By Nicos Rolandis
HOW did we, truly, move out of our course to such an extent? How did we manage to dump our principles into a gutter of insatiability? How did we throw behind a veil of oblivion the wise words of our fathers and our teachers of the past decades?
I was reading again the other day a poem by Costas Varnalis, out of his collection “The light that burns”, entitled “The mother of Christ”, in which Virgin Mary asks her son:
‘Why did you stand there and let them catch you? And furthermore when they asked “Who is Christ” why did you reply “It is me”?
Ah: My bitter mouth does not realise what it utters!
Thirty years have elapsed my son, and I still do not know you.
The innocent one allowed them to arrest him for the salvation of humanity. Even his mother did not anticipate it.
On the contrary, Cyprus of our days, is unfortunately full of culprits, who are hiding and trying to avoid arrest.
Cyprus’ neighbourhoods, which used to be full of jasmine odours, now stink. The social cell is rotting. And civil society feels wounded and betrayed. The average man suffers deeply, in dull houses, in social groceries, in the solitude of unemployment, in the ruthless banks. And punishment of the guilty, with a few exceptions, is so far away…
Nicos and Mustafa, these are the people of Cyprus, on the Greek side, with whom you will have to cross your steps, your brainstorming and your conclusions. It is not the serene “People of Cyprus” of painter Diamantis. It is a different world, with a blood clot in its brain, caused by the so many culprits who still move about, unpunished.
I am informed that on the Turkish Cypriot side things are a little better, but, there again, there is nothing to compare with the past. The “People of Cyprus” have changed. They detest politicians. Just 6% of these people would trust them. Unfortunately, Nicos and Mustafa, you both belong to this category of “politicians”. The “people of Cyprus” will be angry and will not show any interest in whatever you say or do, because their lives were turned upside down. These are the people you will have to convince and gain their confidence. Otherwise they will not switch on the green light for you.
The Cyprus problem will soon be in the limelight. It is a problem which has remained unresolved for 41 years, mainly because none of the two communities of Cyprus had the honesty and the courage to admit their own sins of the past.
If the Greek Cypriots anticipate that Mustafa Akinci will change the scenery radically and that the wishful thinking of all those who have been aiming at the absolute will be fulfilled, they are simply on the wrong track.
Similarly the fanatics on the Turkish Cypriot side, who rely on the Turkish military and financial supremacy and try to impose a partitionist solution will fail. Such agreements are neither feasible nor viable.
Both sides committed serious mistakes in their recent history:
The Greek Cypriots were arrogant on many occasions before the invasion. They also blundered in an impermissible manner. In 1963 they endeavoured to amend the Constitution and to reverse what they had agreed in 1960. The Greek Cypriot leadership was of the impression that the Turkish Cypriots would “eventually boil in their own juice”.
The Greek Cypriots were also talking continuously about union with Greece. In 1967 the House of Representatives voted unanimously for such a union. In 1974 they carried out, together with the Greek junta a coup d’ etat which led to the Turkish invasion. After 1974 and especially in the initial period, the Greek Cypriots failed to capitalise on some good opportunities for a solution, such as the Anglo-American-Canadian Plan (1978), the Indicators (1983), the Consolidated Documents (1985).
The Turkish Cypriots carried with them from the 1950s the concept of partition. This concept became a strong wish, the credo et their lives. Their leader for 35 years Rauf Denktash, took extremist stands. He was confrontational, especially during the last years of his administration.
In 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus. The invasion turned into a 40-year occupation. The human rights of Greek-Cypriots were ignored and grossly violated. Settlers from Turkey inundated the occupied territory.
The above positions and mentalities will never lead to a solution. As a matter of fact in recent years, especially in the light of the corruption and the social and economic upheaval and disarray, I became of the opinion that the “solution train” was gone for ever.
The unexpected election of Mustafa Akinci may (I am not certain) bring about a glimmer of hope.
Mustafa is moderate and rational. I had a good co-operation with him in the 1980s and the 1990s. I was the leader of the Liberal Party and he was the leader of the Party of Communal Justice. They were both small parties.
To start with, Mustafa will have to convince the stronghold of “Ankara-Erdogan”. He cannot defeat it. He must convince it, because Ankara controls both the army and the economy in the occupied part of Cyprus. It is a heavy stone around the neck of Mustafa. Of course there are a number of reasons which render the Cyprus solution palatable for Ankara. First of all it is her accession to Europe, which Cyprus may block (and it is already blocking it). Then, a solution will partly rid Turkey of her regional isolation. Furthermore she may benefit a lot from the hydrocarbons of the area.
And Nicos? He has been my friend for the past 34 years – since 1981. I believe he must take into serious consideration a number pivotal factors. He is confronted with the most important facet of his career. He must always remember the dictum of politician Clark, that “A statesman thinks of the next generations, whilst a populist politician thinks of the next elections”.
Nicos, on a number of occasions in his career, proved that he is a statesman. Now it is the time for him to solidify this, especially, if Mustafa manages to smoothen the Ankara-Erdogan weight hanging from his neck. Nicos must ignore all those who through their unrealisable stand will lead him to a new fiasco. He must manoeuvre within the ambit of what is correct and what is feasible. He must stay away from unattainable dreams. In the wake of 55 years of blunders, omissions and confrontations and also after a coup d’ etat, a war, an invasion and occupation we cannot anticipate that Cyprus will reach Paradise or the Promised Land.
We may end up with a balanced settlement, with a common country of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, where we should try to implant the seeds of democracy and justice. After all, there are so many countries in the world with a similar structure. They consist of a number of ethnic communities. Let Nicos and Mustafa try to pick up the roses out of the thorny stems.
Of course on our way we shall not come across the “Mother of Christ” of poet Varnalis for the salvation of mankind. We would be satisfied with the salvation of our own microcosm, the salvation and vindication of Cyprus and her people.
Nicos Rolandis is a former commerce minister, foreign minister, MP and president of the Liberal Party