Speech by the former General Secretary of AKEL A.Kyprianou at the Political Memorial of Panikos Lapithiotis
‘OMONOIA’ Local Club of the Left, Vorios Polos, Nicosia
17 June 2022, AKEL C.C. Press Office, Nicosia
First of all, I would like to congratulate the Pancyprian Association of Democratic Resistance Fighters and the Local Club of the Peoples Movement of the Left “OMONOIA” Vorios Polos here in the neighborhood Kaimakli for taking the initiative to organise this humble event to honor the late comrade Panikos Lapithiotis. When you honor people who were strongly involved in the democratic resistance, who served our Homeland and fought to defend democracy, you honor yourself. You honor your history and set a good example to our country’s youth.
Panikos Lapithiotis was precisely that. A man who passionately loved his country, who believed in democracy. A man who throughout his life fought for universal human values, principles and ideals to prevail.
Panikos was born in the now occupied village of Lapithos in 1945. From his childhood he grew up seeing poverty, social and political injustice that was developing against of the Left. He realized very early on the need for organized struggle so that things could change. He soon found himself joining the ranks of EDON Youth Organisation and AKEL. He stood out for his political capabilities, hard work and commitment to the People’s Movement of the Left (Note: all the mass organisations of our Left movement headed by AKEL). The People’s Movement entrusted him with various duties and he found himself early on assuming a prominent District post in the class-based trade union federation of PEO.
Panikos subsequently went on to assume duties in EDON. In EDON he was elected a member of the Central Secretariat and the District Secretary of the Nicosia – Kyrenia District Organisation. That’s where I first met him as a member of the EDON Strovolos Local Organisation. I remember comrade Panikos, together with the also late comrade Demetris Christofias visiting us frequently in those turbulent years after the treacherous coup d’état and brutal Turkish invasion, in an effort to rebuild the Youth Organization.
In the effort to address the many ills that had accumulated against our long-suffering people and island, Panikos, as well as the overwhelming majority of the then members of AKEL, of the People’s Movement in general, stood out for their humanness and militancy. It was then that the word “comrade” meant many, many things to us all. It was even identified with the word People, something that characterised and still characterises AKEL militants and members.
Through his actions Panikos soon rose through the ranks of the Party leadership. He was elected a member of the AKEL Nicosia – Kyrenia District Committee and AKEL City Secretary of the respective organization. He was also elected to the Central Committee and Political Bureau of the Party. He was a member of the Executive Secretariat of the Pancyprian Union of Refugees. In all the party posts and duties he assumed, Panikos gave his very best. He served faithfully and with devotion the people, the workers and the Party itself. He exemplified the ideals he served. Always modest, but proud of the principles that guided his actions.
It was these very principles that led him to the front line of the anti-fascist resistance once the traitorous coup d’état of 1974 broke out. A man of duty, with a deep faith in democracy and his country, as soon as he heard of the illegal actions of the coupists he joined other democrats from the working class neighborhood of Kaimakli in Nicosia and defended Freedom and Democracy.
At that time, the chief coup leader the Greek coupists Danos threatened to raze Kaimakli to the ground. The bravery and valor of Panikos and his fellow resistance fighters made things incredibly difficult for the Greek Junta forces and EOKA B. Two resistance groups were formed from the very first moment. One in Pentadromos and the other in the old factory of the People’s Coffee Shop. The Greek Junta leading officer Danos moved threateningly against the resistance fighters fighting in Kaimakli. Their heroism and self-sacrifice repelled him.
The resistance of the inhabitants of Kaimakli became the subject of discussion in the district of Nicosia. The coupists were forced to call for tanks, armoured vehicles, heavy weapons and many soldiers to succeed on Tuesday afternoon in breaking the heroic resistance in Kaimakli. Panikos, a brave and defiant lad from his youth, was one of the protagonists of this heroic anti-fascist resistance.
Until his very last breath he talked about those turbulent days and about the Resistance, revealing the historical truth. He did so not by arrogantly referring to himself, but with the humility of one who always puts the collective “we” above all else. His words were sharp about the leaders of the coup d’état, about who took up arms against the lawful government and democracy, who resisted, about the role AKEL and EDON played in the Democratic Resistance and subsequently in the defence of our homeland against the Turkish invasion.
Unfortunately, 48 years onwards, our Homeland remains divided. The barbed wire of division is still carving deep into the wounded body of Cyprus. Worst of all, the outlook is unfortunately extremely bleak. The fait accompli on the ground are being consolidated and partition is getting closer and closer.
The main responsibility for the situation that exists in Cyprus lies with Turkey, with its intransigent and unacceptable positions. Turkey is dangerously escalating its aggressive and provocative actions particularly after the breakdown of the talks at the Crans Montana conference in 2017.
Both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leader are officially submitting their unacceptable demand for a two state solution.
They are provoking and increasing tension in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus without any expected response on the part of the international community.
Turkey is proceeding to impose new fait accompli in the enclosed area of Varosha which further complicates the efforts for a solution to the Cyprus problem.
They are calling the Tympou airport domestic, conveying the message that they are intensifying their control over the Turkish Cypriot community and starting a process of assimilation/incorporation of the occupied territories into Turkey.
The whole situation is unfortunately becoming very dangerous. We are getting closer and closer to the permanent partition of our island. While Turkey bears the main responsibility, unfortunately, Mr. Anastasiades and the ruling DISY party bear enormous responsibilities as well. They deceived the Cypriot people by promising that they would work with consistency for the solution of the Cyprus problem. All of Mr. Anastasiades’ handlings are characterised by serving expediencies, regressions and inconsistency. Mr. Anastasiades was guided by electoral and petty-party considerations. Worst of all, he flirted with a two state solution, giving Turkey the opportunity to insist on this unacceptable position today.
At Mont Peleran, while the negotiations were going well, he lied and said that I had asked him to come back because we supposedly had problems in AKEL. He left, provoking a serious problem to the procedure and showed a lack of trust with Mr. Akinci.
At Crans Montana, his petty expediencies did not enable pressure to be exerted on Turkey and to see exactly how far it was willing to go. In fact, a strong impression was created among the international community that the Greek Cypriot side was very much responsible for the collapse of the Crans Montana talks.
After the collapse of the talks at Crans-Montana, Mr. Anastasiades turned a deaf ear to the warnings AKEL was issuing about what was to follow. He demonstrated complete indifference and apathy, allowing Turkey to put forth its unacceptable demands and to remain without the international community assigning responsibilities on Turkey. He even denounced and blamed AKEL for warning about everything that is happening today.
Now, on the eve of the presidential elections, he is supposedly ready to take initiatives for a solution to the Cyprus problem. Instead of dealing with the substance, he is proposing Confidence Building Measures which had been proposed before and rejected by Turkey. Worst of all, Mr. Anastasiades has become completely untrustworthy in the eyes of the international community, and as a result none of his moves are taken into account.
If the struggle of Panikos and all those who resisted the coup d’état and the invasion is not to be in vain, we need to ensure in the upcoming presidential elections that neither (DISY President/presidential candidate) Averof Neophytou, nor (former Anastasiades Foreign Minister/DISY member/presidential candidate) Nikos Christodoulides will be elected to the Presidency of the Republic. We need to work hard to ensure that the independent candidate Andreas Mavroyiannis is elected to the Presidency of the Republic. A respected figure, with positions that in principle agree with those of AKEL, a person of integrity, incorruptible and with social sensitivities.
All of us who knew Panikos Lapithiotis know very well that he was a man who put the good of our homeland above all else; the good of the collective. We are proud of his ethos, integrity and honesty. He stood like a rock throughout his life. A comrade who did not yield before gunfire, nor did he retreat in the face of the turmoil and attacks that the Party suffered. A comrade who was not for a single moment seduced by fame, power, money and the ambition to promote himself to positions of power.
Panikos organised and enlightened hundreds of young comrades in EDON and AKEL whom he won over by his leadership and example because Panikos was committed to the ideology and aims of AKEL and the People’s Movement. He talked little, worked a lot. His sensitivity was hidden in his rigor, but it shone through where and when it was needed, in practice and not in words. For that was Panikos. A man of action.
Panikos’ family, his beloved wife Lella, his daughter Areti and his grandchildren, Georgia and Stylianos can and should be proud of their beloved Panikos. He left as he came. Unblemished and clean. He lived a full life and left them with the memory of a loving father, a grandfather who adored his grandchildren, who offered and protected them throughout his life.
Panikos, together with other comrades of his generation, the late Christofias, Demetriades, Antonis Christodoulou, Fanis Christodoulou and many others, took over the leadership of AKEL at a critical moment, but did not lower its banners not for a single moment. They devoted all their energies into the fire of the struggle against all obstacles and fought to raise AKEL higher, to give working people a voice, to provide support and strength.
The promise we make, comrade Panikos, is that the younger of us will continue on the path paved by the old guard, your generation.
We will carry on the struggle, Paniko. To widen the road, to make it an avenue for the People to pass through, to go back to the lands we lost, to vindicate your struggles, to win their life, dignity and their future.
Your memory is eternal.