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Gender equality watchdog condemns verbal attack on Akel MP

Akel's Irini Charalambidou

The gender equality commissioner condemned Monday an incident in parliament last week in which a male Disy MP verbally attacked Akel MP Irini Charalambides during discussion of a list of politically exposed persons (PEP) with bad debts, that ended in acrimony.

In a written statement, Iosifina Antoniou said she “unequivocally condemns behaviours that aim to hurt and belittle women’s ethics and dignity”.

Antoniou said she planned on writing to House president Demetris Syllouris, who was present during the incident last Thursday, to express her displeasure.

She also suggested expediting the adoption of a code of ethics based on principles and values that promote and safeguard human rights.

“Behaviours that hurt, scorn, and belittle women have no place in parliament, an institution associated with respect of the rule of law and the fundamental human rights principles like human dignity, equality, freedom of expression, solidarity, respect of opposing views, and combatting any form of discrimination and inequality,” the statement said.

Syllouris ended the session after a shouting match broke out between Disy MP Costakis Constantinou and Akel’s Irini Charalambides.

The PEP document – marked ‘confidential’ – was first delivered to Syllouris by former Central Bank boss Chrystalla Georghadji in April of 2019 just before she stepped down.

Days later, Syllouris held a courtesy meeting with her successor, Constantinos Herodotou. During the meeting, Syllouris surprised the governor by handing him back the list and asking the Central Bank to process data held by commercial banks regarding delinquent loans held by PEPs and on possible circumspect debt write-offs.

Some of the names on the list, and their debts, were subsequently leaked to the media.

Present at the watchdog committee on Thursday were three MPs named on the leaked list: Disy’s Costakis Constantinou, Diko’s Zacharias Koulias, and Akel’s Skevi Koukouma.

Koukouma said she had inherited a non-performing loan from her father with a balance of €307,000. On determining that the bank was overcharging on interest, she took up the matter with the financial ombudsman, Pavlos Ioannou.

Hearing this, Akel deputy Irini Charalambides directed a question at the financial ombudsman – also attending the session – whether other PEPs had likewise sought arbitration over non-performing loans.

Her question enraged Constantinou, who accused Charalambides of “cannibalising” her parliamentary colleagues.

To which she snapped: “The guilty think all talk is of themselves.”

Coming back, Constantinou told the Akel deputy: “You are too small to judge others…I shall open up so many issues for you that it’ll make your head spin. You won’t like it if we raise ethical issues.”

“Are you threatening me?” Charalambides hit back. Before the spat, Herodotou had declined to give specifics about loans held by PEPs, saying regulations prevent him from doing so unless a parliamentary committee formally requests the list in writing.

 



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