By Peter Stevenson
DRAFT dodgers could be denied a driving licence, a gun licence and a job in the government, if new proposals to combat the phenomenon go ahead, deputies heard yesterday.
Defence Minister, Fotis Fotiou, who was speaking after a meeting of the House Defence Committee, said yesterday that those who have already avoided conscription would be called in to be re-evaluated to see if they were now fit to join the army, which is mandatory for two years.
The vast majority of the exemptions from the army are on psychological grounds and over the past decade it has become easier to avoid conscription in this manner resulting in some 20 per of potential new recruits avoiding the draft.
The previous government had also made some tentative moves to clamp down on draft dodging.
Fotiou said there had been a decrease in the number of draft dodgers but said he felt that more work needed to be done to combat the problem.
He said draft dodging was a social phenomenon which adversely affected the combat readiness of Cyprus’ armed forces and that the proposed measures could help cut the avoidance rate.
“We now have access to the police archives for registered gun owners and we are close to having access to the road traffic department archive to see who has a driving licence so it can be cross-checked with the names of those who have avoided the draft,” Fotiou said.
“We are also speaking with the University of Cyprus to develop programmes, including excursions and general education on relevant subject matter to keep conscripts busy during hours when they do not have army work. We will try to implement a long-term strategy to prevent young Cypriots from avoiding serving in the National Guard.”
Chairman of the House defence committee, Giorgos Varnavas said after the meeting that draft dodging was not a new phenomenon and that his committee had dealt with the issue on many occasions.
He said the committee’s aim was not to punish those trying to avoid conscription but to avoid it from happening all together and that is why the possibility of passing a law which would prevent draft dodgers from getting driving and gun licences as well as working in the government was discussed.
“There appears to be a European directive that would inform the head of the road transport department whether someone applying for a driving licence had been exempt from the army on psychological grounds and demand he be assessed by a medical council,” Varnavas said.
He added that if the council of doctors gives the all-clear then that person would be recalled to serve the remainder of his or her conscription.
Member of the Cyprus Youth Board, Yiannis Panayiotou said that all parties needed to coordinate to face the problem of draft-dodging.
Panayiotou said draft-dodging had increased with the loosening of family ties, a crisis of values and a decrease in young people’s endurance.
Fotiou said there were two types of draft dodger; those who pretend to have problems and those who want to serve the NG but do not have the mental strength to do so.
The defence ministry has asked for help from the ministries of health and labour, parliament, youth organisations and parents associations to help counteract the phenomenon.