose hope, no matter what difficulties they face.
Orthodox Churches the world over ban burials for suicides, as do Catholic and Protestant church leaders.
The only exception is made for the mentally ill who have a medical certificate to prove it, the Synod pointed out.
Yet people were left wondering yesterday whether announcing the ban would have any effect on the age-old practice of parish priests turning a blind eye to the circumstances of death.
Psychologist Andreas Spanos, whose doctorate is on suicide, was one such sceptic.
Over six years of research, he said had never encountered a victim of suicide whose held a firm allegiance to Greek Orthodoxy, despite coming across cases where people had ended their life, despite a faith in "European religious culture".
"I do believe that religion sometimes plays a part in suicide, but most people I speak to who are Orthodox are satisfied with the theology. The Church however, is a different thing," he told the Cyprus Mail.
Although the Catholic and Protestant faith puts much more emphasis on the external world and the importance of living one's life for others, Orthodoxy is a far more internal belief-structure that focuses on spirituality and being at one with an Omnipotent God, he said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001