Speech by Aristos Damianou, AKEL MP on the 2023 State Budget
8 December 2022, House of Representatives
Citizens and media alike are quite rightly wondering why the debate surrounding the name and role of Grivas has been revived. The answer lies in the fact that over the past few months the House of Representatives has repeatedly dealt with the government’s attempt to release funds, which include honoring Grivas. The historical truth is undeniable, I’ll just quote [from minutes recorded] the dialogue below without commenting further on the issue:
25 April 2007 – House of Representatives – “Cyprus File”
Clerides: “…EOKA B killed someone at Platres.
President: His name is Mavro.
Clerides: Mavro. I said that if Grivas didn’t denounce this act I will call him a murderer.
Aristofanis Georgiou: Your Honor, did he condemn the act?
Clerides: I condemned the act
Arist. Georgiou: You did – but did Grivas?
Clerides: I said that Grivas, if he doesn’t condemn the act, is a murderer
Arist. Georgiou: Did Grivas proceed to issue a statement back then?
Clerides: None whatsoever.
Arist. Georgiou: None. Therefore he is a murderer, according to you?
Clerides: According to me, yes. One who has people going to kill citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, who may not share the same ideals as him, is a murderer. He has people killing citizens of the Republic of Cyprus who disagree with him.
Back in 1887, British historian Lord Acton wrote that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The ten-year rule of Nicos Anastasiades – DISY confirms this saying.
Unfortunately for Cyprus, this administration will indeed go down in history as the most corrupt, the result of the institutional entanglement/interwoven interests of both the President of the Republic and members of his Ministerial Council.
For there is no more blatant form of institutional entanglement and conflict of interest than the exceptional granting of citizenships by the Council of Ministers, at the request of law firms or other offices linked to the government and the President of the Republic himself – cabinets that he himself appointed. Citizenships, of course, at no cost to service providers, half of which were irregular or even illegal. With scandalous discrimination through the provision of reduced VAT rate. With the knowledge of the providers and state officials involved, internationally known criminals, dictators, lackeys and crooked friends of the government ruling forces who were neither entitled nor eligible to become citizens of the Republic were granted citizenship. Both the President and others received gifts in kind from some of them.
This represented a sad – in truth – slide downwards of an institution that should be an example to be followed, not avoided. Gifts and money were also received by the Church, by the destruction of beaches and the building luxury holiday homes on sand.
The outgoing government however is not only a government characterised by moral deficiencies, a result of institutional entanglement and corruption. It is also a government characterised by social and political deficits.
Its key characteristic has been social callousness and the lack of social sensitivity. Under their administration, a huge shift in the wealth produced has taken place, with a widening of the gap between social classes. More specifically, the share of profits in GDP increased in contrast to the share of wages, which decreased. In Cyprus, which from this very podium DISY President A.Neofytou portrayed Cyprus as the branch of Scandinavia in the Mediterranean.
We have a problem of unequal distribution of the wealth produced, with the result that a few rich people are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Furthermore, the middle class is gradually disappearing. One in five of our fellow citizens live on the poverty line. We are living in conditions of soaring inflation, price inflation and energy poverty.
According to European statistics however, Cyprus is ranked fourth from the bottom in the table regarding the allocation of resources to provide support to society, businesses and households so they can address the energy crisis. It is no coincidence that we have not heard a single word about fuel prices from Mr. Neofytou. Nor, of course, did we see Stefanos Stefanou engaging in [past DISY election] communication tricks at petrol stations…Populism is the privileged arena of the Right and extreme right.
This is a government of political deficiencies too, with its abject failure to correctly handle our national issue, the Cyprus problem, at the forefront.
They inherited an extensive negotiating body of work. We reached the last mile [of a solution] and witnessed saw a map with a territorial deviation of only half a percentage point [tabled at Crans Montana]. It was then that Mr. Anastasiades, instead of staying at Mon Pelleran and asserting the rest of Morphou, lied and suddenly left [the talks].
They are handing over a country where, due to the hardening of Turkish intransigence and provocativeness, the nightmare of a two state solution is being put in a formal manner on the negotiating table. The commercial exploitation of the enclosed area of Varosha, the colonisation of Varosha and systematic violation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus are being implemented. In truth, how at ease is Mr. Christodoulides feeling about his absence of proper political judgement back then?
At the same time, the occupying power Turkey isn’t under any pressure, due to the loss of the Greek Cypriot community’s credibility and the experimentations and expediencies Mr. Anastasiades served, assisted politically by both Mr. Christodoulides and the leader of the ruling DISY party, Mr. Neofytou. All three of them unfortunately put the quest and distribution of power among cronies over and above Cyprus. That is precisely why today they are both fighting for one presidential chair. Not because they have different policies, but about who will implement them more aggressively for DISY’s interests.
Today we are on the brink of partition. We are at the most critical point that the Cyprus problem could be. Throughout the entire 5-year term of office there has been no substantive political effort for the resumption of the talks. No effort at all has been made, but we only witness a slide downwards with Turkey exonerated with the government completely indifferent. It is no coincidence that Mr. Neofytou devoted just one and a half minutes of his 40-minute speech to the Cyprus problem.
The outgoing government is also politically deficient as regards the rule of law. A reality that is recorded, among other things, in the European Commission’s 2021 Report. A reality that citizens have experienced: with the curbing of rights and freedoms, with the issuing of decrees of dubious legal substance, with illegal police raids into homes of innocent citizens, single parents with minor children, with the upsurge in violence and serious crime, with black spy vans roaming in our streets, with illegal para-state wiretapping/surveillance, with selective prosecutions and selective suspensions of prosecutions. With selective justice delivered on the banking scandal, the golden passports scandal and the Co-operative Bank scandal. Impunity and cover-ups are the rule. Permit me to cite the words of Aurelius Augustinus, who said that “in the absence of justice, what is political power but organised robbery”.
The Anastasiades-DISY government is leaving office with yet another huge dose of political entanglement on its CV. Namely, the wiretapping/surveillance scandal with illegal software inside and outside Cyprus. For months the government ruling forces lied, until both we and the European Parliament’s special committee of inquiry forced them to spout some truths. Namely that there is indeed a hotbed of companies producing and exporting malicious spyware in Cyprus. It is no coincidence that both DISY and its sister party in Greece have been struggling for weeks to distort the findings of the PEGA committee. It is the activity of the former Israeli agent friends and associates of ruling DISY who have been contaminating Greece with illegal software.
However, the facts are there for all to see and they are glaring. Namely, the black spy van, the illegal installation of interception antennas at Larnaca Airport, the production of malicious software, political entanglement/interwoven interests, blackout and non-transparency of findings and the cover-up of crimes.
Given that there was also an attempt to black out through interventions in the mass media, we repeat some of the numerous unanswered questions AKEL has posed:
Question 1: Why were NSO Cyber imntelligegence group or its subsidiaries or connected companies granted licenses to export malicious software when they knew about the development and use of Pegasus software?
Question 2: Why was a similar stand taken with regard the development, use and export of the Predator software?
Question 3: Why did the police and other government agencies purchase services and products from the companies of Dilian and Avni? I regret to say that the Chief of Police’s answers initially given to us in Parliament left him irreparably exposed.
Question 4: Why did the Office of the President of DISY act on the request from Dilian and WS WISPEAR SYSTEMS LTD to the Ministry of Energy, Trade and Industry for the purpose of that Ministry to mediate a bid for the purchase of malware in the Netherlands?
Question 5: Who mediated the expansion of the former agents’ illegal activities in Greece?
I have chosen to make this extensive reference because AKEL’s ultimate goal is to protect the Republic of Cyprus, but also the rule of law which is being undermined by illegal surveillances and interceptions, the illegal exports of malicious software and the instrumentalisation of state structures and institutions to the point of constituting a cover-up and institutional entanglement. This is a dangerous development for democracy, unacceptable and reprehensible – just as it is dangerous – for our state sovereignty – the mortgaging and dependence of state services and infrastructures on companies serving Israeli interests. The government ruling forces have even ceded the supervision of the ceasefire line to Israel.
Finally, as a state we have to become better. Because the result of acts and omissions, usually conscious actions, is the Republic of Cyprus, our state, being exposed yet again in a manner similar to the ‘golden’ passport scandal. The victim is our country’s prestige, security and credibility. For that reason, the responsibilities of the government ruling forces are self-evident and grave.
AKEL’s steadfast position is that citizen’s privacy, the right to privacy and communication is sacred. Surveillance and wiretapping are characteristic of anti-democratic regimes. Furthermore, they undermine the rule of law and quality of democracy. It is no coincidence, therefore, that we have waged political battles for these and other rights, while the relevant legislation and any safeguards, e.g. the necessity of acquiring a court warrant for legal interceptions, bear the indelible stamp of AKEL.
For that reason, any form of transaction with companies or individuals engaged in the production and/or export of dual-use software and political staff is unacceptable and reprehensible. It is here that relentless questions arise for the role of the Council of Ministers, the ruling DISY party and it’s President, Mr. Averof Neofytou.
The attacks against and instrumentalisation of independent institutions, the cultivation of nationalism, racism, homophobia and misogyny, the curbing of the web of protection against the foreclosures of primary homes and small commercial properties, the absence of a comprehensive housing policy, the failure to effectively handle migratory flows, with the incompetence and shame associated with the name of the “Pournara” reception centre for migrants, the fiasco of the barbed wires installed by the Ministry of Interior on the buffer zone, with the ineffective processing of applications and the absence of European solidarity are all black spots and stains on the political record of the outgoing government.
We also refer to the cover-up of crimes committed in the Central Prison and the obvious clash of institutions, the failure to deal with violence both inside and outside sports venues with the proven ineffectiveness of a draconian law – the legacy of a Minister who possessed the absolute truth, the damaging agreement for the Limassol Port, the shady content in the agreements for the management of Airports, the attempts to privatize profitable semi-public institutions, the non-arrival of natural gas, the non-penetration of renewable energy sources in the country’s energy mix, the environmental crimes committed seeking anarchic development (fortunately we have saved the Akamas peninsula for the time being) and dozens of other actions, which were outlined with clarity by my colleague, the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL.
The overwhelming majority of citizens rightly give the outgoing government, whose protagonists were Anastasiades, Neofytou and Christodoulides, a negative rating. The fact that the latter abandoned the boat that was leaking shortly before the end is no excuse. Nor does it give Christodoulides the political legitimacy to proclaim he is seeking change.
Neofytou and Christodoulides are part of the problem, they cannot be the solution. They governed together, failed miserably together and must go together.
There is no doubt that when you govern for ten years you will also produce some positive work. And there has been some positive work. I point to the two reforms that AKEL in Parliament worked hard to improve significantly and get approved. Namely, the Reform of Local Government and the Reform of the Justice system. We are concerned about the delay in their implementation. The next government will have to move with a sense of urgency so that the efforts made over many years, by many, many people, will not be in vain. We don’t have the luxury of any failure. Local government has many problems to address and needs modernisation. The justice system is collapsing and we need to restore and improve it. The rule of law is an indicator of the quality of our democracy.
Some interesting things have been said from this podium over the past two days. Let’s look at a few of them:
- If I am elected President, in 5 years I will ensure Cyprus excels. Mr. Neofytou, who is squabbling with Mr. Christodoulides to be the successor of Anastasiades, needs another 5 years for Cyprus to acquire the seal of excellence as the first ten years weren’t seemingly enough.
- But Mr. Neofytou, you made our country excel anyway, but excel in corruption, impoverishment, poverty, the high cost of living/price increases and in the energy crisis.
- Since the decade of the Clerides DISY government, there has been no corresponding upgrading of Cyprus’ defence capability, the President of DISY told us. This should be recorded because the upgrading of Cyprus’ defence back then – let me remind you – was done with the fiasco over the supposed purchase and arrival of the S300 missile system that sought to get the votes of the Centre spectrum. The S300 missiles eventually ended up going to Greece of course, not Cyprus.
- DISY was not found outside the courts, Mr. Neofytou piercingly told us. Let me refresh his memory a little: DISY was inside courtrooms in a global legal first. It was when Costas Clerides (former Attorney General appointed by Anastasiades) exclaimed “Shame on you” when President Nicos Anastasiades testified as a defense witness for his friend the Deputy Attorney General Rikos Erotokritou, without ultimately preventing his conviction for corruption offenses. There was another friend of his who was convicted but did not serve a day in prison…
- In any case, we must thank the leader of the ruling DISY party, because his speech took us notionally to the all-day school system applied in Sweden and Finland, to the state on our mobile phones, to a supposedly affordable housing policy and the existence of a welfare state. In Cyprus, where we live, of course, ten years in power was evidently not enough for them.
I listened carefully to the speeches of the leaders of the Democratic Party DIKO, social democratic EDEK and DYPA party. It was not clear even the day before yesterday what policy Mr. Christodoulides supports on the Cyprus problem.
DIKO President Nikos Papadopoulos spoke of a ‘strategic review’ and, as we know, DIKO rejects the Guterres Framework, while DYPA President Marios Karoyan has called the Guterres Framework the starting point for the resumption of talks. EDEK President Marinos Sizopoulos criticized the body of work of the talks while – as everyone knows – according to its Congress position EDEK considers the solution of bicommunal, bizonal federation as the worst form of legalized partition. Let alone that the leader of ‘Solidarity’ party Eleni Theocharous, the fourth partner of the coalition of parties supporting the candidacy of N.Christodoulides, recalled the unchanging goal of Enosis – union with Greece – in a public post.
We wonder, quite frankly, will Mr. Christodoulides, if elected, refer the sought solution to the mechanism resolving differences between these parties, to the coordinating body they have set up
Will a decision be taken in this mechanism by qualified majority or will a positive vote from each party be required for decisions to be taken?
Finally, does Mr.Christodoulides have his own position on the Cyprus problem or will he be a multiple choice President open to all options because he is also influenced by DRASIS-KES [Note: extreme-right nationalist Greek Cypriot student faction based in Greece]?
Let’s face it. The Cyprus problem demands serious and steadfast handling in asserting a solution, based on the agreed framework. An assertion based on principles, not on experimentations that have jeopardized the cause of the solution. And – of course – neither Cyprus in NATO, nor NATO in Cyprus.
Madam President, dear colleagues,
After ten years of the DISY government, democracy needs a change. Society needs it. The citizens – more than 70% of them – are seeking it. There can be no change with one of the two right-wing associates of Nicos Anastasiades who are in-fighting about who is more faithful to Anastasiades, about who is the original DISY member and who is the faithful copy. We have to turn things around and we shall turn the page. DISY has been tested, it has ruled.
Today Cyprus needs a truly independent, non-partisan personality. One that will rally and unite citizens around clear positions and not leaders seeking power and positions. It needs a President with a clean political past and an unblemished record without the baggage and doubts created – rightly or wrongly – by power. And that person is Andreas Mavroyiannis.
With Andrea’s Mavroyiannis we share the concern for our young people. We share a common vision and goals for environmental protection, sustainable development, education as the institution that builds the future of the young generation, health and the National Health Scheme (GESY), economic activity and rural development. Research, innovation and digital transformation. Entrepreneurship in sustainable and secure conditions. The protection of working people, pensioners and vulnerable groups, so that no one is left on the margins of society. The full guarantee of all human and political rights and an end to all forms of discrimination.
A swift, just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem, with the liberation and reunification of our country and people, on the basis of the agreed framework and making full use of the body of work registered at the talks. For good governance, the rational and effective functioning of the State, institutions and public service, the combatting of entanglement and corruption. To restore our credibility. To regain the trust of citizens in the State, institutions and political life. For a new political ethos, which we so badly need and which citizens deserve. By the power of our example for a new culture and ethics in political engagement.
The stakes at the forthcoming elections are simple, but essential.
Either we turn the page with a progressive government of the many or we remain wedded to the moral, social and political shortcomings of DISY with one of the two would-be successors to Mr. Anastasiades.
Either we will elect a President who will serve the people, or we will elect a President who will continue to serve the few and select cronies of Mr.Anastasiades, his entourage and the DISY leadership.