TCC Press Review 25 Mar 2020

Front Page Headlines

Yenidüzen

We hope to see you again on brighter days

849 tourists flew back to Europe on six planes. The tourists who were stranded in the north in the middle of their vacation when the coronavirus outbreak became a pandemic flew home after spending 14-days in quarantine. The last of six flights, carrying 52 French citizens to Marseille via Antalya took off this morning.

  • Third death in the south. Two new cases in the north – Two more people died from coronavirus in the south yesterday (Tuesday) bringing the tally to three. The total figures on the island have reached 166 with 42 in the north and 124 in the south.
  • Eyes on the economic measures –The Economic Support Package could not be announced yesterday (Tuesday) after an agreement could not be reached. The ministers are to continue talks at 11 am today (Wednesday). What’s on the table? A 25 per cent cut on all public sector salaries above ₺5000 (€720) for three months, setting ₺8500 (€1200) as the highest public sector salary for three months, slashing salaries of MPs, Ministers and other high-ranking officials by 60 per cent to bring them down to ₺8500 (€1200), paying ₺1500 (€215) salary contribution 40,000 private-sector employees, lowering electricity prices, exempting doctors and healthcare workers from the salary cuts and rearranging the Employment Incentive Programme.

Kıbrıs Postası

Ceased print/Online only

Kıbrıs

We are bored to death but have to for our health

People, in line with the measures adopted against coronavirus, have been staying at homes for days. They have to find a chore to do every day to pass time. People, speaking to Kıbrıs, said: “We are bored to death, but we know we have to stay at home for our health.” They also note they are concerned about the coronavirus pandemic but are not panicking.

  • They are also victims of coronavirus pandemic – Many pets have been abandoned to the streets either due to a false belief that coronavirus can be transmitted through pets or because their owners left the country in a hurry. The number of stray dogs and cats have grown in the past two weeks. Veterinarians highlight that the coronavirus cannot be transmitted from animals.
  • Two new cases in the north. 11 still being treated.
  • Two people die in the south due to coronavirus.
  • 44 people have died in Turkey. There are 1872 cases now.

Havadis

Difficult days

The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread in all countries other than China. As the number of cases increases on the island, news came from the south of the death of two more people from the virus. There are 124 cases in the south now. Two people tested positive for coronavirus in the north, bringing the total number of cases to 42. 797 German, Polish and Swedish tourists were sent back to their countries in five planes. 52 French tourists will be sent this morning (Wednesday).

  • Silence prevails on the streets – The streets are left empty as a result of the movement ban imposed in the north as a measure to contain the spread of coronavirus. 48 people have been booked for violating the ban.
  • Horrifying numbers for Covid-19 – North: 42 cases zero deaths – South: 124 cases three deaths – Turkey: 1872 cases 44 deaths.
  • Turkish professors at EMU stranded in the north – 25 Turkish nationals, who were contracted to teach at the universities in the north, are stranded in the north despite having completed their mandatory 14-day quarantine period at the hotel they were staying at. They have asked the Turkish government to help them get back to Turkey.

Diyalog

The economic package creates tension among partners

Plans are being made to lower highest salaries, including those of Ministers to ₺8500 (€1200) and to slash state contributions made to political parties by 30 per cent. The 38-point package will be finalised today (Wednesday). Other plans include suspending the cost of living rises. While a National Unity Party (UBP) source told Diyalog that the party supported that the cut in state contributions made to political parties should not be higher than 30 per cent, the Peoples’ Party (HP) want a higher cut to be introduced. Both parties are denying plans to introduce a haircut to savings in banks.

  • 52 people remain – 788 of 849 tourists in the country were flown back to their countries on five separate planes.
  • Current number 13 – New cases confirmed in the north.
  • Loss of life 44 – 343 new cases confirmed in Turkey bringing the tally to 1872.
  • There is panic among Greek Cypriots – While two more people died in South Cyprus, the total number of confirmed cases rose to 124 with eight new cases.

Afrika

Third death in the south

The whole world shut themselves in their homes. The latest situation in Cyprus concerning coronavirus…Two new cases in the north, eight in the south! Two more people lost their lives in the south yesterday where measures have been stepped up. As a result, the number of people who have died from coronavirus has reached three. One of the persons who died was a 65-year-old male patient at Paphos Hospital. The other was another 58-year-old male patient. The 58-year-old was a pilot, the 65-year-old was British.

  • ₺382 (€55) for disobeying ban – The fine for defying the movement ban in the north is ₺382 (€55) and €150 in the south.
  • 48 more people charged – Police booked 48 people in the TRNC for disobeying the movement ban.
  • Couldn’t be found in the North, was obtained from the South –Medication unavailable in the North was delivered to patients who had been receiving treatment in the south.
  • 849 tourists being sent – 849 German, French and Swedish tourists are being sent today (Wednesday) to their countries. All tourists in the south are also returning to their countries.

Main News

North confirms two new cases as Covid-19 dominates the agenda

Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Internal Security

OVERVIEW

The coronavirus pandemic continued to dominate the north’s agenda on Tuesday as two new cases of coronavirus were confirmed bringing the total figure to 42.

There are currently 13 patients receiving treatment for coronavirus in the north, ten Turkish Cypriots, two Germans and a Turkmen.  

29 patients, all of whom were German nationals, had been discharged earlier.

Turkish Cypriot Health Minister Ali Pilli said that both of the two cases had come into contact with another coronavirus confirmed case.

Earlier in the day, the 788 German, Polish and Swedish tourists, including the first couple to have tested positive in the north, left the island on five charter flights back to their countries.

The tourists, which had been in quarantine at three hotels in Famagusta after several of their co-travellers had tested positive to coronavirus were sent home after completing their obligatory 14-day isolation.

A remaining group of 52 French tourists will have left the north on a charter flight on Wednesday morning, it was announced Turkish Cypriot Public Works and Communication Minister Tolga Atakan on Monday. 

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General’s Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric said on Monday that the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has stepped up measures to protect its peacekeepers, ensuring the continuity of UN operations and preventing the potential spread of COVID-19 on the island.

In a written statement, Dujarric added the UNFICYP is making every effort to ensure that distribution of humanitarian aid.

He also noted that all new peacekeepers will be placed in a 14-day isolation period before embarking on their mission while the civilian staff has been working from their homes.

In a positive development on Tuesday, urgent medication, which is not available in the north, was delivered to Turkish Cypriot patients who normally receive their treatment in the south.

The transfer took place through coordination between the bicommunal technical committee on health.

Coordinator of the technical committees in the north Meltem Onurkan Samani announced that one member of the technical committee on health from each side went on Tuesday to the Ledra Palace crossing for the transfer of the pharmaceuticals.

Some Turkish Cypriot patients who had been receiving treatment or were obtaining their medication from the south were cut off from their treatment or supply after the crossings were shut on both sides due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to current restrictions, those who need medicine from the south had been asked to send their prescriptions by email to Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Kudret Ozersay’s office to be forwarded to the UN.

Meanwhile, a debate in the north on patient privacy rights continued on Tuesday, a day after the identity of a coronavirus patient was leaked on social media.

The individual who was accused of acting irresponsibly during her self-isolation period was subjected to slandering on social media prompting five medical associations to issue messages in her defence.

“Those individuals affected by Covid-19 have the right of privacy like every other patient in line with international and universal legal principles,” a joint statement issued by the Turkish Cypriot Doctors’ Association, the Turkish Cypriot Bar Association, the Turkish Cypriot Doctors’ Union, the Universal Patient Rights Association and the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Doctors read.

The organizations warned that such “naming-and-shaming campaigns” did more harm than good as it would discourage people who might have the virus from coming forward or informing health authorities.  

“The health authorities, therefore, must establish a unit to locate and bring those in contact with the coronavirus patient to the hospitals. The health authorities must also adhere to universal patient rights at all times,” the organisations said.


Anxious wait for economic support package continues

Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Economy

OVERVIEW

The cabinet on Tuesday failed to announce its economic support package to minimize the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.

A statement issued after the Council of Ministers said that the package would be announced on Wednesday as it was still putting the final touches to the measures.  

Dailies reported on Wednesday that the government had failed to announce the package as promised due to serious disagreements on its contents between the coalition partners, primarily on how much will be slashed from salaries of public-sector employees and state contributions.

According to Yenidüzen, the Economic Support Package envisages a 25 per cent cut on all public-sector salaries above ₺5000 (€720) for a three-month period, setting ₺8500 (€1200) as the highest public-sector salary for a three-month period, slashing salaries of MPs, Ministers and other high-ranking officials by 60 per cent to bring them down to ₺8500 (€1200) and paying ₺1500 (€215) salary contribution 40,000 private-sector employees.

Other measures include lowering electricity prices, exempting doctors and healthcare workers from the salary cuts and rearranging the Employment Incentive Programme.

Diyalog, citing a source from within the National Unity Party (UBP), reported that the UBP was opposed to slashing the state contribution to political parties by more than 30 per cent while the Peoples’ Party (HP) was insisting on a higher figure.

The daily said that plans to suspend the cost-of-living raise given to public servants every six months according to the rise in the inflation rate.

It, however, added that the coalition partners were opposed to the idea of introducing a haircut on savings in banks.

Responding to the news of the postponement of the announcement of the economic package, the leader of the main opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) Tufan Erhüman said that the government needed to reveal the state’s resources in transparently and to distribute limited funds in a fair and right way.

“No doubt we are going through a difficult period and it is not easy to produce decisions. We had made it clear during Sunday’s meeting at the Prime Ministry that we are to share the political responsibility of the decisions that will be taken after evaluating it together with all the political parties,” he added.

In the meantime, the Economic Advisory Board established by President Mustafa Akıncı’s office announced on Tuesday that it had started drafting policy proposals on areas which needed to addressed primarily.

In a statement issued on Tuesday from Akıncı’s office, the board, which was established to come up with recommendations on comprehensive economic and financial measures to minimize the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, has started its work through examining policies being adopted and implemented in many different countries.

Noting that the other countries were announcing various support packages utilizing financial and monetary instruments at their disposal to the fullest extent.

Pointing out that the TRNC did not possess the financial resources of many western countries, the advisory board recommends that the government show the courage and determination of adopting policies beyond the standard measures taken.

“Any policies or measures adopted must be based on the principles of social justice. The available resources should be used to urgently strengthen the country’s healthcare infrastructure on the basis of recommendations of health sector experts,” the statement read.

The advisory board also said the businesses which have been forced to shut down as a result of the measures in place to contain the virus pandemic must be given priority.

“Much responsibility falls on the government and the banks on this issue,” the advisory board said.

It said that the banks, just as the state, could postpone the financial obligations and payments of these establishments and forego the potential interest charges on any postponement.

While the economic advisory board acknowledged that the government was experiencing difficulties in paying public sector salaries, it recommended that financial assistance is provided to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) so that these businesses do not have to lay off employees.

Such steps to be taken in determination will help reduce the economic concerns of the public during this difficult time, the statement concluded.

The Rebirth Party (YDP) also submitted a set of economic proposals to the government on Tuesday.

In a statement on Tuesday, party leader Erhan Arıklı said the north was entering a lengthy economic crisis which was why any support package to be announced must be comprehensive.

He also highlighted the need for the government to be transparent and fair in its economic package and adopt the principle of equality.

“Both the workers and the sectors will no doubt make sacrifices but the community must first need to see those in power making the same sacrifices,” Arıklı stressed, arguing that economic sacrifices must start from the top to bottom.

“The economic crisis will hit everyone and the state will not be able to make salary payments in a couple of months. The government must turn the crisis into an opportunity and successfully achieve the much-needed structural transformation in the north,” Arıklı concluded.

Among the YDP’s proposals is the creation of a crisis fund to provide salary contributions to private sector employees, the cancellation of overtime payments or public-sector employees or if not possible, introducing limits to such payments, postponing income and corporate tax of businesses and cancelling the 13th-month bonus salary paid to public sector workers.

The head of İŞAD (Turkish Cypriot Businessmen’s’ Association) Enver Mamülcü on Tuesday argued that the economic support package to be announced by the government will not be adequate because the state cannot think or operate like the private sector.

“The economic measures must be fair and sustainable,” Mamülcü stressed, adding that the government must use the opportunity to amend and implement the necessary reforms for the business sector.

“The private sector is ahead of the government by at least 50 years in terms of practicality and in terms of being results-oriented,” he argued.

Mamülcü noted the business community is involved in every aspect of the economic support package trying to contribute with solutions and recommendations.

“The business community will continue to work actively to overcome the economic crisis,” Mamülcü concluded.

Also on Tuesday, the Turkish Cypriot Secondary School Teachers’ Union (KTOEÖS) and Teachers’ Solidarity Cooperative (ÖYAK) announced they were donating ₺100,000 (€14,000) to the health authorities to be used in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The two organisations also invited all business people, companies and institutions to show solidarity and donate as much money as they can.

Meanwhile, Özersay announced on Tuesday that persons who defied the ban of movement would be fined ₺382 (€55).

In a post on social media, Özersay said that the fine for violating or defying ban introduced as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus was 10 per cent of the minimum wage.

Authorities on Tuesday arrested 48 people for defying the ban on movement, in place since midnight Sunday.

The 14-day ban on movement only allows people to go to the supermarket, pharmacy, bank, doctors’ appointments and petrol stations.


Migrants want to cross to the south

Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog
Migration & Citizenship, Human Rights, Regional/International Relations

OVERVIEW

Turkish Cypriot Interior Minister Ayşegül Baybars on Tuesday said that 175 undocumented Syrian migrants who had been rescued by the Turkish Cypriot coast guard on Sunday after their ship capsized off the island’s north-western coast had been placed in proper housing.

Speaking on Bayrak, she said that the migrants, 69 of whom were children, were placed in an apartment block and provided proper humanitarian living conditions.

Baybars added that the migrants were not very willing to stay in the north and expressed the desire to join their relatives in the south.

She said that both the United Nations and Turkish officials had been informed of the migrants but that neither Turkey nor the Republic of Cyprus (RoC) was very willing to take the migrants in.

Baybars also said that the coast guard was on alarm after reports that another boat carrying migrants was circling off the coast of the island but that there was no sign of such a boat.


‘Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking’ as a serious crime enforced

Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası
Human Rights

OVERVIEW

The amendments to the penal code on “Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking” came into force officially on Tuesday following its publication in the official gazette on 23 March 2020, several dailies reported on Wednesday.

Human trafficking and smuggling are categorized as serious crimes and are punishable up to ten years in prison if found guilty.

The article on human trafficking also includes provisions for “being forced to work as a sex-worker without taking the victim’s consent if any into consideration.”

In the case when the victim is under the age of 18, the perpetrator then can be punished with a sentence term up to 14 years.

If the perpetrator is a civil servant or an employee of any of the state-run enterprises or institutions, the sentence term is then increased to 16 years.

The amendments also decriminalize the act of attempting to commit suicide.

Hate speech towards gender identity, sexual orientation and sexual preferences have also been included in the penal code and is punishable with a three-month imprisonment term if found guilty.

Additionally, the article on hate speech also introduces provisions for when and if the ‘vulgar language used were to be distributed and reaches a broader audience, through social or traditional media, the sentence term might be increased up to two years.

The amendment to the existing penal code, which aims to introduce heavy penalties to those who are convicted of these crimes, was approved by the Turkish Cypriot parliament on 10 March.

The amendments were drafted and submitted to the parliament by the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) MPs Doğuş Derya, Fazilet Özdenefe and Sıla Usar İncirli.