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Tales from the Coffeeshop: Rusfeti lottery at the foreign ministry

Education Minister Costas Kadis

PEACE and quiet has returned to the British High Commission after the months of turmoil, which sparked a Foreign Office investigation and resulted in both the number one and number two returning to Blighty, long before they had completed their service here.

Many rumours circulated, after the sudden announcement in June that High Commissioner Ric Todd was returning to London and would be replaced by his predecessor Matthew Kidd, who was rushed back to Kyproulla in order to host the Queen’s Birthday Party, one of the main events in the capital’s social calendar, at the residence.

The Foreign Office was so keen to restore calm at the Commission and stop the rumours it broke with diplomatic protocol, having both its ambassadors in the country at the same time. Of course this was a carefully guarded secret, Todd and his family being moved out of the residence to a hotel until their departure, while Kidd moved in to the residence to host the QBP.

This shabbiness was very un-British, considering how pedantic the Foreign Office is about protocol and how it prides itself about always doing things the proper way. In this case, the only thing it did in a proper, British way was to ensure nobody found out that Todd was holed up in a hotel during the QBP.

THERE was a reason Todd had to leave the residence. He had fallen out with the residence staff, because some were passing on information about him and his family to staff of the High Commission. Understandably, he wanted the culprits sacked, but did not realise that in union-run Kyproulla workers such as cleaners, cooks, waiters were more powerful than Her Majesty’s representative.

Some of the staff had been employed at the residence for 30 years and were untouchable despite their lack of discretion. One thing had become clear: either the staff had to go or Todd, because the latter refused to have people he could not trust as household staff.

In the end, Her Majesty’s government bowed to workers’ power and recalled Todd, who had had a glowing career as a diplomat, to London; he had served as ambassador to Poland before arriving here. Mighty Britain, a country that once ruled the world, was afraid to take on some cleaners, cooks and waiters.

THE DEPUTY High Commissioner, Linda Burns was also sent back to London, because she had, allegedly, been repeating, among colleagues, the gossip she had heard from the residence staff about the Todd family that was intended to put her boss in a bad light.

Inevitably, this led to a major falling out between Burns and Todd, with the former bad-mouthing the latter to Cypriot officials, who subsequently contacted him to find out what was going on. Reports about the situation were also sent to London and the Foreign Office was forced to send its own officials to carry out an investigation. They found that Todd had done nothing wrong. We were unable to establish what they concluded about Ms Burns’ behaviour, but her departure would suggest they were not impressed.

They would certainly not have been impressed with the antics of her husband. A raging Mr Burns, one day, went to the High Commission offices and tried to block Todd’s limo while shouting threats at him. The chauffeur locked all the doors and managed to drive off with the High Commissioner in the back seat.

Mr Burns assumed Todd had been driven home so he went to the residence and started banging on the closed metal door of the grounds and shouting. The incident was reported to the Cyprus police, which showed much greater discretion than the residence staff. As for the hot-headed Mr Burns, he disappeared after the incident and, reportedly, was not seen again.

YOU READ it here first. I refer to the epic rusfeti for the benefit of primary teacher and member of the Disy political bureau Despo Sergiou which our establishment had revealed long before the auditor-general had written his report.

You have to express admiration for Sergiou’s connections and influence because she had education minister Costas Kadis pulling out all the stops and ignoring proper procedures in order to send her to our Permanent EU Representation in Brussels so she could be with her husband, who was there as a finance ministry representative, even though he was a central bank employee.

Kadis had tried to create a second position at the representation for her and when his move was vetoed by the foreign ministry, which said there was no need, he found a round-about way to create a new position for her. She was seconded to his office but living in Brussels with her hubby for three months, during which she supposedly worked from home and attended eight meetings.

The minister had sanctioned an unlawful employment arrangement for the sake of Sergiou – the proof is that she has been obliged to return the three months’ salaries she had received while allegedly seconded to Kadis’ office. And when the position of education attaché at the representation was vacated, Sergiou landed the job she had schemed and begged for, for more than a year.

All the correct procedures had been followed Kadis assured. The post was advertised, 11 candidates applied and the primary teacher was appointed after the committee of Kadis flunkeys which carried out the interviews, surprisingly, decided she was the best person for the post.

THE QUESTION is how Kadis had the guts to pull off such epic rusfeti. The man has displayed remarkable spinelessness in his dealings with the teaching unions, routinely obeying their diktats; this week, once again, he gave in to some unreasonable demands because they had threatened strikes.

A guy that bows to the union of secondary school teenagers could not have sanctioned the Sergiou rusfeti without backing from above. Sergiou has strong links with the primary teachers’ union POED, but Kadis’ orders to arrange the post for her must have come from Prez Nik, Disy chief Averof or the Archbishop, on whose recommendation, he was appointed.

The most important thing for Kadis the rusfetologist is to remain in his position – the reason he always does what he is told by unions – and keeping these three men happy guarantees his job security. Which of the three was issuing the orders, I do not know, but Kadis kept him happy.

I suspect Kadis must engage in rusfeti indiscriminately. The fact that no party publicly criticised this blatant case of rusfeti – not even after the damning report by the auditor-general – leads to the conclusion that the minister does favours for all the parties, including Akel. This was why when a hack tried to give the Sergiou story to the Akel mouthpiece Haravghi a few months ago, she was told the paper was not interested because Kadis always helped out the party.

WHEN the wily Averof was asked on a radio show about this appointment he suspiciously employed a diversionary tactic arguing that the more important issue was that public employees posted abroad received double salaries, overseas allowance, rent allowance etc. It was wrong a married couple, both public employees, should both receive double salaries and rent allowance etc.

For these couple a joint appointment abroad is a bit like winning a lottery ticket. Overnight, their salaries double and both receive rent allowance despite living in the same house. Two other beneficiaries of this state largesse were Mr and Mrs Nicos Christodoulides. Before he became government spokesman, Christodoulides and his missus, who is also a foreign ministry employee, were both posted abroad collecting double salaries, but this was not a case of rusfeti, as the press had scurrilously implied at the time. They were just lucky winners of the foreign ministry lottery.

I WAS rather disappointed that none of the parties or patriotic columnists made much out of the 1-0 victory of our under-21 national side over Turkey in Ankara on Thursday. There was no gloating or sermons about our young footballers showing the rest of us what could be achieved through team-work, unity and belief, as there had been in the past.

Only Elam issued a statement celebrating our win, blaming the Turks for the brawl that followed the game and concluding they were bad losers. The Turks claimed our players had been racist.

Meanwhile the team coach, Nicos Andronikou said it was “the most important days of his career in football” and the match “was a national issue and it was not just about the football.” The match was won in the dressing room according to the proud coach. “Before the boys entered the ground we put on a short video about Famagusta and it was evident we would win.”

IN TODAY’S column Loucas Charalambous writes about the former Akel deputy Nicos Katsourides’ presidential ambitions. Katsourides, an old style Stalinist who was expelled by the party for reasons that have never been disclosed, has been writing a weekly column in Phil in which he expresses views on the Cyprob that are more hard-line and extreme than those of Sizopoulos and Junior.

This, as Loucas argues, is because he has set his sights on becoming the presidential candidate of the loony centre parties. Kats is not the only Akelite with these ambitions. Akel’s narcissistic MEP, Takis Hadjigeorgiou has also been pandering to the hard-liners.

On Tuesday, Takis, who was pro-solution and a supporter of the A-plan, published a pompous article attacking Erdogan’s Turkey and revealing that he did not want a settlement that did not ensure the “co-existence” of GCs and TCs. If the solution did not bring with it “co-existence, I do not want it,” he wrote, thus, subtly, posting his credentials as a prospective candidate of the rejectionists.

At least Kats was always anti-settlement whereas Takis was zealously pro. So we have two Akelites vying for the presidential candidacy – one has the looks and the other has the brains. Nobody should be surprised with Takis’ opportunism; it is in the DNA of Paphites.

SPEAKING of presidential ambitions, Dr Eleni Theocharous immediately took the bait put out by Yiorgos Perdikis, who proposed that the parties of the “patriotic space” should back a common candidate. She agreed that, for the good of the country the patriotic parties must “draft and commit to a common programme.”

The only thing she disagreed with was with Perdikis’ proposal for the “a priori exclusion of anyone as presidential candidate,” and would be seeking a meeting with him in order to discuss this issue. Dr Eleni said “meetings with the rest of the party leaders of the patriotic space would follow so that patriotism and national truth would supersede personal ambitions.”

I pray she will not be too disappointed when she realises that the rest of the leaders of the patriotic parties, unlike her, do not place patriotism and national truth above personal ambitions. They might not embrace the “national truth” that Dr Eleni must be the candidate of the patriotic space as well as outer space.

IN A WEEK that Takis Hadjigeorgiou announced his conversion to rejectionism, Kadis declared, without irony, that proper and transparent procedures were followed in the appointment of Despo Sergiou and Dr Eleni put national truth above her ambitions, the potato farmers beat all of them in the bullshit stakes.

After being criticised about trying to storm the Achna potato packing warehouse of a man lawfully buying potatoes from the north, they announced that the reason they had gathered to protest outside his premises was not about the legality of his business transactions. The president of the Pancyprian Co-ordinating Organisation of Potato Producers, Nicos Vassilas, said the protest was about “issues related to the rules of health and unfair competition.”

They sacrificed their Saturday to protest that the potatoes, destined for export, were unhealthy. The public spirit of the Cypriot farmer never ceases to amaze.

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