Cyprus Mail
Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Major progress as leaders become ‘quite focused’

Akinci focuses on Lute and Anastasiades focuses on the table (Photo CNA)

SPEAKING on Trito on Saturday morning, education minister Costas Hambiarouis said he was shocked to hear about the Muslim student that was sent home by her headmaster for wearing a headscarf on Friday, the first day of term.

I have to say that I was also shocked on hearing the news, but in a pleasant way. I was shocked that the girl’s fellow students impulsively came out in her support, rowdily protesting against their headmaster’s decision which they witnessed. The kids may have got carried away, but it was nice to see them backing the right of their Muslim fellow-student to wear a headscarf.

I was even more shocked by the public outrage that bordered on hysteria about the incident, with everyone calling for religious tolerance and respect for diversity while condemning racism and waxing lyrical about multiculturalism. You almost thought you were in another country as Kyproulla was never renowned for championing diversity and multiculturalism.

I always thought we were a bit backward and intolerant in our social attitudes and that our schools were breeding grounds for nationalism and fanaticism, but I was obviously wrong.

Even more shocking was that Diko took a stand, revealing its multicultural sensitivities in demanding the “safeguarding of every child’s right to education regardless of colour, race and religion.” The fact the girl at the centre of the controversy was Syrian and not Turkish allowed Diko to take a firm stand in favour of Muslim rights.

 

THE PATRIOTIC fascists of Elam were left on their own to fly the flag of bigotry and intolerance and alert us to the dangers of Islamisation. It issued two announcements on Friday.

Firstly, it warned: “Our schools are being Islamicised, our neighbourhoods are being Islamicised and the political parties are whistling indifferently. They may have no problem with the Greek Orthodox character of the island changing, nor with Cyprus being Islamicised but there are some others that want to safeguard the traditions of this country as these were bequeathed to them by their ancestors.”

The fascists were not embarrassed to display their feminist tendencies either, explaining that the headscarf, “apart from its links to Islamic regimes was directed against the freedom and rights of women.”  The second statement backed the headmaster’s decision, and called on the parties, which urged tolerance, to say whether “the Cyprus they dream of is the Cyprus of the ‘headscarf’ and of ‘diversity’.”

 

NOBODY was too bothered about the education ministry’s decision to clamp down on other manifestations of diversity in schools, such as boys wearing earrings (any jewellery for that matter) or having long hair. I have to admit I fully support the banning of ponytails on males, even if a kid belongs to a religious cult that makes them compulsory. In fact, I would support the banning by law of ponytails on men. In a show of institutional sexism, girls are allowed to wear subtle jewellery. They are not, however, allowed to dye their hair or have unconventional hairstyles, whatever that could mean in this day and age. There are limits to the diversity that is tolerated at state schools.

 

THERE was another shock in store for us on Friday. Jane Holl Lute spoke in public. After visiting Kyproulla for a whole year, without uttering a word in public she finally said something at Friday’s ‘small informal reception’ at which the only guests seemed to be Prez Nik and Mustafa Akinci.

The reception was held in order to thank the two leaders for failing to reach an agreement on the terms of reference after six days of proximity talks and thus keeping Lute’s little earner going. She was thrilled to announce that “both leaders have committed to continue the process,” which meant she would have a job for a few more months or years.

What had she achieved in the 12 months that she had been visiting Cyprus? “We had serious discussions that have been quite focused,” she said. And if the process continues for another year the serious discussions could be upgraded to being ‘very’, instead of ‘quite’ focused.

It was a shame that when Lute found her voice, she was not asked the million-dollar question: why is she always dressed in black and white? Is it to ensure the leaders are not colour-distracted and remain quite focused when she is talking to them? And another question: why was she wearing two shirts at the reception?

 

AFTER the reception, on his return to the presidential pad, Prez Nik was asked by waiting hacks whether he was disappointed over the failure to reach an agreement on the terms. “There is no disappointment, we don’t give up hope, there is an ongoing process.”

This would qualify as the understatement of the year. Nik was so pleased with the outcome, he would have danced with joy if he could. The process would continue aimlessly without anyone expecting a result, it would then be put on hold for four months for the pseudo-elections in the north and all this time he could carry on pretending he wants a settlement.

Things could not have turned out any better for Nik, who said “we don’t give up hope, there is an ongoing process.” As long as there is an ongoing process there is hope it will never end.

 

IF ONLY he was as masterful in his handling of the OCCRP report about his law office, which he has gone out of his way to keep in the news, even after it appeared to have died. In an interview with Alpha TV on Monday he said about the writers of the report: “I know full well who directs them and who the authors are; I don’t want to say anything beyond this. I just want to warn that patience has its limits.”

As we had reported last week, he had been implying that Cypriot EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides was behind the article in an act of vindictiveness because he had not been re-appointed to his post. When challenged by the interviewer to say if he was referring to Stylianides he said “no comment” and added “I made no reference to any name.”

He did not have decency to flatly deny that he was referring to Stylianides, which was rather nasty, especially as a few hours later, at meeting with hacks, he told them it was not in Stylianides character to do such a thing.

 

THE PALACE had already found someone else to blame for the report. The previous day in Phil, the man who uncovers non-existent conspiracies against Kyproulla, Michalis Ignatiou, reported that “the job was done by his (Nik’s) people, who are alleged to have stolen documents from the presidential palace.” Ignatiou, as he is inclined to do, let his imagination run wild. Apart from the law-office documents, he suspected the alleged thief of the palace also stole documents relating to the national security of Cyprus and delivered them to the enemy.

Ignatiou demanded answers from Nik, who had to “inform the people,” because if he “was being blackmailed by his former friends the problem is immense and has to do with the future of Cypriot Hellenism.”

It takes a big flight of the imagination to link the OCCRP report with a case of blackmail, theft from the palace and threat to national security that calls for the president to address the public, but if there is one hack that can pull it off it is Ignatiou.

 

THIS presidency-inspired fabrication was followed by a report in Kathimerini on Wednesday, which suggested that Makarios Drousiotis may have been one of the people behind the OCCRP report. He had worked at the presidential palace for a little over a year soon after Nik’s election, so he was probably the man that Ignatiou was referring to.

Rather than pointing a finger, Kathimerini used Nik’s comments on Alpha to engage in some idle speculation. “I am not saying for sure that he was referring to Drousiotis or to Stylianides or to both or to others. What is certain is that Anastasiades needs to worry about old associates that he more or less describes as blackmailers.”

Drousiotis has categorically denied all these allegations, which appear to have been spread by the Prez’s men, in what is turning into colossally inept attempt at damage limitation.

 

FOREIGN minister Nicos Christodoulides declared the opening of the cultural events known as Yerokipia, in his birthplace Yeroskipou on Friday. In his address, the minister announced that the promotion of cultural diplomacy was one of the main aims of the government.

Its utilisation through specific actions facilitates the achievement of the general aims of the foreign policy of the Cyprus Republic at a European and international level. After economic diplomacy, accounting diplomacy we now have cultural diplomacy to achieve the aims of our foreign policy, which are to make us think that Christodoulides is as great a foreign minister as George Iacovou.

 

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