The command of the British Bases may have thought a charity concert at the Curium amphitheatre to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II was a good idea especially as the profits would go to local charities and a Cypriot cultural group would be one of the acts. The concert, scheduled to take place two-and-a-half weeks after the start of the implementation of the new deal on the bases – 80 per cent of land in the bases would be free for development from May 16 – was also supposed to mark the friendship between Britain and Cyprus, according to the bases.
It only took a few censorious comments on Facebook and one newspaper last week for everything to be turned upside down. Presidential candidate and lawyer Giorgos Colocassides posted a comment on his Facebook page calling for the cancellation of the event because a celebratory concert for the Queen, who was linked to the darkest moments of Cyprus history, was provocative. “The so-called friendship is at the very least debatable in the role of the British after the founding of the Republic and even until today,” wrote Colocassides.
This was followed by a scathing report in Friday’s Phileleftheros which contacted the two charities that were listed as beneficiaries of the profit of the concerts – Little Heroes and One Dream One Wish – asking them why they had agreed to be part of a celebration for the Queen. The Disy MEP Loucas Fourlas, who runs the former, told the paper his charity had withdrawn, while the director of the second was unapologetic saying contributions to the charity were welcome wherever they came from.
On Monday One Dream One Wish also decided it could not take money from an event for the Queen and announced it was withdrawing. The Limassol dance and chorus group Diastasis that was to perform in the concert also withdrew, leaving the event in disarray. The bases said the charity concert will go ahead, even though it remains to be seen whether it will find a Cypriot act to perform and a local charity to accept the proceeds of the event. And will any Cypriots turn up to the concert given the current climate?
A section of the Greek Cypriot population considers the Queen responsible for the execution of nine Eoka fighters during the anti-colonial struggle of 1955-59, as she had given her approval. There were also protests against her, for the same reasons, on the only occasion she visited Cyprus in 1993. What is astonishing is that this section of the population dictates public sentiment, as nobody dares question it for fear of being accused of being unpatriotic.
Yet the reality is that contrary to Colocassides’ claim, relations between ordinary Cypriots and ordinary Britons are friendly, despite the cultural differences. If they were not, there would not be two million British tourists holidaying in Cyprus every year, nor would there be thousands of Cypriots attending British universities and calling Britain home. The fuss created about the concert by a small clique and the subsequent withdrawals may have caused a little embarrassment to the bases, but it is nothing that should be taken seriously.