By Jean Christou
IF ALL REQUESTS for special treatment in the military were granted, the entire army might as well shut down, National Guard Chief Stylianos Nasis said on Monday.
Nasis was speaking at a public consultation with Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides in Nicosia where the issue of meritocracy in the army was up for discussion for around half an hour.
Nasis said that to achieve complete meritocracy all stakeholders would have to be on board. “Every soldier, every officer and every relative will have to stop claiming preferential treatment at the expense of their colleagues,” Nasis said. Pre-defined criteria would be set for decisions on all placements, suspensions, exemptions and transfers, he added.
He cited an example of a mother who had requested her son be exempt from carrying a rifle because he might injure himself.
“If you fulfill all the requests submitted we would have to completely dissolve the National Guard,” Nasis said.
“We must accept meritocracy, not only when it comes to others but also for ourselves,” he said, adding that the operational requirements of the army came first no matter what system was in place.
Fokaides described favouritism in the National Guard as a “gangrene”.
“There is this impression [among conscripts] that if you do not have the means and connections you have no chance and… if you have a problem and you have no connections, the problem cannot be resolved,” he said.
“For decades we have learned to live with it, the spoils of gangrene in the political system, among officials and the public. We have been part of this situation many times.”
He said he had often heard people endorse some measure or other but when the time came for it to affect them personally, they did not want it to apply in their case or their son’s case.
He said the plan was to introduce a better system with committee oversight so that favourtism would not be possible on a one-to-one basis depending on ‘who you know’.
He said instead of having the same army people on committees who would hear the issues of conscripts or officers, members would be rotated, and would include a doctor and a social worker. Decisions made by individuals would be scrutinised, all the way up to the minister’s office to ensure fair treatment for all regardless of who was minister and what party he belonged to.
“Our goal is to encourage our youths to openly air their opinions and suggestions on how to improve the system,” said Fokaides.
Fokaides also said that from next year, anyone seeking exemption from military service must apply three months before the conscription date. Also soldiers who serve in the more difficult units such as those along the buffer zone will be entitled to more leave than those who serve in offices or army clubs, the minister said.