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Tales from the Coffeeshop: President offers buffet for the cannibals

Deputy Minister of Tourism Costas Koumis
Deputy Minister of Tourism Costas Koumis

I COULD not resist the temptation to engage in a little bit of cannibalism, having not had the opportunity to do so when everyone was at it last week, prompting a public censure by our Prez, who was infuriated by the treatment of his teenage protégé.

It all came to light after last week’s shop, people slamming the decision to appoint a 19-year-old school leaver from Paphos as an advisor of the deputy minister for tourism. What advice could a teenage girl with no qualifications or experience offer anyone, the social media sages asked, labelling the appointment a crude rusfeti.

Inevitably, the auditor-general, in his self-styled role as ethics commissar, took control of the situation, declaring the appointment ‘illegal’ and demanding its immediate annulment. He threatened to report the case to the anti-corruption authority if the government did not back down.

The normally infallible Odysseas had got it wrong. The council of ministers decision of March 2019, setting criteria for advisors – such as a university degree and being over the age of 21 – had been scrapped by a new decision a few months later that Odysseas was not aware of.

With the new criteria, a 12-year-old with an expertise in Barbie doll outfits could be appointed a minister’s advisor if she were from Paphos.

 

SO UPSET was the Prez about the fuss he urged people to direct their criticism at the government and “not cannibalise” an individual. Surely the man who offered this innocent 19-year-old girl on a plate to the cannibals of social media had a big share of the responsibility for the carnage that followed.

But we never found out whose brilliant idea it was to appoint a teenager to a government post and thought this would pass unnoticed. The deputy minister of tourism, Costas Koumis, ended up as the fall guy, in order to protect the prez, the official propaganda being that he was completely in the dark about what happened.

Koumis claimed on state television the presidential palace had nothing to do with the appointment of the teenager, whom he did not know, but was the recommendation of a person close to him. He did not reveal the identity of the person, revealing instead that high intelligence was not the reason for his own appointment.

What minister with half a brain would appoint as his advisor a 19-year-old school leaver he did not know, on the recommendation of someone else? Did he not know any half-competent grown-up who could have done the job?

 

THE CANNIBAL fodder, who looks like a 13-year-old, was known to the Prez as she had been a member of his election campaign team (something Koumis claimed he did not know) and there were several photos of the two circulating on social media.

Is it possible that the person close to Koumis that recommended her appointment could have been anyone other than Nikos II? As possible as the appointment going ahead without the presidential palace’s approval. To be fair, no approval was needed if she had been recommended by the prez himself.

Something Koumis did not say on the telly was that he introduced the girl to her colleagues at the deputy ministry, as the president’s protégé (implying she was his choice) and gave her an office on the same floor as his own. By Tuesday, the girl had decided not to accept her post.

This is the second appointment of a Paphite that turned into a joke. Last month Michael Michael was forced to resign as member of the public service commission, a day after he was appointed, because of his bogus university degrees.

The prez had nothing to do with that appointment either, the palace leaking information that Michael was the choice of Dipa leader Marios Garoyian.

 

HAVING ended the cannibalising of the teenager, Nik II then had to appease the biggest cannibal of us all – Odysseas, who had highlighted another technically, irregular appointment. Marilena Raouna, another koumera of the presidential couple, had been made presidential commissioner although there was no provision in the state budget for this post and therefore, no salary.

Odysseas was summoned to the presidential palace for a meeting, even though the overall impression was that he had gone there to sort out the prez. The outcome of the meeting supported this view, as the prez did exactly as the ethics commissar had ordered. The prez expressed his intention to draft a bill setting criteria for the hiring of associates.

Leaving the palace, Odysseas expressed his satisfaction that the prez adopted the views of the audit office, which was diplomatic-speak for ‘he did as he was told by me.’

 

COULD any other deal have been reached behind closed doors at the palace? We can only speculate that the promotion of Odysseas’ sister, Anastasia Kamenou, may have been brought up in the conversation.

Kamenou joined the civil service through the backdoor, at top pay-scale, in a Disy rusfeti that Odysseas did not deem worthy of investigation, but turned against the party when she was not promoted to the post of chief district officer and jumped on the Christodoulides bandwagon. She may get the promotion she was after, under this government, especially after the fawning praise she lavishes on the prez on her Twitter account.

Her promotion, even if it was not discussed at the palace, I suspect, would gain our prez entry into Odysseas’ good books for the rest of his term.

 

A BIGGER embarrassment was awaiting Koumis a day after the teenager fiasco. Alithia reported that at meeting in Germany in March, the CEO of the British tourist group Jet2 Holidays, Steve Heapy, felt so offended by Koumis texting on his phone that he walked out.

The Paralimnite deputy minister, issued a denial, three days after the report appeared, describing it as “fake news” and “categorically” denying that any of his interlocutors had walked out of any meeting on the sidelines of the exhibition. Alithia on Saturday stuck to its story, saying hoteliers present at the meeting had smoothed things over.

Koumis, a seasoned rusfeti beneficiary as a Disy member (he was appointed vice chairman of the CTO, then vice chairman of Cyta and then to the public service commission) defected to the Christodoulides campaign, presumably because he felt his professional and social advancement would be better served. It was the right call.

And after making a fool of himself in the case of the teenager, for the sake of his prez, his job is safe, despite playing on his phone during a meeting.

 

THE MARCH of the apolitical continues. Efthymios Diplaros, a man with as much political substance as a tashinopitta, was triumphantly elected deputy leader of Disy, and will no doubt be campaigning to reverse the political office’s decision for the party to be in opposition.

He will be supported in this endeavour by two of the people elected to the three vice-president posts, who are crypto-supporters of Nik II and zealous followers of his apolitical ideology. How will the party leader, Annita Demetriou, cope with this pressure from the populist right that has taken over Disy?

She may have to shelve her idea of listening to the base of the party in order to unite the party, because if she does, Disy will have to join Nik’s government. It is the base that elected Nik II’s supporters to the top posts.

 

NIK THE FIRST, just cannot let the matter about his alleged attempt to stop an investigation into match-fixing go. I refer to the claim by the president of the sports ethics committee, Andreas Papacharalambous, who had said Nik had called him and asked not to investigate a friendly match which had been flagged for heavy betting activity.

After getting Disy and former minister Kyriakos Koushos to issue statements saying this did not happen (although they were in no position to know what was said in a telephone conversation), last Wednesday he procured as statement about his innocence from the actual sports ethics committee.

The committee announced that there had been no interference “by any state official, or other person until today” in the execution of its duties. It also mentioned that none of its members were on the committee when Pap was its president. Was it to inform us that Nik had not interfered again?

 

SECONDARY teachers’ union, Oelmek, marked its 70th anniversary on Wednesday with a concert pretentiously titled ‘Sculpting souls. Sculpting Hearts.’ The steadily declining standards of public education would suggest that our teachers are pretty poor sculptors.

Education minister, Athina Michaelidou, unintentionally mentioned Oelmek’s biggest achievement and it had nothing to do with education. She said: “Oelmek has succeeded to empower its members and achieve through struggles the upgrading of the status of teachers in our country.”

Nobody could dispute this. The teachers’ standard of living keeps rising regardless even though their sculpting is third-rate.

 

I HAVE done enough cannibalising for today. I just hope I do not suffer any indigestion as a result.

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