Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist

The citizens’ right to know

ON SATURDAY, May 27, 2017, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kassoulides summoned the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council to brief them on the deadlock reached in respect of the negotiations carried out with a view of resolving the Cyprus problem.

Fine, he did what was appropriate to do.  However, this entitlement to know what has actually happened, enjoyed by the big powers, is also owned by the suffering – for over half a century – people of Cyprus.  This inalienable right is owned by all Cyprus citizens, without exception.

In the course of the negotiations, the negotiators had advanced the argument that it would not be appropriate to “open their cards” to the other side and that negotiations in the form of a public debate would be doomed to fail.

Now, however, that the negotiations have reached a blind alley, Cypriot citizens have the right to demand the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, in a lucid, unambiguous and honourable manner.  They have the right to know every necessary detail in order to enable themselves to judge the situation, to assess the competence or the incompetence of the negotiators and to praise them or to reprimand them, accordingly.

The generally prevailing practice in Cyprus, whereby politicians engage in self-assessments and merely share with the public their invariably self-praising conclusions (based on which they expect to be glorified) is clearly offending and undemocratic.  The attitude of most politicians that they know best what is good for the country reflects a hegemonic culture that has no place in a liberal democracy.

I genuinely believe that the required briefing on the deadlock reached can only be delivered by the simultaneous presence of both community leaders in a live television programme.  In such a programme, each side should be called upon to explain – in explicit and unambiguous terms and without any propagandistic rhetoric – its positions, the important issues on which an agreement had been reached and the important issues on which there has been no agreement.

The two or three journalists, who will be coordinating the discussion, should be advocates of re-unification of Cyprus on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, and they should have the guts not to allow the two leaders to indulge in propaganda speeches.

I consider it essential for the journalists to have the aforementioned orientation in order to ensure that the discussion is exclusively confined within the framework set, namely the identification of the real reasons that have led to the deadlock.

The time has arrived to brief people – in a comprehensive and objective manner – and to let them draw freely their own conclusions.  Then, and only then, a meaningful gallop could be conducted for the purposes of ascertaining the views of the citizens of Cyprus on this very important issue.  Until then the polls, which are periodically publicised, are a form of rubbish, which should be thrown directly into the garbage bin.

The leaders of the two sides have an obligation to practically demonstrate that they truly adhere to democratic and ethical principles, by seeking and grabbing the chance to appear together in a live television program, in which they will engage themselves in a public debate.

As I have already pointed out, the argument that some things should never be stated publicly is flimsy.  When the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council are briefed by both sides, it is naive to believe that the information provided in the course of such a briefing session will remain a tightly sealed secret.

The pretext that some pieces of information are purportedly “sensitive” and, therefore, not publishable should not be utilised to deprive the people of Cyprus from being informed in a comprehensive and objective fashion – a right they unquestionably have in a truly democratic society.

My counterargument to this argument is a Greek proverb, which, loosely rendered in English, reads as follows.  “You would make a fool of yourself, if you treat as a secret what is already known in a fairly wide circle of people”.

Our leaders must show a democratic spirit and a corresponding moral standing by voluntarily offering the desired briefing to the people of Cyprus, without the need of any other action-steps having to be taken by the citizens of this land, particularly those who have sacrificed children or parents, who have lost their homes, who have lost their wealth.


Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail and Alithia

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