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Transport minister’s wreath-laying sparks criticism

vafeades laying wreath, transport minister
Transport Minister Vafeades laid the wreath on behalf of the president

President Nikos Christodoulides drew criticism on Saturday, after Transport Minister Alexis Vafeades, who represented him, choose to lay a wreath at a memorial for the fallen coup soldiers, on the anniversary of coup d’état largely seen as the cause of the Turkish invasion five days later.

During his visit to the Saint Constantine and Helen church, where a service was held, the minister laid a wreath at the memorial for the soldiers that took part in the coup and died in their attempt to break into the presidential palace.

This act drew criticism not only from main opposition party Akel, but also the resistance fighters’ group and onlookers.

When the president went to attend the memorial of the resistance fighters and laid a wreath there, onlookers waited patiently to express their distaste of Vafeades’ act.

According to reports, onlookers saw him lay the wreath and following the church ceremony shouted “shame”.

Answering them, the president said this act has been done in the past.

Later at a parliamentary session to hold a minute of silence on the anniversary, opposition Akel laid into the president, with the party’s leader Stefanos Stefanou saying: “No one, let alone the president himself, can give hero’s honours to those who attacked the presidential palace, especially on the day of the anniversary when we honour the democratic resistance fighters.”

Stefanou said that 49 years since the twin crimes of 1974, the Cyprus problem is at its worst phase, facing the longest deadlock ever, with Turkey taking advantage of the situation to provoke new occupation and division.

“Because, as time gnaws at endurance and memory, we, as the responsible political leadership of the country, have a historical responsibility to exhaust every effort to achieve a solution to the problem plaguing our people,” he said.

In his reply, the president said that he was here to unite the people.

“I am here to honour all those who through their struggles protected what is most important to us. I am not here to justify the unjustifiable, to justify all those involved in the treacherous coup,” he added.

Vafeades act also drew criticism from the resistance fighters’ group, who also criticised the president.

“Unfortunately, even on the day of the anniversary of the coup, the new government confirmed its absolute identification with the practices of the previous ten-year rule of the Disy party,” they said.

They called on the president to immediately apologise and called on people to gather at the memorial of the fallen in Limassol on Monday at 7.30pm to protest fascism and the traitors.

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