EVERY YEAR on the anniversary of Archbishop Makarios’ death, August 3, we hear the same platitudes about his greatness, charisma, leadership qualities, commitment to high ideals and, of course, his popularity. None of the politicians making speeches or issuing statements dare adopt a mildly critical approach because Makarios, even 38 years after his death, remains untouchable, remembered only through hagiographies.
His delusions of grandeur, poor political judgement and major blunders are never visited as the myth of his infallibility is reverentially maintained. But if a politician is judged by how successful he is in achieving his objectives, Makarios failed this test badly. He set out to achieve Enosis with Greece but failed and settled for bi-communal independent state which collapsed after three years. Despite the collapse being blamed squarely on the Turkish Cypriots, the president had to take a big share of the responsibility for allowing the situation to veer out of control.
The same could be said about the coup which opened the way for the Turkish invasion. Makarios’ decision to enter a public confrontation with Greece’s military junta over the National Guard’s officers did not show great political acumen or judgement. Costly mistakes such as these are ignored, because our politicians and journalists have decided the coup and invasion were a NATO conspiracy, even though there is no hard evidence to support this. The conspiracy theory allows the myth of Makarios’ infallibility to stand.
Makarios was president of Cyprus for 17 years. He died in office leaving behind him widespread pain and suffering among the people, close to 200,000 refugees and 40 per cent of the Republic’s territory under Turkish occupation. How can this be described as a successful presidency, deserving of such adulation? The truth is that no other presidency has caused such a lasting harm to the country. The pain and suffering was caused by the Turkish invasion, but the president of the time must take some responsibility for the fact that it happened. During his presidency he made the wrong choices and errors of judgement that created the conditions for the catastrophe.
This is why it is so difficult to understand why nobody dares challenge the Makarios myth. Thirty-eight years after his death we are still suffering the disastrous consequences of his presidency. He is still hailed as the great and infallible leader. His political record in no way justifies such adulation.