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Cyprus Opinion Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: No substitutes on Supreme Court bench causing problem

Attorney-general Costas Clerides

YOU HAD to laugh hearing that the attorney-general had asked for the exclusion of more than half the judges on the full bench of the supreme court that would examine the state’s appeal against the administrative court’s decision reversing the public sector pay and pension cuts.

If this happened, the full bench of the Supreme Court, made up of 13 judges, would not be able to examine the case, pointed out its president Myron Nikolatos, to which the AG Costas Clerides responded that we cannot make discounts.

But a discount would seem inevitable, because there are only 13 supreme court judges and there are no substitutes on the bench (no pun intended) to replace those that the AG believes should be excluded. Maybe the answer would be for a half-bench or a quarter-bench of the supreme court to rule on the state’s appeal.

The half-bench would be problematic because Clerides claimed more than half of the full bench members had to be excluded which would leave Nikolatos with the option of setting up a quarter bench of three-and-a-quarter judges. But were do you find a quarter judge to put on this bench?

The people who decided that the full bench of the supreme court should consist of 13 judges got it wrong. If they had more foresight they would not have opted for a prime number of judges, that makes it impossible to have a half or a quarter bench, for exceptional circumstances such the one we are facing now.


THE POINT raised by Clerides was not without merit. Six of the 13 members of the full bench had filed their own personal cases against the state for cuts related to their pensions, while some of the other judges are married to public employees (working and retired) who stood to gain financially from the rejection of the appeal.

The latter should have recused themselves without prompting from the AG whereas those that filed suits against the state could argue that these were a different case, unrelated to the 2012 cuts in pay which the judges were exempt from. Of course, there is no guarantee there would not be some subconscious solidarity with fellow fighters battling to take more money from the taxpayer. Their respective, noble causes are not too dissimilar.

It was, after all the supreme court judges that ruled that a pension is the private property of an individual and therefore cannot be tampered with by the state, a crazy ruling applied also to a public employee’s wage by the judges of the administrative court.

It just makes you wonder sometimes whether public parasites win all the legal cases brought against the state regarding pay, pensions, promotions, compensations because judges are themselves public employees or because special privileges for public employees are enshrined in the constitution of the Republic.


THERE is another possible explanation for the parasites winning all the cases they bring against the state, at least the recent ones: the ineptitude of the state legal service, which under Clerides has an impressively long list of lost cases.

In the case of the pay and pension cuts, the state counsel failed to cite the law of necessity, which has been used in countless cases in the past to justify deviations from the provisions of the constitution, in defending the executive’s decision. That was a very costly omission that does not cover the state legal services and their boss in glory.

The administrative court decision was probably the sweetest defeat suffered by the state legal service as all the employees gained financially from it. I mean no disrespect to the AG, but should he not also have recused himself from the appeal before the supreme court, not so much because he would benefit financially if the appeal was lost, but because of his loss record in big cases. This is a case that would cost the taxpayer many hundreds of millions if lost.


IT COULD not have helped the state’s case that Clerides questioned the impartiality of more than half the judges on the full bench but the AG has an axe to grind, his feud with the supreme court judges dating back to the time when his brother accused them of links with the lawyer of the Bank of Cyprus.

Several judges’ offspring were employed at this law office, the brother’s implication being that this was why Clerides lost all the cases he had brought against the BofC. Meanwhile, the judges have inflicted several humiliations on the AG since then, the worst coming a couple of weeks ago when a ruling in another BofC case he lost censured him for “abuse of process”.

In another case thrown out by the criminal court – the Ayia Fyla co-op scam – the ruling lambasted the poor job done by the investigating team and the prosecution, which failed to show the court there was criminal intent by the defendants.

Clerides’ questioning of the impartiality of the supreme court judges, his former colleagues, should be viewed in the context of their ongoing feud. There will be no blood but it could lead to the half-bench of the supreme court consisting of six-and-a-half judges ruling on the appeal.

Spin or fake news: the Cyprus-Greece-Armenia meeting

THERE is a difference between fake news and spinning the news, which involves presenting something that actually happened in a way to mislead people. As Prez Nik said, claiming he dyes his fair was fake news, because he does not, but saying the trilateral meeting of Cyprus, Greece and Armenia was of great significance was a case of spinning the news as it attached importance to a meeting that was totally inconsequential.

The foreign ministry, under the visionary leadership of Nicos Christodoulides, with his Makarios syndrome and delusions of superpower grandeur, has become very skilled at spinning the news. So every meeting the minister has is of “added value” or “great significance” while his actions “enhance our geostrategic role” and “offer a comparative advantage”. Exaggeration is spin.

An example of this spin was evident in Friday’s newspapers, all of which carried the same story about the international arrest warrants the Republic had issued against members of companies assisting Turkey’s invasion of our EEZ.

According to “diplomatic sources of the foreign ministry” the issuing of a “double-digit number of international arrest warrants by the Cyprus Republic in relation to the illegal Turkish actions within the Cypriot EEZ does not solve the problem but it hurts Turkey.”

This is spin because the primary objective is to present the foreign ministry as being active and assertive, even though we have not seen the Turks changing their plans despite all the hurt we have inflicted. It is probably the kind of pain that disappears when you take a couple of Nurofen extra.


THE UNNAMED diplomatic source disseminating this fairy-tale was the new permanent secretary for the ministry Tasos Tzionis. Why had he asked the hacks he briefed not to use his name? Was he afraid he would be laughed at by members of the diplomatic corps for making these naïve claims?

Unfortunately, Tzionis was not spared the embarrassment, his anonymous briefing not kept secret for long. One of the hacks invited to the foreign ministry tweeted that she was waiting for a briefing by Tzionis, not knowing that the briefing would be conducted by “diplomatic sources”.

Incidentally, the “double-digit” arrest warrants was another case of spin because these could have been 10 and some simpleton could think they were 90.


WITH REGARD to the possible measures by the EU against Turkey, at this week’s European Council the “diplomatic sources” said the “Republic was going there with the aim of achieving the maximum,” because “our European partners promised they would show their solidarity.”

The source added: “We are waiting for these words to be turned into decisions that would be translated into measures.” No wonder Tzionis did not want this naïve, wishful thinking credited to his name.

He is smart and experienced enough to know there is about as much chance of the European Council imposing sanctions on Turkey over the Cypriot EEZ as there is of a foreign ministry employee supporting a settlement of the Cyprob. At best we will get a strong-worded declaration of support that Christodoulides will spin into a colossal diplomatic triumph.


REPORTS about Kyproulla forging military co-operation with France may have been a case of political spin but reports and that we had agreed to give France a base turned out to be fake news. On a visit to Turkey on Thursday French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said during a joint news conference with Mevlut Cavusoglu: “There has been no provision for the installation of a French base or a French military unit in Cyprus. I can say that the Greek Cypriot press is mistaken on this issue.” And where did the press get this mistaken information from? We thought Christodoulides only did positive spin, his devoutness not permitting him to lie outright.

Halloumi or Varosha?

NOBODY would have expected to see halloumi and Varosha used together in a headline but the phrase became very popular in the last week. It was coined by lawyer Achilleas Demetriades, who was complaining that the government was showing the same monumental indifference to a case at the ECHR, about property in the fenced off area of Varosha, as it had done in the halloumi court case in the UK which led to us losing the halloumi trademark.

In the ECHR case, Turkey has been claiming in its defence, against a Greek Cypriot’s claim for the return his property, all the fenced area of Varosha belonged to Evkaf, the Turkish Cypriot religious foundation. The Cyprus Republic has until Tuesday to file its observations in the case but the deadline would have passed (as it passed in another case recently) had Demetriades, who is representing the property owner, not made a big fuss in the media.

If the Republic does not file observations the ECHR could decide, although unlikely, that all the fenced area of Varosha actually belonged to Evkaf. Once the news of the general apathy was out the attorney-general claimed he had no instructions from the executive to do anything while anonymous government sources were telling hacks that it was up to the state legal services to take action.

The AG will probably take part in the procedure, not wanting to be debited with the disastrous halloumification of Varosha.


THIS week’s absurdity prize must go to the Commission for the Protection of Competition, which opened a case against the Cyprus Medical Association (CyMA) for urging its members not join Gesy. Officials carried out a raid of the CyMA offices on Wednesday to collect information.

In short, the Commission believed it was in the wrong in urging its members not to join Gesy which is designed to become a healthcare monopoly. Would it have served the principles of competition if CyMA forced all its members to join the Gesy monopoly? Just asking.

The president of the Commission Loukia Christodoulou wondered whether some “professional groups should remain untouchable.” The Electricity Authority unions can resort to every dirty trick imaginable to protect the EAC monopoly and prevent any competition in the electricity market, but their offices have never been raided by Christodoulou’s inspectors. Is it because only public employees are untouchable in Kyproulla?

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