TCC Press Review 29 Apr 2020

Front Page Headlines

Yenidüzen

Four critical questions to the government

What is the Scientific Board’s criteria for reopening? How many people have been laid-off during this period? Why isn’t the Real Sector Advisory Council and Economic Coordination Board convening? What is the government’s spending plan?

  • Joint stance from the opposition – The opposition says that the government continues to shut it out of the decision-making process even when adopting critical and legally questionable decisions.
  • “We signed a deal for ₺750m (€98.5m) on July 20, ₺70m (€9.1m) of which was transferred after the outbreak – Prime Minister Ersin Tatar respond to question as to how much money has been sent by Turkey.
  • 49,405 applications in eight days –Labour Minister Faiz Sucuoğlu said that over 49,000 people applied for the ₺1,500 (€200) salary support scheme in eight days, 17,521 Turkish nationals and 16,055 Turkish Cypriots.
  • Night clubs ‘closed’ and health checks have stopped It has been claimed that 295 sex workers registered as hostesses are being kept in isolation.

Kıbrıs Postası

Ceased print/Online only

Kıbrıs

2000 citrus workers left helpless

Workers, who had come from Turkey to work in the citrus sector are now stuck in the north due to coronavirus. The harvest of oranges continues while the workers in the packaging plant work round the clock in Güzelyurt (Morphou). The harvest is expected to be completed by end of next week but the 2000 or so workers will not be able to return to Turkey after ferry services were cancelled. The citrus growers and exporters’ associations have launched initiatives to find ways to send the workers back to their homes.

  • “They are seriously wearing out our patience” – The opposition parties in the parliament, Republican Turkish Party (CTP), Socialist Democratic Party (TDP), Democratic Party (DP) and the Rebirth Party (YDP) issued a joint statement criticizing the ruling parties for disregarding the voice of the opposition.

Havadis

The reopening conundrum

The parliamentary assembly evaluated the Covid-19 pandemic and the efforts for reopening of the sectors. While the opposition criticised the government the coalition members argued they have managed the crisis well. YDP leader Erhan Arıklı said: “If you disregard the opposition, you will be crushed under it. Be prepared for it.” DP leader Fikri Ataoğlu said: “We read about the developments only in the media. The viewpoint of the opposition should not have been disregarded.” TDP leader Cemal Özyiğit: “The government did not ask for our opinion regarding the reopening of the sectors.” CTP leader Tufan Erhürman: “Share the responsibility of the crisis with the opposition. Seek our views.” Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay: “The reopening of the construction sector from May 4 onwards is only a proposal. The details will be evaluated at a cabinet meeting.” Prime Minister Ersin Tatar: “We are determined to write a success story with the efforts against the pandemic. We hope to adopt a decision on reopening on Wednesday.”

  • The Latest situation: North 108 cases, four deaths; South 837 cases, 15 deaths; Turkey 114,653 cases, 2,992 deaths.

Diyalog

Decision day

No new cases over the last 12 days have encouraged the government to broaden the list of businesses which will be allowed to open in the first phase of the exit plan. The list is to be discussed by cabinet today (Wednesday). Among the businesses added are jewellers, shops selling white goods, the construction sector, the automobile sector, foreign exchange offices, insurance companies, mechanics and florists. Educational institutions, the tourism sector, entertainment venues, gyms, culture and arts centres, dentists, betting offices, casinos, internet cafes, bars and village coffee shops will continue to remain closed for the time being. Restaurants will only be able to operate take-away services.

  • 372 tests carried out – No new cases were reported in North Cyprus yesterday (Tuesday).
  • Four in critical condition – The total number of cases in South Cyprus rose to 837 with 15 new cases yesterday (Tuesday).
  • Death toll – The total number of cases in Turkey rose to 114, 653 with an increase of 2,392.
  • Worrying about the future – 57 per cent of Greek Cypriots are in depression because of coronavirus.

Afrika

Close down the representation offices abroad – Stop the financial support given to political parties

Here are recommendations for the cabinet, which is desperately seeking funds. There are TRNC representation offices in 27 cities around the world. Almost none are operational or serve a function. More than ₺66m (€8.8m) allocated for these foreign representation offices annually. The amount allocated for the political parties, which cannot survive on their own, is ₺17m (€2.2m). Those who receive the money do not complain at all.

  • Turkey is not giving any money, what are you going to do? – TDP leader Cemal Özyiğit asked the ruling parties. He said “You have asked for money from Turkey but they did not send it. Turkey has its own problems. The state does not beg for money but will do whatever is necessary.”
  • The opposition parties complain the ruling parties disregard them.
  • Ersin Tatar: “The coronavirus pandemic is under control”

Main News

The virus not contained in the north yet, warns Pilli

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

OVERVIEW

Turkish Cypriot Health Minister Ali Pilli said on Tuesday that the fact that no new cases of Covid-19 had been detected in the north for the past week did not mean the threat was over.

“To the contrary, it is far from over and there is still much work to be done,” Pilli said in an interview with the Anadolu News Agency.

He explained that his ministry had been following developments concerning the virus since late January.

“We have taken all necessary measures when the World Health Organization (WHO) had announced there was a pandemic in early March,” Pilli said, reminding that early measures included placing thermal cameras at ports of entry.

He said that the measures introduced swiftly in the period that followed the first confirmed case in the north which included placing people arriving from abroad in quarantine, shutting down businesses, introducing curfews, contact tracing and practising strict social distancing had allowed them to contain the virus before it could spread.

Pilli added that his ministry will continue its efforts to ensure that the virus does not spread to the public.

Defending the north’s policy on testing, he argued that the number of tests carried out was in proportionate to the population.

“Nevertheless, we shall continue to increase the number of tests we carry out. We have been transparent on the issue since day one,” Pilli said.

Pilli also thanked Turkey for its support during this critical time.

“The Turkish government has provided with all the support and medical assistance we have requested. I would like to express my gratitude to the Turkish Republic,” he stated.

Meanwhile, no new cases of Covid-19 were reported in the north on Tuesday making it the 11th straight day with zero confirmed cases.

A total of 372 tests were carried out on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases conducted in the north to date 9,834 cases.

Pilli, briefing MPs at Tuesday’s session of the Turkish Cypriot parliament, announced that screening of high-risk or vulnerable groups was continuing.

He said that they were planning to test 6000 individuals over the next few days. 

Later Tuesday evening, Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar in a statement contradicting Pilli’s earlier remarks, announced that the Covid-19 virus had been contained in the north.

Posting the announcement on social media, Tatar said that scientific experts had informed him that the R0 value (R nought) or mathematical term that indicates how contagious an infectious disease had dropped below 1 in the country.

He, however, added that the public should continue to adhere to measures strictly and should not be complacent.

Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot Education Minister Nazım Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday that the decision regarding when and how schools will open will be decided upon recommendations from the scientific board.

Çavuşoğlu, speaking parliament, noted that the scientific board had its concerns about reopening schools.

Details on the reopening of the schools, admission and entrance exams, graduations and other issues will be discussed during the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Çavuşoğlu said.

Nonetheless, KTÖS (Turkish Cypriot Teachers’ Union) argued the focus should be on the measures to be adopted after the schools are opened instead of when the schools will be opened.

In a written statement issued by the union’s Education Secretary, Burak Maviş said it is necessary to focus on projects on projects to provide economic, educational, psychological and social support to children.

“The students might have suffered domestic violence, negligence or poverty during the pandemic process. There could have been inequality among the students in terms of education. The Education Ministry must prepare comprehensive projects to support the students and must allocate additional funds for the implementation of the project,” Maviş said.

Maviş also urged the authorities to listen to the scientific board, Turkish Cypriot Doctors’ Association and the World Health Organisation regarding its plans to reopen the businesses and schools.


Economic fallout from pandemic discussed in parliament

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

OVERVIEW

The Turkish Cypriot MPs gathered on Tuesday to discuss the conditions created by the Covid-19 epidemic and its economic fallout.

Tuesday’s session was the second time, the Turkish parliament convened in weeks since the outbreak of the virus in the north.

MPs had convened for a similar meeting last week.

While the opposition criticized the government’s handling of the crisis, the coalition partners emphasized the importance of restructuring the economy in the period ahead.

Prior to Tuesday’s debate, the four opposition parties issued a joint statement criticizing the government of disregarding their views and shutting them out of the decision-making process.

The parties also questioned the legality of the statutory decrees issued.

They said that their patience was running out and that they will be seeking answers soon.

The leader of the Rebirth Party (YDP) Erhan Arıklı, addressing the session, said the time had come to discuss the economy now that no new cases had been reported in the past ten days.

He criticized the government for not consulting with the opposition in developing an economic strategy for the future.

“The crisis we are experiencing is expected to last for at least three years but the government continues to ignore the opposition. The opposition’s offer to help will not be valid forever,” he warned.

Arıklı also criticized the government for slashing unemployment benefits and levelling it with the salary support payments to ₺1,500 (€200).

“How can anyone be expected to get by with that amount? You have deprived people of the money they are entitled to,” he said.

The YDP leader also questioned the government’s decision to make it mandatory for everyone to wear masks when going out.

“This may be a well-intended move but did you ever stop to think that they might not be enough masks for everyone? We see a lot of under the counter masks being produced and sold. There are no standards and these are being sold in supermarkets or small markets,” he said.

The leader of the Social Democratic Party (TDP) Cemal Özyiğit also criticized the government’s refusal to work with the opposition.

“You have been talking about joint action and solidarity from the start but we aren’t seeing this in practice,” he said.

Özyiğit said the government has been ignoring all of the opposition’s proposals to date.

He also questioned whether enough tests were being conducted, particularly to people who work in sectors which the government plans to reopen.

“What is the scientific board saying? Are we ready to reopen sectors?” he said, adding that the government had not asked about their opinion regarding the reopening of the sectors

On the economic measures, Özyiğit criticized the government for not forcing higher-income groups from contributing to the austerity measures.

“Where are all those wealthy people? Where are those casino operators?” he asked.

The leader of the Democratic Party (DP) Fikri Ataoğlu joined the chorus, criticizing the government’s failure to consult the opposition and civil society organizations on decisions taken since parliament’s last meeting held on Tuesday last week. 

Ataoğlu also warned that the public had started to act complacently after no new cases were reported in the last 11 days.

He recalled that the presidential elections had been postponed in the north due to the pandemic but that this period which should have been used to mend the economy and health system had been squandered by the government.

“Given the situation, there is the possibility that the elections may have to be postponed for a second time for another six months when the time comes,” he said.

Ataoğlu also complained that they were learning about developments from the media

The leader of the main opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) Tufan Erhürman also blasted the coalition for shutting them out of the decision-making process and disregarding their views.

Erhürman said it was unfortunate, that they like everyone else, learned about the government’s plans to reopen economic sectors from the leaked document to the press.

He echoed the complaint of the other opposition parties that the government was not sharing anything with the other political parties.

The CTP leader also criticized the amendments made to the support scheme to include people from more professions.

“A provision was included that stated that TRNC citizens could not be laid-off for a period of two months but this provision does not include other nationalities. Now the (Labour) minister is saying that no one can be laid-off but that is not what the provision says,” he said.

Erhürman said the coalition was expecting the opposition to lower its tone while it continued to brag about its accomplishments.

He also claimed that the statutory decrees were in violation of the constitution.

“These decrees are now being brought to the subcommittee following pressure from the opposition. They will be sent to parliament to be ratified as law,” he said.

Responding to the opposition’s criticisms concerning the government’s exit strategy, Turkish Cypriot Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay said no decision had been taken yet on the criteria for reopening economic sectors.

“There are differing views on the subject. We shall be discussing the matter at tomorrow’s (Wednesday) cabinet meeting. There is a proposal to reopen the construction sector as of May 4,” he said.

Özersay also said he agreed with the criticisms made by the opposition regarding standards of masks sold at supermarkets.

“We are carrying out work to address this issue,” he added.

Özersay said he agreed with the need for a change of the system of governance but said that realistic structural changes and reforms were needed before such a switch could take place.

He did not, however, agree with the accusations that the opposition’s recommendations and views were not taken into consideration.

“Last week the opposition asked we make it mandatory for people to wear masks when going out. We made that happen. Parliament told us to increase the number of tests. We are now doing that. We’ve started conducting 450-500 tests a day,” Özersay noted.

Prime Minster Ersin Tatar, in his response to the criticisms, played down claims that the government was ignoring the opposition.

“We sincerely welcome the opposition’s input and criticism. If there has been any neglect on our part it is because we are swamped,” he said.

Defending the government’s decision to lower unemployment benefit to ₺1,500 (€200), Tatar explained the move was intended to prevent unemployment from being a more popular option.

“Employees could prefer to lay-off people under these circumstances. Now is not the time to lay people off. We need to keep the economy running,” he said.

Tatar emphasized the need for local production, local consumption and local employment.

Commenting on the government’s plans to reopen various sectors, Tatar said decisions will be produced after the cabinet discusses the issue in detail.

He repeated his earlier views that conditions will not be the same after the pandemic ends.

Asked about how much money Turkey has sent since the outbreak, Tatar said that ₺70m (€9.1m) of the ₺750m (€98.5m) economic assistance package signed with Ankara on July 20, 2019, had been transferred to the north’s accounts.

He said that work was being carried out for additional financial assistance outside of the protocol but refrained from providing details.

Tatar pointed out that Turkey continued to support the north in all areas. He said that he did not believe enough revenues could be generated through a paid-military service scheme but was not opposed to the idea of looking into it.


49,405 applications in eight days

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

OVERVIEW

“A total of 49,405 applications have been filed for the ₺1500 (€200) salary support scheme in eight days,” Labour Minister Faiz Sucuoğlu said on Tuesday.

Addressing Tuesday’s session of parliament, Sucuoğlu explained that 17,521 of these applicants were Turkish nationals and 16,055 were Turkish Cypriots.

Sucuoğlu noted the payments will be made to the workers starting as of May 4 May.

Also responding to criticisms on reducing the ‘unemployment benefit’ from ₺2617 (€349) to ₺1500, Sucuoğlu said there will be a sharp rise in unemployment figures as of the middle of May.

“We are expecting a rise in the number of unemployed due to the crisis and the Labour Ministry will not be able to pay the ₺2617 (€349) per unemployed therefore we had to reduce the amount,” Sucuoğlu said.

He added that the Social Security department had lost 18,000 premium contributes in the last two months, which put the department in financial difficulty.

He noted the Social Security department collected ₺139,3m (€18.5m) to date but issued a payment of ₺144,000.000 (€19.2m) on Tuesday.

Sucuoğlu touched on the plight of the Turkish Cypriots employed in the south as well.

“The payment problem is going to be solved through the Turkish Cypriot Cooperative Central Bank. In addition to that, the Labour Ministry is now working on a plan to provide a monthly support payment of ₺1000 (€134) for 2000 workers,” Sucuoğlu concluded.

Meanwhile, several dailies reported on Wednesday that the government, encouraged by the fact that no new cases of Covid-19 have been detected in the last 12 days extended the list of businesses considered to reopen in the first phase.

Among the businesses added it was reported, are jewellers, shops selling white goods, the construction sector, the automobile sector, foreign exchange offices, insurance companies, mechanics and florists.

Educational institutions, the tourism sector, entertainment venues, gyms, culture and arts centres, dentists, betting offices, casinos, internet cafes, bars and village coffee shops will continue to remain closed for the time being, it was reported.

Restaurants will only be able to operate take-away services.


The Fatih finds evidence of oil in the Black Sea

Kıbrıs Postası
Energy, Regional/International Relations

OVERVIEW

The Fatih drillship, following the Eastern Mediterranean, will continue its drillings in the Black Sea, Kıbrıs Postası reports on Wednesday.

Speaking to Anatolian News Agency, Director of the Trabzon Port, Muzaffer Ermiş said the Fatih will use the Trabzon port as its base for the Black Sea drilling operations.

“In our meetings held with the officials from the Turkish Petroleum (TPAO), we have been informed the Fatih will be carrying out a long drilling assignment in the Black Sea,” Ermiş said.

He also noted there had been two drillings in the Black Sea previously and found petrol in solid form in the Hopa drilling spot as well as oil in the Sürmene well.

The Fatih drillship is a 229-meter-long vessel which weighs 5,283 gross tons and is capable of drilling to a maximum depth of 40,000 feet.

It was recently carrying out drilling activities off the coast of Cyprus until recently.