Expat view by Clive Turner
I am not a natural whinger, but I make no apology for returning to the two campaigns I have been running for some years, with absolutely no definitive progress, principally because of complete disinterest from government and a sad lack of simple courtesy in terms of responding to mild pressure and perfectly civil correspondence. I refer firstly to the lobbying for a crematorium here on the island, and secondly the facility to be involved when it comes to voting for the country’s president.
For almost 12 years now I have been gathering support for a crematorium in Cyprus, bearing in mind that, as the Archbishop has three times personally assured me, he believes everyone has the right to choose their own means of disposal when they die. Over 10,000 people who have registered their interest with me would agree with him. It so happens that of the many faiths represented in Cyprus, taken together they outnumber the total of Greek Orthodox followers. Hence there is every good reason for cremation to be an option here on the island.
With us and Malta being the only EU members without this facility and with expatriation of a body being prohibitive in terms of cost, coupled with the desperate shortage of burial grounds, let alone the fees demanded for a local plot (for example Kissonerga seeks euros 6,000), the practical urgency for a crematorium becomes ever more sensible.
We have architectural plans ready; we have illustrations of what one might look like; we have access to unit suppliers; we have retired UK crematorium directors living here who are wiling to help; and we have a huge data base of information and advice available. What we do not have is the 5,000 square metres of land required, and since our potential financial backer withdrew because he got fed up with waiting around for the relevant bill to be passed, we have to find a new one. That said, the government has declared that any crematorium would have to be state financed, but with the present economic situation that prospect looks dismal. So, the outlook can scarcely be said to look encouraging.
Even the police have made silly noises about them being against a crematorium because it could offer, in their opinion, a means of criminals disposing of bodies – despite there needing some 22 separate checks before a cremation may take place. This police objection was a particularly crude example of an appalling lack of research and sheer ignorance.
The bill, which was originally split into three parts, namely the regularising of funeral parlours, the regularising of embalming (the current standard of which here is best not talked about) and the conditions for a crematorium, was all ready for passage in December 2013. It was held back for “further consideration” of the crematorium section – although after 12 years it is difficult to imagine what further consideration can possibly be required. I have read the crematorium considerations and they are superbly drafted – faultless. Yet, the Holy Synod doesn’t like any of it, not surprisingly, and although I suggested to the Archbishop that as its ‘boss’ he might bring some influence to bear, he smiled and said the Synod doesn’t always listen to him. When written to, the president suggested that, as well as wishing me “health and happiness”, I write to Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos, to whom I did indeed address a letter – but heard not a word in response.
Is this the way to conduct a responsible issue?
The second topic I care about and which has the support of very large numbers of people, including lots of Greek Cypriots, is that anyone living permanently in Cyprus, or even owing a property here, should be able to have a vote when it comes to presidential elections. There are tens of thousands of us. We pay taxes; we do indeed own property; we provide employment and livings for thousands of people in Cyprus; we are obliged to put up with whatever the president and his government decides to impose. And surely as a democracy (we are one, aren’t we?), there should be parity in terms of electoral rights. We can vote in all municipal and EU elections; some 350,000 Greek Cypriots resident in the UK can (if they register) vote in all the country’s elections from the day they arrive. So please can someone tell me what the problem is about us residents being allowed, and indeed invited, to vote for our president here? Writing to him, predictably elicits absolutely no response – yet again – but I am past being surprised by this discourtesy.
I will not burden readers for some time ahead with either of these matters again unless and until I have some positive news to deliver – and in fact it would be simple to take the counsel of many friends who urge me to give up on both concepts, but that seems to me to be a cop-out to walk away after all the support there is out there. . .