Cyprus police are hitting back at allegations that a school canteen in Limassol was selling drugs, landing the source of the claims in the hot seat.
Earlier this week, a representative of the Foundation for a Drug-Free World was invited to speak during a House Education committee hearing, with the organisation’s spokesperson Stella Esmeralda Constantinou, a music teacher, telling MP’s that the owner of a canteen at a Limassol public school was selling drugs on the side.
The allegations kickstarted a heated debate among the committee participants, with some asking why there were no complaints filed with police and others questioning the credibility of the organisation.
Misinformation and generalisations
The spokesperson for the anti-drug unit, Stelios Sergides, said the allegations amounted to “misinformation and generalisations” while adding that no formal complaint had ever reached the police.
According to media reports, an incident took place in the summer of 2018, where it was alleged that a school canteen owner had supplied illegal drugs, but it was not immediately clear whether the allegation said he gave drugs to a student or a group of students.
It later turned out that the representative had not been invited by the House committee but had simply asked an MP to call her in to speak on drugs in schools
No complaint was filed with police, with Constantinou saying organised parents got scared following threats made by the canteen owner. The Parents Association ultimately decided to send a letter to the Education Ministry, according to the Drug-Free World’s Cypriot representative.
It later turned out that Constantinou had not been invited by the House committee but had simply asked MP Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis to call her in to speak on drug abuse in schools.
Chrysanthos Georgiou, the president of the Cyprus National Addictions Authority, jumped in and said the Drug Free World organisation was not a registered organisation in the Republic of Cyprus.
“How could such information end up filed away in some drawer,” asked Georgiou, adding that the allegation was a sensualised story for the media.
Church of Scientology in the mix
According to daily Politis, Drug Free World is linked to the Church of Scientology, which has branched out and reached Cyprus with a number of information campaigns, publications and other activities, including the recruitment of new members.
Hadjiyiannis and Constantinou were mentioned on the organisation’s website, getting credit for “presenting the work of Drug-Free World through giving interviews, organising campaigns for schools and parents associations, concerts, as well as meeting with officials.
Hadjiyiannis, who was a guest on a radio talk show at Politis, denied that Drug-Free World or himself had any involvement with the agenda of those involved with Scientology.
“I can’t do a background search on everyone who asks to be invited to a House committee hearing,” the MP said.
MP Pavlos Mylonas reportedly interrupted Constantinou when she was speaking about the negative effects of medical cannabis, telling her that only a medical doctor could take a position on the scientific evidence of medical marijuana.
Other participants at the hearing said there were real concerns of drug use among students, as well as alcohol and smoking, with upward trends impacting all schools.
“Some school administrations try to hide the problem so that their institutions won’t get a bad name,” said Kyriacos Nikiforou, one of the leaders of organised parents.