For the last fourteen years the world has been viewing Cyprus as part of the EU, even though the island is divided but with a culture that has very deep roots. Its footprint is traceable back to the prehistoric settlement of Khirokitia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which dates back to the Late Aceramic Neolithic period (around 7000 BC).
A foreign diplomat who is assigned to Cyprus for the first time would never imagine that everything that is going on here today is in fact the sad reality and not some kind of illusion.
I thought about the other day after I had coffee with a European diplomat. Our conversation started off around the cyber security breaches that had been targeting the systems of our Foreign Ministry for three years. But how is it possible that nobody got wind of this and it had to be the foreign media that would break the news, like the New York Times and Bloomberg. Our guys say we shouldn’t worry because those stolen cables were not confidential, and they insist that we have to believe them. An exclusive story published by Kathimerini Cyprus (page 6) says the hacking was ordered by the Chinese government and carried out by the Strategic Support Force, which is a branch of the military in China. There SSF members in almost all the army programmes that are being developed by China, including technology.
Outsiders may not appreciate our custom of beating around the bush, where private citizens, journalists, and politicians all slur over issues that ought to be clear to others
So, you the experts, do you mean to tell me that if these issues were not important or not serious, the New York Times would still have an interest in the story? And as it appears that we don’t have it in us, I mean we’re not computer geeks, why didn’t we ask our Israeli partners, who are top notch in this industry, to help us but instead we left an entire Foreign Ministry unguarded? And the worse in all of this is that while the government administration is playing dumb, nobody is lifting a finger not even the opposition. Can you imagine what would have happened if such a thing were to take place under the Christofias administration? The opposition would have set up nativity scenes to welcome the world’s every single angry protester who would show up outside the ministry.
There is another thing I would have to explain to the dearest diplomat, who has a hard time understanding some things even after being in Cyprus for two years. So the second thing is how the Supreme Court issue came about, following allegations by attorney Nicos Clerides -the brother of Attorney General Costas Clerides- pointing to possible involvement or implication of a big legal firm which employs children of Supreme Court judges.
Beating around the bush
Outsiders may not appreciate our custom of beating around the bush, where private citizens, journalists, and politicians all slur over issues that ought to be clear to others but somehow they only insult our intelligence.
I said that what had been alleged could not be proven and the diplomat’s response was to reach for a copy of the ECHR Judgment of 9 January 2018 Nicholas v. Cyprus. The international court ruled that the Supreme Court had not been impartial in the case of a Cyprus Airways pilot, which was adjudicated by a judge whose daughter-in-law was married to an attorney whose law firm represented the airline company. The Cypriot courts may have thought the pilot was done for but when he spread his wings and landed in ECHR, the Republic of Cyprus not only became a laughing stock the world over, but it also had to pay his legal fees – that is, us the taxpayers picked up the tab.
Swept under the carpet
Back then, nobody really took serious what the court ruling really meant, not the political parties, not parliament, not even the Cyprus Bar Association. They all swept the dirt under the rug and life went on, just like when the Central Bank Governor was caught red handed forging her employment contract. Not even the attorney general, either by the nature of his position alone or out of respect for the tax payers as well as law and order, made no move to seek justice.
So here’s my question. How should one respond to these people who work here and file reports with their governments back home? Because they are asking and wanting to know how is it possible that we tolerate such impunity?
The article was first published by Kathimerini Cyprus on 23 December 2018