TCC Press Review 22 May 2020

Front Page Headlines

Yenidüzen

It’s not the emperor that has no clothes, it’s the public

Economist Mehmet Saydam gave an exclusive interview to Yenidüzen. He highlighted the awful truth and the mistakes made, explaining the steps which should be taken. “The realities we have been ignoring has been staring us in the face,” said Saydam, stating that it was not just the state but the public which have been ignoring the economic realities. He added that not everyone had experienced an economic crisis because the process was still continuing. Saydam said that the government’s loan scheme was only a short term fix. He also warned the public to refrain from spending money on luxury items. Saydam argued that radical reforms were required for expenditures in the public sector.

  • ‘Crossings’ gradually starting –The Cypriot leaders agreed on reopening crossing points for workers and students as well as those with permanent residency in the north. Akıncı will be meeting with leaders of political parties today (Friday).

Kıbrıs Postası

Ceased Print/Online Only

Kıbrıs

Efforts and hopes go up in smoke

Farmers have suffered a heavy blow with the fires in various places in the north in the past two weeks. As a result of the fires, 4,000 dönüms (dunams) of crops, 1,000 tons of barley and wheat and thousands of hay bales have turned into ash. Hüseyin Çavuş Kelle, head of the Turkish Cypriot Farmers’ Association said the damage incurred by the farmers must be covered through the ‘natural disaster fund.’

  • Crossings aimed to be opened on June 8.
  • Conditional crossings from Pile (Pyla) to commence on June 1.

Havadis

An inert project worth €270,000

The “milk collection centre project,” which was prepared will the aim of developing the livestock breeding sector in the north in 2006 through European Union (EU) financing has been abandoned for the past 14 years due to the state’s negligence. The project, worth €270,000, could not be realised when the authorities failed to allocate a suitable building and to make the necessary electricity infrastructure investment. The EU grant project was designed as a module for cold-chain processing and envisioned six units to be established at separate points. The collected raw milk would then have been transported to the centre with tankers. Former agriculture minister Erkut Şahali said even though the cost of the project’s electricity infrastructure was not that high the state did not have any extra money left after paying the salaries. “Any additional expense for the finance ministry is perceived as unnecessary,” Şahali added.

  • The target date is 8 June – President Mustafa Akıncı and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades have agreed in principle for the resumption of crossings. The two leaders have agreed to adopt a gradual process for the reopening. In the first phase, those who work or study in the south; those who receive medical treatment in the south and Greek Cypriots and Maronites with permanent residency in the north would be allowed to cross.
  • Pile (Pyla) decision from the cabinet – The Turkish Cypriots living in Pile (Pyla) will be allowed to cross from June 1 onwards on the condition that they comply with the criteria identified by the health ministry.
  • The latest situation: North 108 cases, four deaths; South 923 cases, 24 deaths; Turkey 153,548 cases, 4,249 deaths.

Diyalog

According to Tatar, it’s not the right time

The issue of holding the presidential elections in July is to be discussed at the presidential palace today (Friday). President Mustafa Akıncı will be meeting with Prime Minister and National Unity Party (UBP) leader Ersin Tatar, Deputy Prime Minister and Peoples’ Party MP Kudret Özersay as well as leaders of opposition parties today (Friday). According to information obtained by Diyalog, the presidential elections will be the top item on the meeting’s agenda. While discussions are continuing on holding the presidential elections postponed to October at an earlier date, Prime Minister Tatar told Diyalog, “There is much to be done in the country including putting the economy back on track. It’s not easy to hold elections. The economy would come to a halt as well,” he said.

  • Figures announced – South Cyprus earned €25m in revenues from tourism in March.

Afrika

Crossings to start

Mustafa Akıncı and Nicos Anastasiades held a telephone conversation yesterday (Thursday) and exchanged views on reopening of the crossings. It has been agreed that the crossings will be opened on June 8 for Turkish Cypriots working, studying and receiving medical treatment in the south. In the first phase, the students will be using the Ledra Palace crossing point while the others can use any crossing point that permits vehicle crossings. Those crossing to the south for the first time after the lifting of the restrictions will be asked by Greek Cypriot authorities to provide documents proving they have tested negative for Covid-19 in the last 72 hours. Additionally, the Greek Cypriot side will carry out random tests.

  • Beware of the second wave – Turkish Cypriot health minister Ali Pilli warned. He said: “We have been testing people for days now. There are not any positive cases but it does not mean there are no other cases. People think the coronavirus threat is over but it is not. I am not at ease. I am concerned.”
  • The number of cases in the south drops to one – No positive cases in 105 tests conducted in the north.
  • Flights to resume in the south on June 9  – Tourist arrivals expected from 20 June onwards.

Main News

Leaders agree on the partial lifting of restrictions on crossings

Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
CBMs

OVERVIEW

The two leaders on Thursday agreed in principle that as of June 8 some groups of people will be allowed to use the crossings between the two sides.

According to a statement from the Office of the President, Akıncı on Thursday had a telephone conversation with Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades on the issue of crossings. Anastasiades briefed Akıncı on a decision on the gradual lifting of movement restrictions.

It was agreed in principle and conditionally, that initially, some groups of people will be allowed to cross from June 8 but only by car.

These concern Turkish Cypriots working or studying in the south, Turkish Cypriots living in Pile (Pyla) who cross daily to the north for work or people who undergo treatment at the state or private hospitals in the south.

Greek Cypriots and Maronites who reside permanently in the north will also be allowed to cross from June 8.

“It is noted that the movement of Turkish Cypriot pupils will be allowed from the Ledra Palace crossing, from where, through buses, they will be going to their places of study,” the announcement said.

The crossing of people for humanitarian reasons will continue, the statement added.

It pointed out that individuals crossing for the first time after the lifting of the restrictions will have to present Greek Cypriot authorities with a document proving that they have tested negative for Covid-19.

Greek Cypriot authorities will also be conducting random tests on individuals passing from the crossing points.

It was also agreed that the bi-communal Technical Committee on Health will convene as soon as possible to exchange views on the gradual opening of crossing points, depending on the epidemiological situation at the time.

Meanwhile, Akıncı will be meeting leaders and representatives of political parties on Friday to discuss the reopening of the crossing points as well as his conversation with Anastasiades.

The meeting will also be attended by Speaker of the Turkish Cypriot parliament Teberrüken Uluçay, Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay.

Diyalog reported on Friday that the meeting will focus on the presidential elections and that the political party representatives will discuss the possibility of holding the elections earlier than planned.

Tatar told Diyalog that it would not be right to hold elections at an earlier date as there was much the government needed to focus on at the moment.

Also on Thursday, the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) welcomed the discussion between the leaders and their decision to ease restrictions at the crossing points on Thursday.

“We stand ready to assist the sides and the bicommunal Technical Committee on Health on the way forward as the situation allows,” UNFICYP spokesman Aleem Siddique said in a statement on Thursday.

Later Thursday evening, the Turkish Cypriot cabinet announced that Turkish Cypriot residents of Pile (Pyla) will be allowed to cross into the north as of June 1.

The Turkish Cypriots will be able to cross under conditions to be determined by the Turkish Cypriot health ministry.


Pilli expresses concern over possible second wave

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

OVERVIEW

Turkish Cypriot Health Minister Ali Pilli on Thursday warned the public against complacency, stating that the coronavirus threat was not over yet.

“We haven’t seen any new cases over a month but this does not mean there aren’t any new cases,” Pilli said in an interview with the TAK news agency.

He said there was a good chance that a second wave would be mild if the public continues to adhere to social or physical distancing as well as other hygiene measures.

The Turkish Cypriot health minister said that the number of ventilators would be increased to 159 as of the beginning of June and that plans to create a pandemic hospital had not been scrapped.

“A Turkish Cypriot living abroad has promised to help finance the construction of a pandemic hospital. We are continuing to be in contact,” he added.

Pilli said that Covid-19 would continue to be a threat to Cyprus as long as it wasn’t eradicated around the world.

He also said that Eliza tests which will allow health officials to draw a healthier picture in the north would be arriving in the coming days.

“The Turkish Cypriot community’s immunity to Covid-19 is around two per cent,” he said.

Pilli also refuted the argument that the opening process had been too quick.

“It may seem so but that is not the case. We should have started the reopening process in late April but we delayed it to be on the safe side,” he said.

“We couldn’t delay the reopening process any longer after no new cases had been detected in over a month.”

Pilli said that the problem was not opening the sectors but not adhering to the rules.

Regarding the crossing points, he said the situation will become clearer in the coming days.

Pilli added that flights will eventually resume as well as it would not be possible to remain closed forever.

Meanwhile, no new cases were detected in the north on Thursday.

It’s been over a month since the last positive case was reported.


The CMP to resume excavations once restrictions are lifted

Yenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Human Rights

OVERVIEW

The Covid-19 pandemic has halted all field and lab work of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) for the past two months but members say this has given them the time to go back over old cases.

 “All field and lab work for the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) has been halted due to the coronavirus pandemic,” Paul-Henri Arni said in an interview with the Turkish Cypriot News Agency (TAK).

In a teleconference interview, Arni added the closure of the crossing points had led to the halt of the CMP’s excavations as the bicommunal team was currently unable to cross across the divide

The three members of the committee, Turkish Cypriot Gülden Plümer Küçük, Greek Cypriot Leonidas Pantelides, and the third member (United Nations) Paul-Henri Arni said they have been working via teleconferences, to be ready to resume excavations and laboratory work as soon as conditions allow.

“We have a strategy to resume operations on the day after restrictions are lifted and crossing points are open. We have reviewed hundreds of pending cases regarding persons still missing. We are ready to resume fieldwork and laboratory analyses immediately with protective measures for our staff,” Arni said.

Also speaking during the interview, the Greek Cypriot member of the CMP, Pantelides said the lockdown had given the team the chance to focus all their energy into investigation and the things that they could still do, regardless of the restrictions.

“During the lockdown process, the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot offices have discussed the pending files, analysing them and preparing cases for excavation in addition to finalising accumulated work through video conference,” he noted.

The Turkish Cypriot member of the CMP, Gülden Plümer Küçük said during the lockdown process, the CMP continued its regular “Thursday meetings” and maintained their regular contact with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Projects for the Future (PFF). She noted the archaeologists and the anthropologists also continued their regular contact through online means.

“In other words, the CMP has never ceased its operations. The pandemic only resulted in halting the excavations and the anthropological investigation,” Küçük said.

Responding to a question on the CMP’s priority, Küçük said their priority remained to be the families of the missing persons.

“It has always been our priority,” she said, adding that all planning was done by taking the family members into consideration.

Arni, in response to a question on the effects of the pandemic on the CMP’s finances, recalled the CMP continues its operations with donations it receives from donor agencies and international organisations.

“The CMP now has sufficient funds until the end of 2020, which marks the end of the three-year planning period. In fact, due to a two to three-month break in the excavations, we might even end up with a surplus,” Arni noted.

Pointing out that the European Union (EU) funding continues, Arni added the CMP will do its best for ensuring the continuation of funding to the Committee.

Küçük noted that the 2017-2020 strategic plan will be concluded at the end of 2020.

She added that a new three-year plan is being prepared and will be submitted to the EU to ensure funding for the next three-years.

Asked about the problems the CMP is faced with other than the pandemic, Küçük said the Committee’s main difficulty is locating the missing persons.

“In addition to the geographical changes, the eye-witnesses are very old and some have passed away. For this reason, the CMP has strengthened its investigation capabilities not only from the human resources perspective but from a technical aspect as well,” Küçük said.

She stressed with the auto control mechanisms in place, the work of the CMP is at international standards.

Arni echoed Küçük’s comments on the eye-witnesses and said the witnesses are sometimes not willing to come forward to share what they know with the CMP.

“We expect the Mukhtars to encourage eye-witnesses to come forth to share their information with the committee,” Arni added.

“We will try to encourage the public and we will try to make it easier for the public to come with more information. But there is already a lot of information in the two offices that have been gathered over the years. What is equally important now, as securing new information, is understanding and analysing well the information that we already have, so that we can have good results,” Arni said.

He noted that their success rate in excavations is about one in five or 20 per cent.

“We rely on the quality of information, understanding and analysing it correctly together with aerial imagery and maps in order to actually find something at an excavation,” Pantelides said for his part.  

Responding to another question, Pantelides said the CMP will carry out an identification exercise at Atlılar (Aloda) like in Muratağa (Maratha) and Sandallar (Santalaris).

He, however, refrained from providing a time frame for the work, stating that unexpected factors like the coronavirus pandemic could prevent the CMP from executing its plans.

Küçük noted that the CMP is in touch with the Association of Atlılar (Aloda) like in Muratağa (Maratha) and Sandallar (Santalaris) martyrs and said the association can get in touch with the Committee anytime.

Asked whether or not the CMP contributes to rapprochement between the two communities, Arni said, “there needs to be trust between the two communities before rapprochement.”

“Nonetheless, in order for a relative of the missing person to trust a member of the other community, it is necessary for the family member to find out the fate of his/her missing relative,” he stressed.

Küçük highlighted that the CMP contributes to bringing the two communities together.

“Young scientists from the two communities have been working for the same cause for years. They are faced with the historical facts and help close the dark pages of the island’s history together,” Küçük stressed.

She added the issue of the missing persons, which had been a taboo subject for years, are now being reported in the media.

“This on its own means rapprochement and reconciliation,” Küçük said.

Asked if excavations will continue to take place in military zones in the northern part of the island, Arni recalled that an agreement was reached in June 2019 with the Turkish army that gives them access to 30 new military areas.

“We have so far excavated seven of them. We found one set of remains and the agreement stands, so that means as soon as restrictions are lifted, we will resume excavations in military areas,” Arni said.

Responding to the same question, Küçük said the success rate in the military zone excavations is almost the same with the other areas.

The three Committee members concluded the interview by calling on the elder people and the community leaders on both sides to help convince eyewitnesses to come forward and share what they know with the CMP in order for the Committee to find the remaining missing persons. 


The support for some sectors must continue

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

OVERVIEW

“Businesses have reopened but they can’t see their future. They are concerned with uncertainty, therefore the support given must continue for some sectors,” Republican Turkish Party (CTP) leader Tufan Erhürman said on Thursday.

Erhürman, speaking on Kanal T, said that reopening the economic sectors was not enough to get the economy back on track.

“The government should have assessed the cost-benefits of reopening businesses before making its decision,” Erhürman noted.

He argued that the collapse of one sector would have a domino effect on other sectors.

“Therefore, the cabinet must continue to provide support to some of the sectors to prevent anyone from going bankrupt and to prevent the unemployment numbers from going up,” Erhürman concluded.

Also on Thursday, Candan Avunduk, head of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Industry (KTSO) slammed the cabinet for what he said was empty promises.

Speaking following a KTSO meeting with its members, Avunduk said the Turkish Cypriot industrialists were critical of the cabinet on two aspects.

“The fact that he prime minister’s words on local employment and local production became empty promises drew severe criticism from the members,” Avunduk noted.

He argued while the other countries tried very hard to protect their local industrialists, the Turkish Cypriot cabinet’s support for local companies was inadequate and weak.

“As long the cabinet maintains its current mentality, we will end up a place that is not even able to produce its own flour, water or bread,” Avunduk warned.

The second area of criticism towards the cabinet, Avunduk argued, was the cabinet’s inability to lower the initial costs. 

He said even though the global petrol prices decreased, the cabinet did not reduce the price of electricity or fuel oil in the north.

Avunduk also argued that the state subsidy of three per cent on bank loans was insufficient as the industrialists could take out loans from Turkish banks with better interest rates and longer payment plans.

The head of the Chamber of Industry also criticised the cabinet for discriminating between workers and sectors in the salary support scheme.

“The cabinet must decide between being a tool for various lobbyists or being in favour of a new economic system based on production and develop policies accordingly,” Avunduk concluded.

In another development, the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce (KTTO) on Thursday said the salary support scheme must continue for five months.

KTTO argued that the salary support scheme, which was given to 45,000 people instead of the initially announced 60,000, must be repeated in the month of June. 

It also criticised the Labour Ministry for failing to prepare for the continuation with the salary support scheme for the coming period.

“It will be a vital necessity for the salary support scheme to be continued for at least the companies that complied with the prohibition to lay-off their staff even though they had remained shut for nearly 50 days during the lockdown process,” the statement concluded.