Cyprus Mail
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Whistleblower mayor Phedon Phedonos has got it right

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PAPHOS Mayor Phedonas Phedonos knows very well how to stir things up. He has done it on several occasions, since first elected, to good effect. Several corrupt officials, including a former mayor and a deputy, ended up behind bars, thanks to Phedonos’ public campaigns about the shady dealings at the Paphos Sewerage Board, while 12 were charged after he went public about a scam at waste management plants.

Some could dismiss him as a publicity-seeker, but it would be an unfair charge. If the mayor chose not to go public with the scams he discovered there was every possibility that these would have been covered up and forgotten. The use of the media and keeping an issue in the public domain puts pressure on the authorities to act and prevents matters being swept under the carpet, which was standard practice in the past.

This week, Phedonos caused a stir once again, by making a public issue about the exploitation of Turkish Cypriot properties in Paphos by people who were ineligible. Businessmen who were not refugees – therefore ineligible to use them – were making big amounts of money from these properties, paying ridiculously low rents to the interior ministry, as the administrator, and often sub-letting them.

Yesterday afternoon, he was due at the Paphos police station to give a statement, but made another allegation before he went. He said it was peculiar how many people had contracts to rent Turkish Cypriot shops that were signed in 1973, alleging that many of these were forged and had to be investigated. The matter needs investigation and the mayor needs to keep up the public pressure.

The use of Turkish Cypriot properties by ineligible parties is not news. It is raised every few years, a couple of cases are mentioned, the interior ministry might investigate and the matter is forgotten. The former interior minister Socratis Hasikos took the initiative to put things in order such as collecting unpaid rents, raising rents, examining the eligibility of tenants and so forth, but he left the post before the task was completed.

His successor, Constantinos Petrides, said the ministry had not given up tidying the mess. In the past two years 231 properties, of which 133 were in Paphos, were recovered; another 100 would soon be recovered, he said. Whether the mess will ever be completely sorted remains to be seen, because the parties and past governments were behind the corruption. Phedonos should carry on his agitating and publicising of the matter.

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