THE proverb is well-known amongst Greek-speakers. It is self-explanatory and it fits perfectly well the auditor-general of the Republic, Odysseas Michaelides.
The news that last Monday, in the early hours of the morning, a Russian missile that was launched in Syria missed its target, exploded in the air and then hit the ground, was transmitted by all the large news agencies and newscasters, including Reuters, BBC, DW, CNN, Russia Today and numerous other news-transmitting organisations.
In the reportage, reference was made to ‘Tashkent’ as the location at which the debris – which appears to have exploded in mid-air over the village of Vouno on the Pentadaktylos, a spot fairly near the capital of Nicosia) hit the ground.
According to Mr Michaelides, Cyprus Mail has committed an offence by reproducing the news as provided by Reuters and, in particular, by its failure to replace the name ‘Tashkent’ with the name ‘Vouno’ or to add the prefix ‘pseudo’ to the new name of ‘Tashkent’, the name given to the village of Vouno by the Turkish occupation forces.
The whole story would have caused a laugh, had the aforementioned senior civil servant not pressed on with a covert threat that he would seek the discontinuation of the small state subsidy given to Cyprus Mail, which is in line with the subsidies given to all the other printed newspapers to enable it to compete with electronic competitors, who, as a rule, simply reproduce news, often in a distorted fashion under the cover of anonymity.
I must admit that I find Mr Michaelides’ behaviour objectionable because it constitutes a misuse of the power the auditor-general has. In my mind, there is little doubt that he is committing a serious mistake, if by the term ‘auditor-general’ he understands that he has the power to ‘audit’ everything under the sun, on an informal and a non-institutional basis.
I am of the opinion that the obligations and the rights of the auditor-general are confined to the auditing of state expenditure and that the evaluation of whether an offence has been committed by a non-public organisation, such as a newspaper, is clearly outside his field of competence.
The adoption of any other view on this issue refers the reader to an era of darkness and censorship. The risks that hide behind such thinking are huge and actions of this type must be neutralised by liberals, inside and outside of Cyprus.
I am going through my fifth year of preoccupying myself with political article-writing, on a weekly basis, in two of the oldest newspapers in Cyprus: the Cyprus Mail and Alithia. I feel obliged to state, in no uncertain terms, that, over this time, there has never been any attempt to interfere with the content of my articles. I believe that independent journalism in Cyprus is a highly valued asset, which must be protected at all costs.
Beyond these concerns, what bothers me to the umpteenth degree is the fact that at a time when we are unable to recognise familiar and beloved locations in the occupied areas of Cyprus because they have been ‘turkified’ well beyond the adoption of a new ‘turkified’ name – a fact that should have led the senior servants to strive day and night to avert and overturn any further deterioration of this tragic state of affairs – they indulge in ‘beating the saddle’ because they do not have the competence to ‘beat the ass’.
After 50 years of occupation, we have reached the point of the whole world calling ‘Tashkent’ the village of Vouno and the reaction of a senior servant is confined to the threat of chasing local publications for bringing this tragic reality to the attention of their readership.
It may be that certain people believe that, if we carry on using the names of Kyrenia, Trikomo and Vouno (instead of Girne, Iskele and Tashkent) and, if we insist on referring to the status quo, which has solidified in northern Cyprus, by adding the prefix ’pseudo’ in front of every reference which has to do with the north, a pseudo-impression will be given to Greek Cypriots that nothing has changed and they will thus accept solutions such as that of a two-state arrangement, without revolting.
Of course, the prevailing explanation for this phenomenon is that because the senior civil servants are not able to beat the ass, they confine their actions to beating the saddle.
However, if they are really unable to beat the ass, should they be submitting their resignation? You would probably say that it is naive to expect such sensitivity.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia