By Loucas Charalambous
I HAD decided not to deal with the hiring of the 3,000 professional soldiers by the National Guard. Then, I saw on television the young minister of defence, Christoforos Fokaides, talking like a supreme commander of the military about how he would turn Cyprus into an impregnable fort with the 3,000 young customers of the cafes that he would turn into ‘professional soldiers’, and could not help throwing in my contribution.
Every time I deal with the military issue I start with stating the obvious: that the frightening facts created in the military field after the invasion, the complete takeover of the island by the Turkish army would be a stroll. With two army divisions stationed here and Turkey only 40 miles away nothing could save Cyprus if one day the neighbouring country decided to finish us off. Anyone who talks about Cyprus’ defence capabilities, ‘liberation’ etc is a vile liar that is calculatingly misleading people.
As a political act announcing a professional army could only be described as paranoid. President Anastasiades declared that his and Mustafa Akinci’s aim was to solve the Cyprus problem before the end of 2016. Could he not have waited for another six months? What was the meaning of this stupid decision? If there is a settlement, what will he do with the 3,000 full-time privates? Will the taxpayer carry on paying them?
He should not even say that he would fire them, because in such a case we would be faced with demonstrations outside the legislature and the presidential palace and be obliged to pay them many millions in compensations as happened with the employees of Cyprus Airways. This simple question has been raised by many others. Why have Anastasiades and his minister not dared to answer it? Unless the real mockery are the declarations about a settlement in 2016.
It should also be noted that the official calculation of the cost of professional soldier, which has been put at €30 million was a lie. The annual cost of each soldier, if we add to the €1,127 pay per month, social insurance contributions of 11.5 per cent plus 13th salary would be €16,341 and therefore the annual total cost to the taxpayer for 3,000 privates would be €49.2 million. Why had they lied about the total cost, claiming it would be €30 million? Should I also mention that the €49.2 million does not include what the minister described as ‘privileges’ such as free healthcare for them and their whole family, free transport, 50 per cent discount on university fees etc.
I do not know whether the minister is considering reducing the cost by selling the software technology that our new privates would develop and with which, as he said, “a country could disable the air force of another country”. Is the guy for real, making crazy plans to disable the Turkish air force with computers by using the ‘human capital’ – his words – of the new army. I have to admit I started feeling sorry for poor Turkey given the difficulties our young minister would cause her.
The other wonderful thing is the working hours of our new privates, who will be the most aristocratic soldiers in the world. They would work, the minister said, until 2pm and then go home. What a great army we will have, working only in the morning. And if the Turks across the Green Line whose soldiers work 24 hours a day decided to attack at 5am what would we do? Tell them to stop their attack until 7.30 when our professional soldiers start work? Ridiculous as this seems, it has its advantages – we would not have many casualties.
I should explain the thinking behind the totally un-military working hours. Anastasiades and his defence minister knew that if the professional soldiers had to live in army barracks, as is the case in all armies of the world, they would not have found 20 youths to join and they would have been made to look very foolish. By having a ‘morning army’ they hope to find enough recruits.
There was also the other idiotic declaration. If they do not find enough Cypriot youths willing to join the National Guard they will recruit men from Greece where, according to Fokaides, “unfortunately unemployment is very high”. Another inspired decision – at a time we are demanding the withdrawal of the Turkish army, we are providing Turkey with another argument for staying by recruiting professional soldiers from Greece.
Apart from the ‘professional soldiers’ the minister also announced a five-year armaments programme. And this is the gist of the whole story. All we need to find out now is who will collect the backhanders this time.