Cyprus Mail

Gradual reforms underway at NG, minister tells MPs

Defence minister Christoforos Fokaides said that days of leave for young soldiers will be determined by where they live

By Angelos Anastasiou

THE measures taken to foster meritocracy and proper administration as part of the restructuring and modernisation of the National Guard were presented to the House defence committee yesterday by Defence minister Christoforos Fokaides.

He told lawmakers that the minister’s discretion to release reservists from duty has been moved to the National Guard headquarters, while the call-up system for reservists is being revisited with a view to improving training and reducing time wasted.

Fokaides also said that the Defence ministry’s power to make arbitrary recruitment decisions has been diminished, adding that criteria have been set with regard to soldier secondments to officers’ clubs and desk jobs.

Speaking after the committee session, Fokaides said that the permanent status of members of the Social Issues Committee has been abolished, noting that officers comprising the committee are selected by draw a few hours before the committee is convened.

He also said that days of leave for conscripts will be increased or reduced based on where they live.

“Soldiers serving more than 80 kilometres away from home will be entitled to an additional day of leave per month,” he explained. “Also, instructions were issued for the creation of a points-award system for officers serving in combat-ready units, as well as the establishment of a qualification list for service in leadership positions.”

Fokaides said a cap has been placed on time served on committees, especially with regard to committees dealing with the supply of arms and materiel. Maximum service time on such committees has been set at three years.

With regard to the imminent enlistment period, he said new criteria have been introduced for exemptions and the suspension from service. These criteria call for the dispatch of recruitment notes five months prior to the date of enlistment, submission of applications for exemptions and suspensions three months before the date, and approval or rejection of the applications by the Defence ministry two months before enlistment.

Meanwhile, a government bill has been forwarded to the House to unfreeze 260 vacancies in the National Guard, with no salary hike. Fokaides confirmed that a bill for assessments and promotions in the National Guard will be forwarded to the House by September.

With regard to the system of allocating new conscripts to the various services, committee chairman Yiorgos Varnava said that because it is impervious to human intervention, it is fully meritocratic – if not completely fair. In light of the upcoming summer enlistment, Varnava also sought to warn conscripts and their parents that political influence has no pull in this regard.

“Do not ask anyone, especially politicians, for assistance in terms of placement to either a preferred body or unit,” he said. “They will simply be exploited.”

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