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Cyprus

MP said artist controversy was not reason for resignation as Diko spokesman

Parliament: EDEK MP Kostis Efsthathiou holding his head next to Citizens' Alliance MP Pavlos Mylonas
File Photo of MP Pavlos Mylonas (right). Photo: Christos Theodorides

Diko MP Pavlos Mylonas has said that the cabinet’s decision to drop disciplinary procedures against controversial public school headteacher and artist Giorgos Gavriel was not the reason for his resignation as party spokesman, but maintained that his stance on the case remains contrary to the one expressed by the party.

Cabinet on Wednesday announced that the disciplinary procedure against Gavriel would be dropped, amidst wide condemnation of the way the government handled the matter. On the same day, Mylonas published his resignation letter – which actually dates back to June 16.

Speaking to Ant1 TV he said that his resignation came before inter-party elections, and he will be succeeded by Panicos Leonidou, who won with three votes against his two.

However, he explained, party leader Nicolas Papadopoulos asked him to stay in the post until the end of the summer.

“The events just coincided,” he said, denying that the verdict on Gavriel largely influenced his decision.

Mylonas vocally opposed Diko’s official position, which was that charges against Gavriel must be dropped immediately, arguing the case sends “completely wrong, anti-democratic and anti-European messages to wider society.”

He instead maintained that Gavriel’s works were “vulgarities” that reflected the painter and headteacher’s political and ideological beliefs and offended religious institutions.

“I am not an art critic so I will not occupy myself with the aesthetics of Mr Gavriel’s work. I am an MP, and what concerns me is that he is a teacher and headteacher,” he said.

Mylonas agreed with the argument that Gavriel’s repeated publishing of his work, despite being asked to stop, was not in line with his position as headteacher.

“Mr Gavriel is an artist, yes, but he is also an apparatchik,” Mylonas said, adding that Gavriel’s right to express his political inclination is respected “but he can do that in an art gallery”.

“We can’t let our schools become theatres of clashing ideologies in the name of free speech,” he said.

As of late June, Mylonas has been chair of the House education committee, which he cited as one of the reasons he will be stepping down as Diko’s spokesman.

Asked if the committee will be discussing Gavriel at all, Mylonas said that there are more important issues at hand, namely infrastructural and technical issues many schools are facing.

It is vital to focus on building new school units, upgrading existing ones and tackling all of their issues to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children, he said.

“There is no time for divisive tricks,” he said. “These are the issues we are going to deal with, and leave art to the artists”.

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