President Anastasiades stood proudly and took the salute of Saturday’s military parade to mark the 55th anniversary of Cyprus independence. The military parade has become an annual fixture every October 1. It is the centrepiece of the day’s celebrations that provides an inexplicable feel-good factor among a sizeable proportion of the public and reflects positively on the government as it creates the false impression that our defensive capability has improved.
Citizens of a more critical disposition would have an entirely different reading. They would point to the billions of euro of the taxpayer’s money wasted over the years on defence for no rational reason, given the colossal imbalance of power between Cyprus and Turkey. It might sound excessive, but the main purpose of defence spending was the huge paybacks that ended up in the pockets of politicians or the coffers of political parties. The National Guard also provided thousands of well-paid jobs for party supporters who were unable find employment elsewhere in the public sector.
The political establishment is united in embracing the myth of our defence capability because it has been reaping the financial and political benefits at the taxpayer’s expense. Under the circumstances it is fitting and appropriate to mark our independence with a military parade – usually associated with third world dictatorships rather than EU member-states – aimed at firing people’s national pride and giving them a false sense of security, while the defence scam by the politicians continues.
This may also offer a clue as to why the main argument for opposing a settlement, cited by the rejectionist politicians at every opportunity, is that it would lead to the dissolution of the Cyprus Republic. These self-appointed defenders of the Cyprus Republic all made statements on Saturday reminding us that any settlement that did not ensure the continuation of the Cyprus Republic in its current form would lead to the “extermination of Cypriot Hellenism” and would “make us hostages to Turkey.” The Republic, we were told, “safeguarded the survival of Cypriot Hellenism” and without it “we would not be able to fight for our rights.”
Like the annual military parade, the Republic, which our party leaders wax lyrical about and want to preserve even at the cost of partition, has primarily served them and a sizeable minority of citizens who are employed by it and enjoy pay, benefits and pension that the rest of us can only dream of. If our politicians were capable of speaking honestly instead of spinning myths for the populace, they would have admitted that the Republic primarily safeguarded the survival of the political party establishment.
Ever since its establishment, the Republic has been used like a business in which all the political parties have a shareholding and take dividends from. At the start of its existence the late Archbishop Makarios was the sole shareholder, but as democracy took root the political parties also claimed ownership. They distributed state jobs in return for votes, they arranged lucrative state contracts for friends and followers in return for party donations, they changed town planning zones and made their landowning friends rich overnight and recklessly wasted the taxpayer’s money on defence and other unnecessary projects. This party-sponsored corruption created a dysfunctional state while the reckless spending eventually led the parties’ business to bankruptcy.
So when our rejectionist party leaders talk about keeping the Republic at all costs, it is the business they are really talking about. They do not want their shareholding to be diluted by giving some shares to the Turkish Cypriots, because their power to offer jobs and arrange contracts would be restricted. The Turkish Cypriots would demand a share of the spoils of the Republic, which would mean a smaller share for Diko and the rest of the Greek Cypriot parties to distribute among their own. And there would also be fewer state positions for the members of the Greek Cypriot party nomenclature. It may sound facetious, but one reason our foreign ministry has such an anti-settlement culture could be that a portion of the federal state’s ambassadorial posts would be given to Turkish Cypriots.
There are very practical and selfish reasons behind the anxiety constantly expressed by our politicians about the future of the Cyprus Republic. By keeping it in its current form, they would be maintaining their ownership intact and carry on using it for their own ends. If it is replaced by a federal state, things will certainly change, but it would not be the survival of Cypriot Hellenism that would be at risk, but the survival of the parties that existed through the endless exploitation of the hapless Cyprus Republic.