By Loucas Charalambous
THE TURKISH Cypriot politician Mustafa Akinci, in a speech he gave at the University of Cyprus last Monday, referred to two stories from his experiences to support the view that if the Cyprus problem had not been solved by now this was because the politicians did not want to solve it. Below is a summary of what he said.
“During the 1990s, at a reception, I approached the then special representative of the UN Secretary-General in Cyprus and asked him how the negotiations were going. ‘Not at all well,’ he replied. I persisted with my questions and asked him if this meant we would not have a settlement. ‘No, it will never happen,’ he said, prompting me to ask him why the talks were continuing. His response shocked me. ‘Because the show must go on,’ he told me.
“On another occasion Rauf Denktash invited us to his office for a briefing. I asked him if there was any hope of an agreement and he categorically replied that there was no prospect of a settlement. I said that if there was a will there could be a settlement. He became annoyed and told me: ‘Listen Akinci, as we are moving neither my grandchildren nor my grandchildren’s grandchildren will see the settlement’.”
I think the response by the UN special representative was the most apposite answer to the question why the Cyprus problem had not been solved in 50 years. It was not solved because, as Akinci correctly pointed out, the will does not exist. It was not solved because the show had to go on.
And why did it have to go on? The politicians in our country are only interested in their ‘chairs’, as we say in Cyprus. In 2004, not to go too far back, there was no settlement because Tassos Papadopoulos, his ministers, deputies, state officials had to keep their ‘chairs’.
The show went on under Christofias because he did not want to surrender his chair either and have to share power within the framework of a federal state. And Anastasiades is now keeping the show going because he is not prepared to get off his chair for the sake of a solution. This is the reason he has been dragging his feet and undermining the talks with irrational proposals that allow Dervis Eroglu to claim that he was the one in a hurry for a settlement which was being delayed because of the obstacles being placed by the Greek Cypriots.
The phrase ‘the show must go on’, although very widely used today, was originally used exclusively for live performances and had its origins in the circuses of the 19th century. If for instance an animal broke free or an acrobat had an accident, the MC and musicians tried to keep the show going so as not to disappoint or frighten the audience. The principle was that ‘the show must go on’.
That the phrase emanated from the circus is especially appropriate for our case as in our political circus it is religiously applied. It is this circus that has been handling the Cyprus problem for the last 50 years now. We should not delude ourselves. We have been watching the exact same show all this time.
A while ago it was Papadopoulos, yesterday it was Christofias and today it is Anastasiades and tomorrow it will be someone else. Presidents change, but the chair is always there and the person occupying it will never be interested in a solution, because he too will want the show to go on.