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Media Watch 2003

06 June 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 6 June 2003.
Levent just played into hands of hardliners hands

WRITING in Politis last weekend, the editor of Turkish Cypriot newspaper Afrika, Sener Levent issued a battle cry to Turkish Cypriots urging them to claim their rights from the Cyprus Republic. If Greek Cypriots were entitled to child benefit payments, so were Turkish Cypriots argued Levent as they were also citizens of the Cyprus Republic. By the same logic, unemployed Turkish Cypriot were entitled to unemployment benefit and so forth.

Levent took the following line: "It (the Cyprus Republic) cannot represent all of us abroad but domestically it behaves as the government of only Greek Cypriots. It cannot talk on behalf of all of us abroad and domestically pass laws that apply only to Greek Cypriots. A Turkish Cypriot has the same rights as a Greek Cypriot in the Cyprus Republic. If money is to be given out for children, it should be given to everyone."

Some generous-minded newspaper columnists, fully endorsed Levent's view, arguing that the government should also compensate the Turkish Cypriots whose houses were damaged by the heavy rainfall at the weekend. The carefree abandon with which certain people propose the squandering of the taxpayer's money beggars belief. There is full agreement about the primary role of the state on both sides of the dividing line - to hand out cash to everyone who asks for it.

Yet Levent omits to mention the fact that Greek Cypriots who benefit from state handouts have been contributing to public funds through tax and social insurance payments while 99.9 per cent of Turkish Cypriots have not paid anything to the Republic for 30 years. Once they start to submit income tax declarations and pay monthly social insurance to the Republic, Turkish Cypriots will be entitled to all the handouts available to Greek Cypriots, but it is an outrage to demand all benefits now without having contributed anything to the state.

Levent and his fellow travellers may be well-intentioned but they are committing a political error in pushing their demands so forcefully. All they will achieve is to antagonise ordinary Greek Cypriots and cause unnecessary resentment. Many of them, understandably, would feel angry that their taxes would be benefiting people who had contributed nothing to state funds. And there are the enemies of a solution who will exploit such public resentment for their own ends. Levent's article alone has provoked a series of indignant articles in the press by Greek Cypriots arguing that paying benefits would be a gross injustice. And the last thing we want is to give ammunition to the enemies of reconciliation to poison the atmosphere just when relations between the two communities were improving.

It may seem paradoxical, but people who sincerely support reconciliation and the re-unification of the island, like Levent, could cause great harm to these efforts by pushing for measures that current conditions do not justify. All they will achieve is to give arguments to the hardliners on both sides who are constantly looking for ways to rally public opposition to reconciliation. This is why more care and caution needs to be exercised when supporters of a settlement make suggestions."