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Tales from the Coffeeshop: Suddenly we’re all Libyan experts now

TWO MONTHS ago, if you asked an ordinary Cypriot who Khalifa Haftar was, he may have told you it was a brand of Lebanese baklava or Egyptian shisha tobacco.

Today the Libyan field marshal is a household name in Cyprus and Greece, elevated to the status of national hero because he is fighting against the Tripoli government which signed the maritime agreement with Turkey. We are all big Haftar fans now, praying he crushes the troops of Turkey’s allies that currently make up the recognised government of Libya and provided with military backing by Erdogan.

Suddenly, Libya, the international conference in Berlin on Libya on Sunday and Haftar’s moves have become the only news in town. There has been a civil war raging in Libya for years and nobody in Kyproulla gave a hoot, but now it is the main news story on state media with international relations experts on TV and radio shows giving us insights.

Libya is all the rage. It has been leading the CyBC radio news bulletins for the last three days and on Saturday the top three items of Tass news agency’s daily news bulletin were about Libya. The third item at least had a Cyprus angle.

Our House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution condemning the sending of Turkish troops and arms to Libya which violated the embargo on weapons sales to Libya. It also urged the government to proceed with providing humanitarian aid to the Libyan people. Presumably, though, not to those opposed to Field Marshal Haftar.

 

POLITICAL parties were outraged that Greece had not been invited to the Berlin conference on Libya, interpreting this as a failure of our foreign policy, especially as the Turks would be attending, and a snub by Germany.

Perhaps the anger can be attributed to the failure of the conference organisers to view the Turkey-Libya agreement on the EEZ, which affects Greece directly, as pressing an issue as stopping the fighting. We have a tendency of thinking our issues are the most important and in need of urgent attention. Elam declared that Kyproulla should have been invited, together with Greece, being two countries “directly affected”.

“It is imperative that the Cyprus Republic demands its participation in the conference, as it has a role and a say as an affected country,” said Elam on Friday. How could Greece and Kyproulla be absent when even the Republic of the Congo was invited, noted Solidarity.

Even the EU High Representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, whose mandate included raising the Turkey-Libya memorandum at the Berlin conference, politely informed Tass that our issue might not be discussed because “the most important and urgent issue is to secure an immediate ceasefire”.

With Turkey sending in troops, Russian mercenaries helping Haftar and Egypt also involved, there is a real risk of the situation blowing up out of control, so you can understand why the memorandum might not get a look-in in Berlin.

The best take on the conference was provided by Solidarity, which said: “Turkey is emulating absolutely successfully the policies of Nazi Germany before World War II, and today’s Germany is strongly backing her.”

 

PREZ NIK fired a broadside against corruption in football at the sportswriters’ award ceremony for sportsmen/women. “What I want to make clear in every direction is that we will not tolerate some, who have no relation to sport but with criminal elements to continue to blacken either the name of Cyprus football or more broadly the country,” said Nik, adopting that serious one-eyebrow raised expression of his.

He blamed the red notices over suspicious betting activities for specific matches that have been sent by Uefa over some crooked referees, who “in cooperation with corrupt people involved in football” were the reason for these notices being sent. The time had come to clean up these Augean stables, he asserted.

Was it a presidential jinx that a few hours after his speech, the car of a referee was blown up leading to a refs’ strike this weekend?

Similar promises to clean up football were made by the Prez five years ago. He pledged to put in place “stricter control mechanisms of all those linked to football through betting and television rights,” and promised “stricter control of those running the Cyprus Football Association”. His stricter control mechanisms obviously did not work if football is now as filthy as Augean’s stables.

 

HERACLES, the expert on cleaning up Augean’s stables, is no longer offering his services so the Prez has decided on the surefire way of tackling corruption – improving football stadiums.

He told the sportswriters’ event that he was aware of the problems at stadiums and in the next few days he would preside over a meeting of all those running football grounds so that stadiums comply with provisions of the law. Why has the government allowed their use all these years if they were not complying with the law? He did not say.

The solution to most problems faced by our rain-soaked island is some form of construction work. The endemic corruption in football without which, I suspect, most clubs would not even be able to pay the wages of their players (how can clubs survive with 50 or 100 ticket-buying fans?), will be eliminated by undertaking construction work to improve stadium facilities.

 

THE SAME formula was adopted by the president of the House of Representatives Demetris Syllouris, who earlier this week lost his tactical battle to prevent the discussion of the list of Politically Exposed Persons’ with NPLs.

The list of PEPS with NPLs reportedly includes about a dozen deputies and Syllouris did his best to make the matter go away by avoiding responding to the Central Bank governor who had twice written to the legislature offering to submit it. Syllouris ignored his letters, as did the chairman of the House watchdog committee, Zacharias Koulias, to whom they were addressed, in the hope the matter would go away.

It was thanks to Green leader Giorgos Perdikis and Akel deputy Irini Charalambidou that it did not. At a meeting of the committee on Thursday they insisted Koulias wrote to the governor to ask that he submit the list. Syllouris attended the meeting to argue against such a move, but he and Koulias were in minority. The rest of the committee members sided with Charalambidou and Perdikis.

Having lost this battle, Syllouris reverted to damage limitation tactics. He announced he would be writing to the governor asking him to submit the list, raising fears among deputies that his letter would set the agenda of the meeting and probably restrict the questions deputies could ask.

 

APOLOGIES for the digression. Returning to the issue of construction, Syllouris’ idea of raising standards at the legislature, which he promised to pursue when he took over as speaker, does not involve introducing a code of conduct, a register of interests, scrutiny of capital statement or transparency on the dealings of deputies.

He will raise standards by building new palatial premises for the House of Representatives. Once there is a new building the honesty, transparency and accountability of deputies will be guaranteed, just as stadiums with good facilities will put an end to fixed games.

 

THE BUILDING or facilities factor has also been used by teaching unions to avoid discussing the yearly decline in educational standards at public schools. All last year the main problem raised by teaching unions was that many classrooms in public schools had no air conditioning units.

This school year the new problem facing public education, according to the teachers, was that high fences had not been placed around all schools. And how could they teach when the security of the schools, that was never at risk, was not guaranteed?

Once high fences were erected and a/c units installed in classrooms, education standards would fly.

Students demonstrating on Thursday

SPEAKING of schools, teenage students are carrying on their unyielding struggle against the system of twice-yearly exams introduced in December. The teenage kids marched in protest against exams to the presidential palace on Thursday and it was depressing to hear their leader speak.

His rhetoric was exactly the same as that of politicians, littered with grown-up cliches. With the protest, said Yiannis Lapithios, “we are sending a clear message…we fight for a human and democratic school…we have some red lines that cannot be crossed…we will continue with more drastic measures.”

I think we should fight for an education system that encourages students to address us in their own words.

 

I WOULD like to conclude with a heart-warming story taken from the website of the Ayia Napa municipality, which last Sunday elected a new mayor – Christos Zannetou (his surname betrays his Akelite background). The story, which was accompanied by a photo of Zannetou holding a bouquet of flowers, with an elderly lady and gentleman on either side, said:

“The newly-elected mayor of Ayia Napa met his godparents who gave him flowers and exchanged heart-felt wishes. They also expressed their joy and pride about his election and wished him success for the difficult work he has to perform. Clearly moved Mr Zannetou thanked his godparents both for their visit and wishes.”

Thankfully there was no mention of Field Marshal Haftar.

 

 

 

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