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Our View: Farmers’ justified complaints no excuse to break the law

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On Wednesday morning the sheep and goat farmers arrived outside the presidential palace to protest about the government’s failure to ensure the PDO specs for halloumi were followed by producers. They have been claiming that producers were not using 20 per cent sheep and goats’ milk as stipulated by the specs and the government was not carrying out inspections of the halloumi produced. While the price of cows’ milk was steadily rising sheep and goats’ milk had remained at the same level despite a 115 per cent increase in animal feed, said a representative of the farmers.

Criticism of the government’s failure to implement the law is perfectly justified, but breaking the law in order to make your point as the sheep and goat farmers had done on Wednesday was not. They poured tonnes of milk on the road outside the presidential palace and then set fire to hay bales at its entrance. They also drove trucks to the entrance gate, threatening to drive through. While all this law-breaking was happening, the police stood by and watched. No arrests were made, said the police spokesman. This tolerance to law-breaking was seen by the protestors as licence to cause more disruption. At lunch-time, they blocked the road at the entrance of Nicosia with their trucks causing queues that stretched back for kilometres. Nobody was arrested for this either.

Even the president gave his approval to this unlawful behaviour. The director of the presidential office, Andreas Iosif, appeared before the protestors and pandered to them, assuring them that by the end of the month they would receive cash assistance of €5 million. This was not the only way the government would reward their unruly behaviour – at the next meeting of agriculture ministers in Brussels, Cyprus would ask for additional help for livestock breeders. It should do so, but announcing it during an unruly protest creates a very bad impression. Was the government’s message that it will turn a blind eye to law breaking if it was for a worthy cause?

We live in a democracy and people have the right to protest about anything they like, but their actions need to be within the bounds of the law. If they are not, it is the job of the police to intervene and enforce the law, even if there is a risk of angering the crowd. As for the president, he should not have tried to appease people that were breaking the law.

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