Cyprus Mail
Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Cypriot tragedy at the co-op

Akel leader Andros Kyprianou

THE WOES of the Cyprus Cooperative Bank (CCB) have been turned into another Cypriot tragedy and political tear-jerker. Our upset politicians have not stopped crying since the government announced plans to sell the struggling state-owned bank so it does not have to be wound up, a possibility that nobody mentioned in case it led to suicides.

In the last week, all we have heard are grief-stricken opposition politicians accusing the government of selling off the public wealth to private capital, betraying the people, not keeping its promises and failing to inform anyone about its plans. This banking melodrama has only touched our sensitive politicians, most people showing colossal indifference to the alleged sale of their ‘wealth’.

Our politicians are too upset to explain what this ‘wealth’ consists of. The hideous marble buildings erected in the middle of villages by the local co-ops that nobody would buy for a fifth of their value? Or is it the NPLs that make up more than 50 per cent of the CCB’s loan portfolio and are threatening to cause the bank’s collapse?
The taxpayers have already put close to €2 billion into the worthless ‘public wealth’ of the co-ops to save them from bankruptcy and failed. Now the state will have to sell the small healthy part of CCB to recoup a part of its investment and it will be left with the bad debts, which nobody will repay because their primary residence or business premises must be protected.

SOMEONE should inform the politicians that ‘public wealth’ of the co-ops was plundered long before 2013 and now there are only debts left. It was plundered not by the evil capitalists but by its executives, members, customers and political parties, all of whom benefited from what they described as the people-centred co-op movement and banking with a human face.

The human-faced, people-centred co-ops were a free for all. They would lend millions without adequate security and never insisted on loan repayments if the customer came up with a half-convincing sob story about his financial situation or got a political party to put in a good word for him.

Thousands borrowed money from the co-ops with no intention of ever paying it back and can you blame them? This was public wealth, it belonged to the people and the people could do whatever they wanted with it, including not paying it back.

EMOTIONS were high outside the presidential palace on Friday where the Akel leadership gathered its comrade sheep to protest about what the government was doing to the co-operative movement. Party chief Andros gave an emotional speech, slamming the government for selling of “one of the biggest conquests of the Cypriot people.”

Regardless of the mistakes made, “the government had an obligation to repair and not demolish this huge edifice,” which “the pioneers built, stone by stone, with hard toil and sacrifices,” lamented comrade Andros. He ignored the fact that the heirs of the pioneers mismanaged and plundered the huge edifice, leaving it bankrupt.

He was right about one thing. Another of Prez Nik’s hollow promises was exposed. In October 2013 his government promised it would return the co-op organisation to its members, while in December 2016 it said it would give it to the citizens. These were not lies, because the Prez never lies – they were just promises he could not keep.

TO SHOW their concern about the CCB’s future the deputies called a special, behind-closed-doors meeting of the House watchdog committee on Thursday, but the finance minister did not show because of other commitments so they were briefed by Mister know-it-all Odysseas, who has anointed himself an expert on banking as well.
He had carried out a couple of investigations but from what was reported he stuck to his real expertise – generating moral outrage. He told deputies about the wage structure of the CCB and the hiring policy followed by the government, which was rusfetological. He also spoke about a few executives that were getting high salaries, as if the bank’s problems were caused by relatively high salaries (much lower than what execs are paid at other banks) of a few execs that were as clueless about banking as Odysseas.

THE OTHER banking expert, bank employees union Etyk also joined the debate, complaining that it had not been briefed by the CCB board about the new plans. Etyk said it had “promptly warned that mistaken decisions, lack of transparency, and incorrect administration of the taxpayer’s money were pushing the co-op down dangerous paths.”
If the taxpayers’ money was used correctly, to give pay rises to staff, as Etyk had been demanding, the CCB would be going from strength to strength now. Etyk’s announcement made a very interesting point: the CCB board was obliged by law to enter consultations with the union before taking decisions. Union dictatorship is enshrined in the law of our democratic state.

How fair were the fine waivers?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Costas Clerides did not do himself any favours with the way he handled the revelations that he had waived some 3,000 speeding fines. The speeding violations were recorded by the only two working traffic cameras in Cyprus that are located on Grivas Dighenis Ave. Among the beneficiaries of Clerides’ clemency was the wife of a big-shot Nicosia lawyer that is his friend.

In an attempt to defend the indefensible, Clerides said he waived the fines because thousands were repeatedly booked in June and July 2014 without realising they were violating the speed limit as they received the fine notifications several months later. Many of these drivers would have been subjected to a driving ban for accruing the maximum penalty points, he said.

In those two months the cameras recorded 24,735 speeding offences so why were only 3,082 waived? Did you have to be a friend of the AG to have the fines scrapped? Because if this were not the case, the rest of us who paid qualify as complete morons.

The fact is the AG’s office were not even consistent in waiving the fines. One non-big-shot Nicosia lawyer, who wrote to the AG on behalf of his client asking that her speeding fines were waived because the client would lose her driving licence had his request rejected. When there is no equality before the law regarding the payment of fines it was naïve to expect the equal treatment in the dispensing of favours.

WE DID NOT see or hear the morally irreproachable Odysseas complain about this blow to the rule of law and the violation of the principles of sound administration, as he does in all other such cases. Nor did he complain that with the waiving of the fines the AG had lost the taxpayer €150,000 in revenue.

If it had been any other official who behaved in this way, Odysseas would be ordering himself to carry out an investigation, leaking the letter threatening to report the official to the AG to Phil, posting a tirade on his Facebook page and appearing on TV and radio expressing his moral indignation.

He generously forgave Clerides because he is a friend and friends of Odysseas are not subject to the same exacting ethical standards he demands of everyone else.

THE BULLYING of the perm sec of the communications ministry Alecos Michaelides that Odysseas initiated with a leaked letter to Phil 10 days ago was stepped up this week after Alecos had the audacity to defend himself when asked about the spat on a radio show.

Within a few seconds of finishing, Odysseas was on the phone ranting and raving against his former superior about the overpayments to the bus companies by the state. Alecos, who explained how the matter had been dealt with by the ministry, which had also sought guidance from the AG, was called a liar by Odysseas and pronounced guilty as charged by his greatness, the auditor-general.

Why had Odysseas bothered to report the perm sec to the AG since he found him guilty? The courts are redundant when our moral leader and guardian issues his verdict. He should have just ordered the police to take Alecos to prison.

I WOULD like to apologise profusely to all men of Chirokitia for referring to the man who was filmed by CCTV being intimate with sheep, as the Chirokitia sheep-shagger. This implied that the sheep lover was a man from Chirokitia, something that did not go down well with the village’s male population, as it was incorrect. The arrested zoophile was a 61-year-old from Dhali.

I should have read the report in Phil, which had the most comprehensive story about the case of forbidden love. It reported in its March 12 issue: “Abhorrence is caused by the creepy details of the case of bestiality that is being investigated by the Zygi police. A 61-one-year-old man from the Dhali area was arrested. A Chirokitia resident had earlier reported that his animals exhibited a specific odd behaviour and that some stranger visited at regular intervals engaging in indecent acts with them.”

Phil’s intrepid reporter spoke to the owner of the violated ewes and wrote: “The visits took place at night (usually Friday) and once he entered the sheepfold, he took his trousers off, while he had an electric torch stuck to his head so he could see what he was doing and have both arms free.”

THE OWNER of the sheep explained to the Phil reporter what roused his suspicions. “At some point he noticed that a number of animals (as the suspect appears to have been fornicating with several during his visits) displayed a very strange, ‘weird’ as he said, behaviour that worried him very much.”

This made him go through the CCTV footage on which he saw scenes “that shocked him and caused him the kind of abhorrence he had never felt before.” He reported the case to Zygi police and the sheepfold was “placed under discreet surveillance.”

And finally, “last Friday was the last time that the suspect subjected the ewes to the incomprehensible, for the animals and for the human mind, torture.” How did the reporter know that what the man was doing was “incomprehensible for the animals?” Did he interview them when he met their owner?

Of course he didn’t. If he had he would have been told that being visited every Friday night by a Dhali villager for some rough, no-strings attached sex was much more enjoyable than being taken on a one-way trip to the slaughterhouse.

Running for a third term? Prez Nik

WE HAVE spotted another tell-tale sign suggesting that Prez Nik would seek a third term, despite promising that he will not. He does not after all have a good record on keeping promises, as the co-op mourners would testify. Ten days ago, the council of ministers decided to advertise 780 jobs in the public sector. Government spokesman PP explained that these were among the 4,000 existing jobs that had remained vacant since 2012 to reduce the public wage bill. By the time of the next presidential elections the remaining 3,000 would also have been filled.

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