By Loucas Charalambous
INEVITABLY, the insufferable hypocrisy that for so long has plagued the political life of this peculiar country also infected the passing of Glafcos Clerides. In fact, it could be argued that, in death, Clerides found release from this very hypocrisy.
This is the conclusion one comes to when looking back at everything that was said during the four days between Clerides’ death and his funeral. I for one shall start with the former president’s drawbacks. In my view, his main flaw was his failure to select capable and appropriate associates. In many cases he chose, or allowed others to choose for him, or tolerated, various incompetents who did damage both to the state and to Clerides personally. To me it is inconceivable that this man, the founder of a school of political thought, having finally become president, chose to appoint to senior state offices people who bore no relation whatsoever with his own political philosophy. As cursory examples I mention the then justice minister Nicos Koshis and Christodoulos Christodoulou, whom Clerides appointed governor of the Central Bank because of – as he said at the time – his honesty.
Even senior DISY cadres were light years away from Clerides’ political philosophy – take for instance former DISY chairman Yiannakis Matsis who, incidentally, during a two-hour television programme dedicated to Clerides, spent just five minutes talking about the deceased and 70 minutes talking about himself!
Clerides had waited 28 long years to see his political vision – solution and reunification of Cyprus – realised. When that hour finally came, these people turned against him, betrayed him in the most cruel fashion, allied themselves with Papadopoulos, Lyssarides and Christofias, and fought Clerides with unbelievable bitterness.
There is of course truth to the tributes poured by almost everyone during those four days after Clerides’ passing, namely, that the man possessed rare political acumen and insight. Clerides could see miles ahead of his political adversaries. It is these gifts that allowed him to formulate, in the wake of the 1974 invasion, his political philosophy on the Cyprus problem, a philosophy that has been resoundingly vindicated by events: “The fruitless passing of time will impose the fait accompli of the invasion and lead us to permanent partition,” he famously warned. It was precisely to promote this political ideology that Clerides founded the DISY party.
For four whole days, then, the hypocrisy swelled through the accolades heaped upon Clerides’ political acumen. I listened as Clerides’ undeniable qualities were being praised even by people – politicians, trade unionists and journalists – who had never respected these traits of his. On the contrary, it was these very same persons, as well as many of Clerides’ “people”, like the three individuals I previously mentioned, who had battled Clerides. They had even gone so far as to accuse him of seeking to dissolve the Republic and turn it into a Turkish “protectorate” when, some 10 years ago, Clerides boldly came out in favour of a settlement, urging people to vote for it in the referendum and appealing to the public’s logic and political good sense if we were to salvage whatever was left.
So why all the hypocrisy? If indeed all these people have had a change of heart and mind and have realised that Clerides was right all along, they should also have had the courage to fess up and apologise for their past stance. Otherwise, why praise the man who supposedly came close to breaking Cyprus apart, as they claimed?
The answer is simple: these people scrambled to take advantage of the former president’s death, thereby promoting themselves, believing that in this way they would earn brownie points in the political game. This is the truth sadly, this then is the calibre of our politicians, and so we can all stop wondering how it is that we’ve come to this sorry state of affairs.