By Alper Riza
As the denouement of the Cyprus saga reaches its climax and we move towards an historic compromise, the good news is that we have two old hands from Limassol at the helm in ‘a beautiful friendship’ genuinely engaged in putting together the building blocks of an enlightened new federal Cyprus.
The bad news is that we have the ‘usual suspects’ shamelessly masquerading as patriots, scheming in private and ranting and raving in public against a settlement for their own selfish purposes. The difference between the usual suspects and the federalists is that the latter care about the other community whereas the usual suspects hate the other community.
The memorable catch-phrases ’round up the usual suspects’ and ‘ the beginning of a beautiful friendship’ are lines from the film Casablanca that have now passed into English usage. A ‘beautiful friendship’ is used about people whose friendship is good for them and those around them and ‘the usual suspects’ is used in politics to describe a gang of mavericks who act in furtherance of borderline populist views for selfish motives.
According to the ancients there are three types of friendship: one based on utility, one on pleasure, and a third on goodness. The latter normally subsumes the first two. Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash were said to be friends but their friendship was based on pleasure. They enjoyed each other’s company and wit – usually toilet humour – but they were not engaged in putting together the building blocks of a new federal Cyprus as a joint project.
Rauf Bey was fond of recounting the time when he and Glafcos went for a walk to discuss the Cyprus problem in a leafy suburb in America. As with many good advocates, Rauf Bey was good at telling stories with an eye for authentic detail and excellent timing. It was an agreeable autumn afternoon, he said, with flame-red and golden leaves falling in a soft balmy breeze. The atmosphere was hazy, with a fragrance of burning wood wafting in the air and the sound of soft piano music, probably Chopin, faintly audible somewhere in the distance. An ambience of such utter harmony and tranquillity that no problem seemed intractable. Or so the American hosts thought! Alas not even the autumnal peace of east coast America or the gentle piano music of Chopin had any effect on the rustic vendetta in Cyprus.
The walk lasted a long time and was very friendly. Both men were observed constantly laughing and enjoying themselves and were caught on camera as they strolled and chatted. When they returned to base the Americans thought that the laughter they had observed meant progress. A breakthrough even! However, according to Rauf Bey the Cyprus problem had not been discussed at all and that when their American hosts were informed of this and enquired what their mirth was all about, they said that they had been telling each other dirty jokes!
Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci put their cards on the table in favour of a federal Cyprus during the course of their long careers in public life and are now seriously engaged in a joint project on which they had previously both staked their political careers. Their detractors – the usual suspects – are an assortment of political non-entities, opportunists, contrarians, dynastic fantasists, diaspora fanatics and other fellow travellers with borderline views. They are getting shriller and shriller as the shape of the new Cyprus appears on the horizon, and they have nothing to offer except hatred and sanctimonious nationalism.
The usual suspects need to be exposed for the dangerous mavericks they are. In the UK, the usual suspects were exposed by Prime Minister David Cameron when he mischievously but accurately described the members of UKIP as ‘a bunch of fruitcake loonies and closet racists’.
In the US, the members of the Tea Party are so borderline they want to impeach President Obama for the nuclear deal with Iran, the recognition of Cuba, and his policy of introducing a modicum of universal health care. In other words they want to impeach the president for the three greatest political achievements in the US since President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Who then are the usual suspects in Cyprus? On the Turkish side, there are some but they do not count as the public have consistently snubbed them, most recently when they elected Mustafa Akinci in preference to Dervish Eroglu in a landslide election fought on the Cyprus question.
Not so on the Greek side. First there is Nikolas Papadopoulos, son of the late president Tassos Papadopoulos. He is the present leader of DIKO after having displaced the hapless Marios Garoyian. His most notable non-achievement in public life has been that as chairman of the House finance committee he sat there like a lemon while the man from the ECB blinded members with bail-in codswallop and got the cretins of the House of Representatives to legislate for the appropriation of billions of euros of depositors’ savings.
The credentials of the sons of former politicians who oppose a settlement must be exposed as purely dynastic. Their opposition to a settlement has been transmitted to them in the male line from father to son. The fact, however, is that these days we have more enlightened ways of thinking and behaving than Mr Papadopoulos’ father did as a young man. His sort of 1950s narrow nationalism is passé these days, and his son would do well to rebel against rather than promote his father’s stale views.
Lots of sons rebel yet love their fathers dearly. Glafcos Clerides for example rebelled against his father John Clerides and sided with Archbishop Makarios – which he probably regretted – in Cyprus’ first election in 1960, but loved his father dearly.
The most unapologetically rejectionist Turkish Cypriot leader was of course Rauf Denktash. His son Serdar does not quite cut it like his father, but he is trying hard. There was a time when Serdar entered on a strange series of meetings with Tassos Papadopoulos of all people. Very strange indeed since Papadopoulos apparently did not just have a political aversion to Turks but a personal one too! Nevertheless one can sense a common purpose lurking in the background; a tacit understanding perhaps that the glib ‘no solution is the solution’ sound-bite that nowadays passes for policy amongst all rejectionists across the Green line was the result of a joint enterprise after all.
The most rejectionist Cyprus president was DIKO leader Spyros Kyprianou. His son Markos, also a leading light in his father’s party and once talked up as a likely president, is fortunately not a player these days. He was done for criminal negligence at Mari and although he was acquitted, his performance in government put paid to his dynastic pretensions.
The important point however is that the dynastic pretensions of the offspring of yesterday’s men in Cyprus are no recommendation and certainly not in the public interest when you think of the mess their parents left behind.
It is a blessing Archbishop Makarios did not have any offspring otherwise we would never see the end of his line of succession. Instead we have George Lillikas who is from Archbishop Makarios’ village of Panayia in Paphos. His problem is that he desires to be president as if it is some kind of object of desire. Like a child demands ice cream and does not stop crying in its pursuit, Lilikas will not stop crying against a solution in pursuit of his ambition to be president. But the presidency is a serious business for serious people. It is not ice cream. He is known as a weathercock and rightly so. He began life as a communist member of parliament although no one knows his real views as he has moved in every conceivable direction in the service of número uno.
Finally in this gallery of the usual suspects we have the pseudo socialists and the pseudo environmentalists. I first came across EDEK’s founding father, Dr Vasos Lyssarides, when I was at the English School in the late 60s. His American wife taught at the ES. I remember I thought them an odd couple. He was short, irrationally left wing, very nationalist and virulently anti-American. By contrast she was tall, internationalist, and a philhellene. He struck me even back then as having no feelings of socialist brotherhood for his Turkish Cypriot compatriots who were confined in enclaves, fearful and destitute. He was taken to task about this when he came to one of our student gatherings at the ES with a few delegates who had been attending a non-aligned conference in Cyprus. He was perfectly happy for the Turkish Cypriots to remain fearful and destitute while he pranced about bad mouthing them to the non-aligned world, the better to squeeze them further in the hope that they would quit Cyprus altogether. And so his party has remained to this day: indifferent to what happens to the Turkish Cypriots. The difference between Mustafa Akinci on the one hand and EDEK and the Greens on the other is that he cares about what happened to the Greek Cypriots in 1974, whereas they do not give a damn about what happened to the Turkish Cypriots!
Basically the Socialists and the Greens in Cyprus, unlike their European counterparts, are without a single progressive bone in their body. They are against any solution other than one that would potentially condemn the Turkish Cypriots to the way they were in the days of the enclaves.
Round up the usual suspects indeed!
Alper Riza is a queen’s counsel in the UK and a part time judge