The government on Monday denied allegations that President Nicos Anastasiades had personally tried to “buy out” activists opposed to the planned construction of an asphalt plant near Stavrovouni monastery.
It was responding to demands from the Green Party that the president address those allegations.
“If these claims are true, Mr Anastasiades has been exposed politically and must immediately give answers,” the party said in a statement.
“This accusation, in conjunction with the scope of the private project and the identity of the contractors, create questions and cast shadows. We expect the president to give clarity on the matter at once.”
In a Tweet on Monday, deputy government spokesperson Klelia Vasiliou said:
“The President of the Republic, during a meeting with the Holy Monastery of Stavrovouni, to discuss a project that has been licensed after approval from all the relevant departments and pursuant to relevant studies, simply made reference to compensatory measures which could be taken to benefit the vicinity, wishing to mitigate concerns over possible degradation of the area.”
The contract for the asphalt production and recycling factory has been awarded to Iacovou Bros, one of the largest contractors on the island.
Critics say it’s well known the company has political ties.
The allegations concerning Anastasiades were aired on Sunday, following a demonstration outside the presidential palace.
Speaking on a live news programme, Giorgos Karapatakis, a lawyer representing Stavrovouni monastery, said that during a prior meeting between activists and the president, the latter advised them to take money being offered as compensation in exchange for lifting their opposition to the project.
According to Karapatakis, the activists – including a number of local monks – rejected the offer telling the president: “Our struggle is not about money.”
He went on to claim that political and financial interests are behind the project.
“The leader of a parliamentary party did not hesitate, with a personal intervention, to call on local party council cadres to do what they can to make possible the installation of the asphalt factory in the area, so as to serve his personal friends.”
The lawyer also alleged that “economic interest groups” in the area “reported” the activists to the archbishop as well as to the chief of police.
This, he added, led to the Larnaca police superintendent personally visiting the site at Stavrovouni.
It was not clear what the activists were being accused of.
Moreover, Karapatakis claimed that government ministers – whom he did not name – have contacted the monks via third parties, letting the activists know they are sorry but that they are obliged to implement the political decision to allow the factory despite this going against their own conscience.
The environmental activists have set up a tent as their ‘headquarters’ just outside the local quarry, within which the planned asphalt plant is to be located.
The Department of Environment has green-lit the construction of the plant, arguing that it will be located within the quarry zone and thus violates no laws.
But local action groups say the plant would be situated only 2km from the Pyrga and Kornos communities and from Stavrovouni monastery, as well as just a few metres away from the Natura 2000 protected area.
The groups further claim that the two communities of Pyrga and Kornos show increased incidence of cancer.
They say air pollution will only worsen with the proposed plant, while the consequences of the thousands of tonnes of waste that are dumped in the quarry zone, which is an area of richly stocked aquifers, are still unclear.
More than 12,500 signatures have been collected in a petition against the plant.