By Loucas Charalambous
IN THE RELENTLESS, audacity contest being waged in the field of politics, socialist EDEK are winning hands down. The contempt they show for our intelligence is truly astonishing.
In the campaign for the forthcoming European Parliament elections the party has adopted a quite astonishing slogan as its main message. “Vote for us,” it says, “because we are honest.” The others had their nose in the trough but we did not.
Party leader Yiannakis Omirou put it a bit more elegantly on March 19, when he said: “In the era of corruption and the plundering of public money, we were honest and clean and we insist, uncompromisingly, on a clean-up and the punishment of the culprits.”
He added: “The time has come for the honest to be rewarded and all those involved in corruption to be punished. We seek the vote of the people with pride and with our head held high.”
Before Omirou, the party’s deputy leader, Marinos Sizopoulos, also sang his personal hymn to honesty in a speech on January 31. Having accused the media of maintaining a “guilty silence because they are bribed through advertising and other benefits” he called on citizens “to back, decisively, those political forces that stayed out of corruption and graft”.
We are certainly not going to doubt the existence of corruption and graft. For years this column has written about corruption, often referring to the party to which I belonged and which recently admitted collecting €800,000 from a ship-owner to pay for the air-fares of voters.
But for the people of EDEK to pose as the pure and incorruptible is really pushing the bounds of audacity. EDEK leaders cannot pose as the guardians of political morality and honesty because their party, the party of Cypro-Lybian, was the first to teach political corruption.
Edekites may have erased this sordid affair from their collective memory, but not everyone has forgotten arguably the most glaring example of political corruption. In 1977 the Cypro-Libyan company was set up with a very peculiar activity. It collected a cut of three per cent on the value of every export consignment to Libya. The agreement had the full approval of the Libyan government which was run by Colonel Gaddafi, a friend and fellow-fighter of EDEK’s then leader Dr Vassos Lyssarides.
Back in those days there were significant exports from Cyprus to Libya (clothing, shoes, leather goods, agricultural products etc). We were even exporting broad beans.
The method of collecting this ‘tax’ was very simple. For the exports to be unloaded in Libya, a receipt showing that the 3 per cent commission had been paid to Cypro-Lybian had to be presented. Omirou and Sizopoulos know very well where the money from that ended up.
There was a rather entertaining story I heard from a man directly involved. A well-known Cypriot businessman managed to trick Cypro-Libyan and sent a big consignment of broad beans to Libya without paying the 3 per cent ‘tax’. When the broad beans arrived in Libya it was impossible unload them, because the necessary receipt had not been presented.
What happened subsequently, how the unloading was eventually permitted and how much this trick cost are of great interest, but I cannot write about it here. If Omirou and Sizopoulos are unaware of what happened, they could ask Dr Lyssarides, who is still alive, to inform them.
As the well-known proverb says, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. This is exactly what the Edekites are doing. But they should remember this sordid story every time they give lessons on political morality and honesty to others. As they are demanding a clean-up and the punishment of all those involved in corruption they should start from there and set a good example.
They should demand an investigation into the activities of Cypro-Libyan so that people could find out where the three per cent cut ended up. As they would not dare, perhaps the request should be made by their partner, Giorgos Perdikis, who is constantly beating his breast about corruption and party finances.