The chair of the House refugees committee on Tuesday harangued the interior ministry for giving Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos a mere slap on the wrist in a report apparently censuring the town boss over his irregular or unlawful management of Turkish Cypriot properties.
Committee chair Skevi Koukouma (Akel) said an administrative probe conducted by the interior ministry proved “the arbitrary actions and interventions” of the Paphos mayor on Turkish Cypriot properties.
The report has yet to be formally delivered to the parliamentary committee, but Koukouma said its content was damning for Phedonos.
“Mr Phedonos may shout at everyone that we are lying… but the report explicitly and clearly states that the mayor was proceeding with projects before the land plots in question were granted to the municipality by the guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties [the interior ministry],” Koukouma said in a written statement.
“In brief, whenever the mayor found a plot he wanted, he’d begin collaborations and only then asked for the plot to be granted to him.
“At the same time, the probe demonstrates that the mayor of Paphos, illegally and without a permit, without a concession, without a decision, without any legal cover would go ahead with projects and constructions.”
According to the MP, Phedonos received a letter from the interior minister himself in which the latter firmly enjoins him, notifying him that in one particular case, concerning the demolition of a fence in Mouttalos, the interior ministry will file a complaint to the police.
But Koukouma also scolded the interior ministry for “unacceptably equating” the responsibilities of displaced persons to whom Turkish Cypriot properties were granted, on the one hand, and the illegalities of the mayor on the other.
“In other words, while the report records the illegal actions of Mr Phedonos, on the other hand it notes that refugees who illegally built garages on their properties… in this way equating the two, and giving the mayor – as the local town planning authority – carte blanche to continue moving into Turkish Cypriot properties at will and demolishing them.”
The interior ministry has in this way “absolved itself of its responsibilities.”
The MP moreover accused Phedonos of acting lawlessly, “sending in the bulldozers, without any court order and without the consent of the guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties.”
It was the latest episode in a longstanding row between MPs and Phedonos over the management of Turkish Cypriot properties in Paphos.
Phedonos has defended his move to demolish certain constructions on these properties, arguing that they were illegal.
In 2017 the mayor alleged that the state’s policy of handing out properties, left behind by Turkish Cypriots during the 1960s and after the invasion, to displaced Greek Cypriots has been widely abused.
A large chunk of properties, he said at the time, had ended up in the hands of non-refugees with the right political connections.