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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-06-01

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Saturday, June 1, 2002


  • [01] Civil servants demand to work less for more money
  • [02] Guns for politicians
  • [03] Politicians close ranks over gun scandal
  • [04] Battery of measures hammer smokers on no-smoking day
  • [05] FAO conference ends with plea for world's hungry
  • [06] News in brief

  • [01] Civil servants demand to work less for more money

    By Alex Mita

    LAST week they were asking not to work on Thursday afternoons in June. Yesterday, civil servants staked their claim to a 35-hour week (from the current 40) and a 14th salary.

    PASYDY General Secretary Glafcos Hadjipetrou told the Cyprus Mail the move would be to harmonise employees' working hours with those of the European Union.

    "There are countries in the EU that have adopted a 35-hour week in order to make room for more jobs," he said.

    Only France has a 35-hour week, and it is applicable across the board, not only for the civil service. Unemployment in Cyprus is negligible, with foreign workers being imported to fill gaps in the labour market.

    Hadjipetrou added the suggestion had been tabled by a member at the trade union conference that took place on Thursday, and that it had not yet been approved by PASYDY to be forwarded to the House.

    About the scrapping of Thursday afternoons in June, Hadjipetrou said the hours lost during the summer would be covered during the winter when civil servants would have to work for an extra 20 minutes a day.

    Apart from working hours, the PASYDY conference focused on working conditions, salary, as well as public holidays and the threats of privatisation.

    However, Antonis Pierides of the Employers and Industrialist Federation, told the Cyprus Mail yesterday he did not agree with the possibility of cuts to civil service working hours.

    "I believe that because private sector and the civil service hours were until now the same, it would not be right to have a cut in civil service working hours," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Guns for politicians

    By George Psyllides

    THE CONTROVERSY sparked after it emerged that Police Chief Andreas Angelides had appointed a businessman as a special constable, at the same time issuing him with a gun permit, has overshadowed the actual investigation which uncovered the weapon in the first place.

    The gun was found by customs and European Anti-Fraud (OLAF) officers, who on Tuesday raided the offices of CT Tobacco as part of an investigation into cigarette smuggling allegations.

    The officers removed hundreds of documents and other data in a search branded as industrial espionage by the firm's owner Christophoros Tornaritis and his lawyers.

    But while Tornaritis vehemently denied the cigarette smuggling allegations, the customs department on Wednesday impounded a motor yacht allegedly used by the businessman.

    Reports yesterday said that the boat, Mr. Opposite II, had been impounded pending tax evasion allegations.

    Authorities are also said to be investigating the boat's history, as it is suspected of belonging to the son of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, Marko.

    Marko Milosevic, 28, is currently in hiding and rumours say he may either be in Russia or one of the former Soviet republics, avoiding Yugoslav authorities who want to question him in connection with cigarette and drug smuggling and gangland activities.

    But what astonished commentators was the discovery of the firearm, and the fact that it was legally possessed courtesy of Angelides.

    What followed will have raised eyebrows among Cyprus' European partners, considering the island's eagerness to join the EU and its zeal in harmonising with its directives.

    The matter, however, proved once more that old mentalities die hard.

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides ruled that the power of respective police chiefs to appoint special constables with gun permits was illegal and an "abuse of authority".

    The question on everyone lips, however, was: why had no one come up with this ruling before?

    The fact that the same procedure was used by all of Angelides' predecessors is expected to provide President Glafcos Clerides with the excuse not to sack Angelides, despite initial suggestions to the contrary.

    Angelides still has to explain why he gave Tornaritis a gun, especially since his son Savvas is one of Tornaritis' lawyers; and why he also issued his second son Michalis with a gun and special constable status.

    Michalis, who is now involved with a security firm, was in the past the director of one of Tornaritis' companies.

    But the other spin-off has been the leaks of the names of people who have been issued with firearms, leaks which infuriated DISY Chief Nicos Anastassiades - one of those named - who spoke of a flagrant action by "some unfortunately silly and populist state instruments to pillory specific DISY members."

    In a letter sent to Clerides on Thursday after he was named as possessing a firearm, Anastassiades said he was saddened by the matter, adding: "There is an unprecedented ridicule of politicians and respectful citizens who were given a gun permit legally or through normal procedures."

    A couple of years ago, Anastassiades' brother Bambos, who was later convicted for running a pink-slip racket, was found to be a special constable, licensed to have a gun.

    Oddly enough, at the time it did not occur to anyone to look into the procedure that was this week ruled illegal.

    To his credit, Anastassiades said this week he would hand in his weapon and urged Clerides to publish the whole list of 'special constables' carrying a firearm.

    The furore forced House President Demetris Christophias to own up to his own gun, presumably before his name was announced by the media. He justified himself saying he got the gun after the present government decided to cut on down politicians' personal guards.

    The names leaked to the media were mainly of politicians, who on Thursday played down the whole matter by referring to deputies and politicians in other countries who, as they claimed, were armed or had armed bodyguards.

    Despite Anasstassiades' outburst, however, it was not only his party's deputies that were the only ones carrying guns.

    According to reports, AKEL Spokesman Nicos Katsourides is also armed, as well as party deputy Costas Papacostas, the former deputy chief of police.

    Two more people working for AKEL's Astra radio station were also named on Thursday as being armed, an interesting twist after the station went on a tirade on Wednesday over reports that 'eight-day president' Nicos Sampson had been issued a gun that has never been recovered after his death.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Politicians close ranks over gun scandal

    By George Psyllides

    POLITICIANS yesterday closed ranks in the gun scandal shaking the island over recent days, with AKEL joining arch-rival DISY Chairman Nicos Anastassiades in saying the leaks of the names of politicians carrying firearms had been selective, while President Glafcos Clerides refused to publish the full list, saying to do so would put lives at risk.

    At the same time, the much-awaited meeting between Chief of Police Andreas Angelides and the President, expected to take place yesterday, was put off due to Clerides' heavy schedule.

    Reports said the two men would probably meet today.

    Clerides told reporters yesterday that he would notify Angelides whenever he had time to see him.

    Asked if he was going to revoke all gun permits, Clerides said this was an issue concerning the Cabinet.

    The President said he had seen the list, but added the issue was who got a gun permit through legitimate channels and who did so by virtue of being appointed a special constable.

    Angelides found himself in a whirlwind of controversy after it emerged he had issued a gun permit to a businessman, whose tobacco company is being investigated in connection with international cigarette smuggling allegations, by appointing him a special constable.

    Christophoros Tornaritis' CT Tobacco offices were raided last week by customs and European Anti-Fraud (OLAF) officers who discovered the gun and the way it had been issued.

    It was later revealed that Angelides had also issued his son Michalis with a gun by appointing him a special constable. His other son, Savvas, is one of Tornaritis' lawyers.

    On Wednesday, Attorney-general Alecos Markides ruled that the practice of giving gun licences by appointing applicants as special constables - thus bypassing the Justice Ministry - was illegal and constituted an abuse of authority.

    On the same day, the matter took a political turn when the names of politicians carrying a gun were leaked to the press.

    Anastassiades on Thursday accused government circles of "selectively leaking" the names to the media, only to find support yesterday from opposition AKEL, whose chairman and other members were also carrying guns.

    AKEL Parliamentary Spokesman Andreas Christou said: "I believe the leak was a wrong action targeting politicians and deliberately or not it gave an image, which had nothing to do with the whole affair."

    Christou said the state was responsible for guaranteeing the security of its citizens but the gun should be the last option - "a solution given after all other options were exhausted."

    Christou said what was of concern was not the politicians licensed to carry guns but the reports that suspicious individuals with criminal links had been appointed special constables.

    Anastassiades said that the Attorney-general should have given the President a confidential ruling, and that Clerides should in turn have instructed the Justice Minister to ask those with guns to reapply through the ministry.

    But DIKO Chairman Tasos Papadopoulos put everything in perspective yesterday, saying he did not think carrying a gun could act as a shield or be a defence for those in danger.

    "When you think that those with permits do not carry them (guns) with them every day - they have them stashed somewhere - how are they going to protect themselves?" Papadopoulos said.

    He added: "I think most request them for exhibition purposes and not because of any real need."

    Papadopoulos said there were clear laws stating it was the Cabinet who had the authority to give arms to those who could prove they were in danger, and the issue should never have had anything to do with special constables.

    "I am under the impression that the matter has been exaggerated. I'm not saying it's not serious; it is, because it creates a bad impression for Cyprus but let's not make it the day's most important issue," Papadopolos said.

    KISOS Chairman Yiannakis Omirou said his party supported transparency and had no objection to publishing the list.

    Omirou stressed Cyprus needed to overhaul its laws and enter a new era.

    "Cyprus should enter a new era; we cannot live with fifties and sixties institutions, if not colonial institutions; we have to turn the page and modernise regulations," Omirou said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Battery of measures hammer smokers on no-smoking day

    By Elias Hazou

    NO SMOKING Day yesterday coincided with the Health Ministry's official confirmation that legislation had been passed prohibiting lighting up in "smoking-free" areas.

    On Thursday, the price of cigarettes was hiked by 20 cents, in what the smoking faithful must have seen as one more blow to their habit.

    Savvides, a professed smoker himself, said yesterday he believed the price hike was a step in the right direction in discouraging people from inhaling, but added that further price increases would increase the measure's impact. The price hike was technically introduced in line with EU policies on taxation of certain consumer goods, including tobacco and alcohol.

    According to the legislation approved by parliament, smoking will be prohibited within the premises of government and semi-government organisations, banks and entertainment establishments.

    Explained Marina Constantinou, administrative officer at the Health Ministry: "as far as the public sector goes, the ban will apply to designated spaces, essentially customer services outlets." The law makes it mandatory to put up no-smoking signs, she added.

    For the workplace, Constantinou said a ban, or absence thereof, would depend on an internal agreement reached between the employer and the employees.

    But when it comes to controlling smoking in entertainment establishments, things may not be so cut and dry. Bars, restaurants and discos are the places where Cypriots light up the most.

    Discos, in particular, proved to be a strong bastion of pro-smokers. As Constantinou told the Cyprus Mail, past attempts to ban smoking had come to nothing when it quickly became apparent that the patrons would quite simply not comply. The government's move had been aimed at encouraging youngsters to kick the habit. Still, owners of pubs, bars, restaurants and popular cafés will now reserve the right to forbid smoking on their premises; puffing away will only be allowed in designated smoking areas.

    In addition, as of yesterday drivers caught by police smoking with a minor on board will be fined £30; the most extreme penalty would be a prison sentence. As Constantinou pointed out, drivers who are busted in this way will actually be getting off lightly: any other violation of smoking laws carries a maximum fine of £1,000, subject to the court's discretion. A provision concerning banning smoking in private vehicles with pregnant women on board was rejected by the House Health Committee after long debate.

    Starting next year, tobacco advertising will be banned, in line with common practice in EU countries.

    As Constantinou pointed out, the idea behind the measures was to "finally change the norms". She explained that while the majority of Cypriots were non-smokers, they had to put up with the habit because smoking was regarded as a natural practice. "This new legislation will help change that mentality, showing that non-smokers have rights that need to be respected."

    But were the majority of Cypriots, considered along with Greeks to be one of the heaviest smokers in the world, in fact not smokers? No. Constantinou quoted Health Ministry figures, according to which just 24 per cent of the population are smokers.

    Some would argue that the smoking ban impinges on civil liberties. But the health ministry official dismissed this, saying smokers needed to realise their habit was irritating and possibly harmful to others.

    With one in four of the population regular smokers, one would expect that a pro-smoking pressure group would raise a firestorm. Reportedly, nothing of the sort happened, although Constantinou, who sat on the committee that drafted the legislation, recalled one amusing incident: an anonymous smoker with a sense of humour had called her at work and wished her bad luck, saying "may you live for just a 1,000 days more," evidently an allusion to the £1,000 fine.

    The World Health Organisation estimates that each year some four million people die as a result of smoking. According to projected figures, if current trends persist, by the year 2020 that number will rise to a stark 8.4 million.

    As part of its campaign to increase awareness of the harmful effects of smoking, the Health Ministry has teamed up with a number of government and private bodies in organising a string of events during the year. Yesterday a football match was held inside Nicosia's central prisons between an inmates' team and wardens. Some 20 inmates have registered for a quitting program.

    Meanwhile the award of prizes for the international "Quit & Win" programme will be held in Cyprus on 7 June; the first-prize winner will receive $10, 000 and the second winner $2,500.

    But the million-dollar question yesterday was, would the island's health boss quit the habit? "It's really, really difficult," Savvides told reporters yesterday, "but I'll keep trying."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] FAO conference ends with plea for world's hungry

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    THE EUROPEAN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) conference ended yesterday with an appeal by Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf for the European heads of state and government to uphold the clear commitment to fight food insecurity at the forthcoming World Food Summit in Rome.

    Diouf expressed his gratitude to the government and people of Cyprus for hosting the regional conference and providing excellent facilities. In turn, Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous, conveyed his appreciation for cooperation between the FAO and Cyprus on issues of fire fighting and water management.

    During the conference Diouf highlighted the inadequate progress made since the last summit in 1996 to reduce the number of undernourished people in the world - over 800 million - to half by 2015. "At the present rate, this would only be achievable towards 2050," said Diouf, insisting that commitment must be backed by political will.

    The ministerial round table on food security and quality unanimously adopted a set of measures to put into place effective arrangements throughout the food chain under a national risk management strategy. These measures constitute part of a pan-European Action Plan to address Europeans increasing sensitivity to issues of food safety and security.

    The round table emphasised the importance of heightened cooperation between European countries to improve surveillance, coordination of food safety monitoring systems, the exchange of information and quick response to dangers when they arise.

    Delegates focused in particular on the causes of land degradation and desertification, which particularly affect the sub-regions of Mediterranean and Central Europe. The impact on water resource management and land productivity puts pressure on the region's agricultural and food production.

    Diouf reiterated his call for both developing and developed countries to do "more and better" to fight world hunger. He identified the need for increased investment and the transfer of technology to tackle the fundamental structural problems of agriculture. Many countries were suffering by not being able to irrigate arable land, citing the need for small-scale water harvesting irrigation systems. Diouf also stipulated the need for normal seeds in the public domain to be accessible to poorer countries, highlighting the problem of keeping research in the research centres and not in the hands of farmers.

    The demands come in the wake of warnings by UN agencies of a massive southern African food crisis, threatening 10 million people with famine.

    The Director-General maintained the need to conserve crop production and animal farming through investment and transfer of know-how technology, referring to the recent scare of animal diseases. He acknowledged concerns over genetic modification of food crops and animals, calling for its need to monitored scientifically and in an international framework.

    In a final plea to the developed countries, Diouf asked governments not to wait for a crisis to happen and rush with food aid but to make a concerted effort to ensure the appropriate resources are better focused on poor people themselves who need assistance. Diouf summarised the course of action needed to alleviate world hunger with the statement, "Don't give fish, allow people to fish."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] News in brief

    Carlsberg robber jailed

    LARNACA District Court yesterday sentenced student Angelos Achillis, 27, to three and a half years imprisonment for committing an armed robbery on the Carlsberg factory. The court found Achillis guilty of stealing, with two others, £495 in cash and 500 bottles of whisky worth £5,000 in February 2002. The court took into consideration the confession made and the information given on the whereabouts of the stolen goods. The two other suspects have entered pleas of non-guilty and will be summoned to court on September 3.

    One year for hit and run

    LARNACA District Court yesterday jailed Panicos Papamarcou, 52, for one year for causing a double-death accident and leaving the scene. The accident occurred in May 2000 on the Larnaca-Limassol highway when Papamarkou crashed into a car driven by Andreas Constantinou, 28, killing his wife and six-month old baby. He failed to stop and call for help, claiming his wife was having a nervous breakdown. Papamarcou later hid his car from police at a friend's house.

    Denktash under fire

    A MAINLAND Turkish daily has accused Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash of embezzling $130,000 by exploiting a new pension 'law' passed by his regime.

    Under the front-page headline "Shame Mr. Denktash", Sabah said that Denktash, who has already received two retirement bonuses, has done it again, pocketing 174 billion Turkish Lira from the breakaway state's budget, which only survives on Turkey's aid.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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