Since the inception of our reluctant if not stillborn republic, the island’s politics have been dominated by endless strings of scandals centered on corruption, incompetence, mismanagement, nepotism and favouritism.
The supreme rule of the personality cult of Archbishop Makarios, the ‘one and only leader of Cyprus’, was followed by the rule of the deep-rooted clientalist system of governance initiated and nurtured by all parties across the political spectrum: a system that invariably promotes mediocrities to positions of influence and power. It is not an exaggeration to state that the above-outlined framework of policymaking determines every field of public affairs in the Republic of Cyprus. Consequently, the foreign, security and defence policy field cannot escape from this overall shaky framework which exercises a malign influence on decision making.
As the island’s public – and private communications – affairs scene was shaken by the spy van case last week, a landmark international non-event of the week with broad repercussions on Cyprus failed to capture the slightest attention of our narrow-minded leaders: Friday, November 22 marked the deadline the United Nations set for the return of the Chagos Islands to the state of Mauritius. The UK, the holding neo-colonial power, refused to recognise Mauritius’ claim of sovereignty over this group of islands. Following a landmark yet non-binding decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN General Assembly dealing a major blow to permanent Security Council member UK, overwhelmingly voted in May to set a six-month deadline for the return of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius. London failed to comply prompting Labour leader Jeremy Corbin to pledge that if Labour wins the December 12 election he will ‘end colonial rule of Chagos Islands’.
Both the international law bodies decisions i.e. the ICJ verdict, the 116 to six UN General Assembly vote and the Labour party leader’s pledge to end colonial rule of the remote UK overseas territory bear direct impact on the question of the presence of the British Bases in Cyprus and all the facilities and installations used by the British Forces Cyprus since independence. A number of times the so called ‘Sovereign Base Areas’ have been characterised by British commentators as ‘colonial remnants’. In fact, not too long ago, the UK’s Supreme Court has opined along the same lines in dealing with an appeal of Iraqi irregular migrants stranded since 1998 in Dhekelia.
It is true that the Republic of Cyprus’ attorney-general led a Cypriot delegation of international law experts to The Hague at the time the international court was examining the Chagos case. Cyprus’ own written submission to the ICJ said that: “[A]ny consent in those circumstances, where one entity’s independence is essentially, if implicitly, conditioned upon its simultaneous consent to whatever requirements the administering power establishes, is unlikely to be ‘free’.” In other words, Cyprus did not consent of its own free will to accept the detachment of three per cent of its territory for the purpose of the UK maintaining military and surveillance installations.
As the internal blame game commotion ruminates singularly on the operation of the spying van, is the attorney-general and our political leadership not failing to address the far-reaching and lasting issue of the operation of extensive surveillance installations by the former colonial power for free and without consultation with the Cypriot government?