IT IS NOT often that the president of the Supreme Court attends a House committee meeting to take part in the discussion of a bill. In fact, I think it may have never happened before last Monday, even in a crazy state like ours, because of the separation of powers which, theoretically, prevents the judicial authority from interfering in the work of the legislative authority.
Only when a bill of great national importance is up for discussion would the venerable president of the Supreme Court – Myron Nikolatos – take the unprecedented step of entering the legislature committee room and imparting his learned views to deputies. Last Monday’s House finance committee meeting was scheduled to discuss the government’s seven bills for reforming the public service.
One of the bills was considered of such national importance that Nikolatos deemed it necessary to be present at the committee meeting and procured an invitation to attend. The contentious bill envisaged reforming the pay structures in the public service, including those of judges.
In order to keep the growth of the public sector payroll under control, the bills provided for an annual pay rise in line with growth of GDP, which would mean rises of 1 to 2 per cent instead of 4 to 6 every year. Even the public parasites’ union agreed to this but the government which believed approval of the bills would be plain sailing was not aware it would encounter objections from the Supreme Court, which it had not consulted.
Nikolatos told deputies on Monday that judges should be removed from the bills, for constitutional reasons. Constitutional order depends on judges being the only members of the public service carrying on receiving unjustifiably big annual pay rises.
JUDGE Nikolatos acted no differently from a union boss, publicly defending the money interests of judges, brazenly demanding preferential treatment and showing scant regard for the interests of the economy – in the name of the constitution, of course.
When our top judge cannot put the economy’s interests above those of his profession’s, how can uneducated port workers, hotel cleaners or airport ground staff, who earn a small fraction of a judge’s salary, be expected to show a hint of social responsibility when pursuing their pay demands?
Nikolatos did not threaten any industrial action or resort to impolite language when he appeared before the committee. He did not have to as he had a much more powerful weapon at his disposal than the strike threat – the constitution, on which the 13-member Supreme Court over which he presides has the exclusive authority of interpreting and issuing rulings.
Although it was not possible to study the bill in depth, Nikolatos told deputies, on the surface, “the fact that it could possibly affect the terms of service of judges raised the possibility that it would face constitutional problems”.
Attorney-general Costas Clerides, also at the committee meeting, immediately agreed with his former colleague, saying the “problem is not economic, but constitutional”. Funnily enough, Clerides had not spotted the constitutional problem when he studied the bills and gave his approval for their submission to the legislature. Did he change his mind at the committee as a show of solidarity with his friends and former colleagues at the Supreme Court?
THE INVITATION to participate at the committee meeting was secured in a rather unorthodox way. Nikolatos had written to the president of the House requesting that he was invited to the committee meeting as the Supreme Court had not been included in the consultations about the bills. This may have been because the government did not regard the Supreme Court a union.
The invitation never arrived from the committee but Nikolatos seized the opportunity to bring up the issue when he met committee chairman Averof Neophytou at a social gathering. He asked to attend the meeting and Averof told him he was welcome. The Supreme Court statement issued on Thursday, saying it attended the meeting “after an invitation” was incomplete, as the invitation had been procured by its president’s efforts.
But now that a precedent has been set, after the summer recess, the House could start inviting Nikolatos to committee meetings whenever deputies felt there was “the possibility that a government bill could face constitutional problems”. The Supreme Court president could issue an on-the-surface opinion without studying the bill in depth, as he did last Monday.
Somehow I doubt he would want to waste his time offering sneak opinions on bills that are not of as great national importance as those on judges’ pay.
AS IF IT were not bad enough taking one third of our country, the Turkish military on Friday actually attempted to also steal our coup anniversary. They failed: the all-powerful and dictatorial Erdogan is untouchable.
The plus side to this is that the eagerly awaited meeting between Erdogan and Britain’s new, fun-guy Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will still take place at some stage. I am looking forward to this meeting after Boris’ Brexit campaign scare tactic, claiming millions of Turks would flood into the UK when Turkey joined the EU.
More importantly, Erdogan could also ask Boris about the rude, prize-winning poem he wrote about him. Last May Johnson had won a £1,000 prize for his poem about Erdogan having sex with a goat, which was entered in The Spectator magazine’s “President Erdogan offensive poetry competition.” The competition was organised after a German court had issued an injunction to prevent a German comedian repeating his offensive, satirical poem about Erdogan.
Asked about the injunction in an interview with a Swiss magazine Boris had said: “If somebody wants to make a joke about the love that flowers between the Turkish president and a goat, he should be able to do so in any European country, including Turkey.”
Urged by the interviewer to come up with his own offensive poem, Boris put together the following prize-winning limerick for Erdogan: “There was a young fellow from Ankara, who was a terrific wankerer. Till he sowed his wild oats, With the help of a goat, But he didn’t even stop to thankera.”
IT DID NOT take very long to link Boris’ appointment to the Cyprob. Friday’s front-page, lead in Alithia, under the headline “Boris Johnson an enigma for Cyprus problem,” reported that Nicosia “hopes that the change of foreign secretary in Britain will not affect Cyprus talks negatively.”
His Turkish ancestry – his great-grandfather was a Turk – “causes some political circles in Nicosia the concern that the new minister, perhaps wanting to make up for the bad impressions his harsh and provocative comments against Turkey and Erdogan created, decided to get involved in the Cyprus problem in a way that would change the thinking on guarantor powers or disappoint the Greek Cypriot side,” reported Alithia.
The Nicosia political circles may have a point. Boris could decide to screw us in order to win over the “terrific wankerer” in Ankara. He might even decide to write an offensive poem about prez Nik.
OUR DIPLOMACY scored another big triumph at the UN headquarters in New York last week. It persuaded the UN to remove two references, to the Solea fire in the Secretary-General’s report for the renewal of the UNFICYP mandate. In the draft report the UNSG described as a “missed opportunity” the failure of the two sides to co-operate in the efforts to put out the Solea fire that raged for five days.
Turkey had offered to provide fire-fighting choppers, but refused to put them under the command of Republic so the offer was rejected. Greek Cypriots were furious with the UN, Prez Nik stating last Sunday that “any action that aims to downgrade the Cyprus Republic or upgrade the illegal regime does not constitute a missed opportunity.”
The reference was taken out of the report and credit must go to our perm rep at the UN, Nicos Emiliou, who, according to Phil had sent “a strict letter to the UN”. It was a “letter of protest” making clear “the Cyprus government’s displeasure”. This is what we had been doing wrong in our dealings with the UN all these years and it always favoured the Turks – we were never strict enough.
OUR TRIUMPH was short-lived. Yesterday’s Phil reported that the removal of the reference to the fire and the missed opportunity had a cost. The UN had sneaked in some other reference blaming our side for not co-operating, which the writer needed 600 words to explain and I have no intention of even attempting summarising. Emiliou has already started writing a strict letter to the UN.
DEMETRIOS, the Archbishop of America was in town last week for the charity concert organised by our First Lady, but did not miss the opportunity to share his wisdom about the Cyprob with us, making our own Archbishop appear quite a sensible chap by comparison.
Demetrios said that “in the final analysis the Cyprus problem is an existential issue that touches whatever is sacred, whatever is saintly, whatever is deep, whatever is human that we have and that is why it cannot be compromised as an issue and will never close.” Amen.
WE SHOULD expect more high-brow analysis of the Cyprob tomorrow, at the anti-occupation gathering co-organised by the super patriots of DIKO, EDEK, Greens and Alliance. The speaker will be an academic from the US of A – Professor Van Coufoudakis who is well-known for his hard-line stance on the Cyprob, but is bound to be a bit weak on the rabble rousing. The rabble might get an erudite, in-depth analysis about the importance of human rights in any settlement, but this more likely to make them want to go to bed than to fire their desire to liberate Kyrenia.
SHEIKH Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE foreign minister, caused turmoil at the Hilton Hotel at which he stayed during his visit to Kyproulla in order to open the UAE embassy. Before arriving the Sheikh had asked the hotel to place a treadmill in his suite so he could exercise and gave the make and model he wanted.
The hotel found the make he had asked for but not the specific model and he refused to use it. Instead he demanded that the hotel emptied the gym so he could go and exercise on his own. The hotel manager told the Sheikh’s flunkeys this could not be done. He then demanded that at least the gym room with the treadmills was emptied so he could exercise on his own for 20 minutes.
The hotel did as it was asked and his bodyguards stood outside the room to ensure nobody went in. But he did not leave after 20 minutes nor after 40 and the gym regulars, waiting to use the treadmills, started moaning to the embarrassed gym staff, none of whom dared to tell the Sheikh that his 20 minutes were up.
‘EXPLOSION in the price of pork’ reported Phil on its front page last Wednesday. I thought it had increased geometrically but reading the report I discovered that ‘explosion’ amounted to ‘almost a euro’ increase per kilo over the last two months. But to make the explosion even more dramatic the paper predicted that “inevitably the price of kebab is expected to be affected.” The paper could not blame the occupation regime for the price increase because the Turks neither produce nor consume pork.
Meanwhile, the English language website of Phil, did not use the term ‘explosion’. It went for a more low-key report, claiming “pork prices in Cyprus are expected sky rocket to €5 per kilo before the summer is over”. It said that in the last few months pork was selling between €4.35 and €4.75 per kilo, which meant it would sky rocket by a staggering 25 cents.
This story was under the headline, ‘Tourists blamed for expensive souvlakia,’ which was not entirely true because as the report said souvlakia prices had not sky rocketed yet.