THE POLITICIANS’ and media’s talent for making mountains out of molehills is indisputable. It is very much a part of public life which has always been characterised by impulsiveness and a lack of perspective. We were treated to the more entertaining aspects of this tendency in the last few days after Phileleftheros reported, in its familiar disapproving way, that “the ministry of education sent students to Turkey with (Turkish airline) Pegasus.”
Reading the headline, one was inclined to conclude that the Greek Cypriot students had boarded the Turkish plane at the illegal Ercan airport. Only the last sentence of the front-page story made it clear that the education ministry “thankfully did not use Pegasus flights from the illegal airport. The Alliance of Citizens however did not read the story to the end and issued a scathing announcement asking the government “how could you have sent Greek Cypriot students through the illegal airport.” EDEK declared that it was a “monumental gaffe” to use “the airline of the pseudo-state,” implying that Turkey was a pseudo-state.
Phileleftheros had been leaked a letter sent by the foreign ministry to the education ministry, informing it that Pegasus should not have been used because it “carried out flights to and from the occupied area (Tymbou airport) in violation of the relevant legislation of the Republic.” So how would the Greek Cypriot students get to Trabzon from Istanbul to participate in the world games for secondary schools? Should they have made the 1,000-km journey by coach, as it would not use the illegal airport?
No, the education ministry should have used an airline that carried out domestic flights but did not fly to Ercan, was the response. Was there such an airline? The foreign ministry’s letter did not propose a Turkish airline that met its tough criteria and could be used by Greek Cypriots in the future. Phileleftheros said there were Turkish airlines that did not fly to Ercan and therefore did not violate the laws of the Republic, but failed to name a single one.
The outrage was given a boost yesterday when it emerged that the education ministry delegation had flown from Athens to Istanbul on Pegasus as well. There was no mention of the fact the airline that uses the illegal airport also operates regular flight to and from Athens. Had our foreign ministry written to the Greek government to inform it that Pegasus was flagrantly violating the relevant legislation of the Cyprus Republic and therefore should be stopped from flying to Athens? Somehow we doubt it, because the Greek government is not a soft touch like the education ministry.
To make matters worse, minister of education Costas Kadis, showing how easily he could be intimidated, announced yesterday that he had ordered an administrative investigation to establish why Pegasus had been used. Of course there was no need because the answer had already been provided. His ministry had asked for tenders from four travel agents and three had proposed the use of Turkish Airlines, which also flies to Ercan and the fourth had proposed using Pegasus. We suspect the Pegasus package was chosen because it was the cheapest. But we will have a meaningless investigation, as we have managed to turn this triviality into a major issue.