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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-08-31

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Saturday, August 31, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] '55,000 ecstasy haul biggest ever in Cyprus'
  • [02] Massive interested in Man. United game
  • [03] Deadlock over Palm Beach redundancies
  • [04] Larnaca tops national unemployment figures
  • [05] Stall owners slammed over live animal prizes
  • [06] Why was CyTA fine so long in the coming?
  • [07] 1,300 litres of diesel leak into water supply
  • [08] Hannay flies in to support UN efforts to break deadlock
  • [09] Watch how much you pay, shoppers warned

  • [01] '55,000 ecstasy haul biggest ever in Cyprus'

    By George Psyllides

    POLICE said yesterday they had seized their biggest ever haul of ecstasy pills with a street value of around 55,000, following the arrest of a 34- year-old Nicosia man currently living in Limassol.

    "It was the largest ecstasy haul ever," drug squad Chief George Papageorgiou told the Cyprus Mail. "It's one of the biggest cases in Cyprus concerning local consumption."

    The origin of the drugs is still under investigation, Papageorgiou said. Police said they had seized 5,588 tablets with a street value of around 10 each, as well as 17 tablets split in half, 80.5 grams of cannabis and a quantity of what is believed to be cocaine in the form of six small, plastic-wrapped balls.

    Limassol district court yesterday remanded Vyronas Vyronos in custody for eight days in connection with the case. Police told the court that the suspect had been under surveillance for the past 15 days and was arrested on Thursday after he came out of a flat he rents on Platonos Street, Limassol.

    Police alleged they found six grams of cocaine and 66 ecstasy tablets in his possession while he was seen getting rid of a satchel just before he was arrested. Two mobile phones and 1,700 were found in the suspect's bag, police told the court.

    Police then searched the suspect's flat and allegedly found 5,522 ecstasy tablets, 17 tablets split in half and 17.5 grams of cannabis. They also claimed to have found another 1,700 in cash and a safe that had not yet been opened, the court heard.

    The suspect is refusing to co-operate, said police, who are looking for accomplices as well as more drugs.

    Police sources told the Cyprus Mail that Vyronos had been under surveillance and had been searched by drug squad officers last month during a stake-out at a Nicosia petrol station. Another man was allegedly beaten up by police at the same petrol station later the same night.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Massive interested in Man. United game

    By Soteris Charalambous

    INTEREST in the Champions league match between Maccabi Haifa and Manchester United, being staged at Nicosia's GSP on October 18, has been "massive" according to Ronis Soteriades President of the Manchester United Supporters Club in Cyprus and sources in Israel.

    "Since the draw, there has been a great response," said Soteriades, "I've even had calls from people who are not even football fans wishing to get tickets just because it is Manchester United."

    Sources in Israel have suggested that up to 15,000 Haifa fans could make their way to the 25,000-capacity all-seater stadium in Nicosia. It is the first time an Israeli club has made it to the group stages of the Champions League.

    GSP officials yesterday discussed issues of ticket allocation, pricing and security arrangements with club officials although no official statements were released.

    "No doubt all the matches will be a sell out, in addition to Manchester United's appeal, Greek Champions Olympiakos will attract many Cypriots, as will last year's runner's up Bayer Leverkusen," said Soteriades.

    Speculation surrounded the question of ticket prices, with some sources suggesting that ticket prices could be as high as 50. However, a UEFA spokesman said, "Ticket prices for the away fans may not exceed the price for the equivalent ticket paid by the home fans."

    The spokesman also confirmed that all three matches would be held in Cyprus, despite speculation in the media that one or even two of the matches could yet be staged in Israel.

    Israeli sources said that Haifa fans could be offered a travel/ticket package priced at $100 that would include airfare, travel to and from the stadium and the cost of entry.

    FIFA regulations state that away supporters must be allocated tickets of no less than five per cent of the total capacity of the stadium, approximately 1,000 tickets. Leaving a minimum of 8,000 available.

    Speculation in Cyprus suggested that tickets remaining after allocation to both 'home' and away fans would be offered to the general public as a 'three-match season ticket' in an effort to generate maximum income to cover the security costs by cashing in on the appeal of Manchester United.

    Sources in Israel also claim that the chance to play against Manchester United had already lead to in-fighting amongst the Haifa players, with players arguing over who had the right to swap shirts with David Beckham at the end of the game.

    Olympiakos will be the first team to play a Champions League group match in Cyprus on September 24, with the Leverkusen game taking place on October 1.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Deadlock over Palm Beach redundancies

    By Soteris Charalambous

    THE plight of employees at the Palm Beach Hotel in Larnaca appeared no closer to clarification yesterday after deadlock at a meeting between union representatives and hotel management aimed at establishing a redundancy package.

    The meeting was called following announcement of the decision to close the hotel on November 15.

    Apart from Thursday's announcement confirming the decision to close, which claimed financial problems for the decision, the owners of the hotel have refused to comment to the press.

    At the meeting, PEO representatives rejected the hotel's offer and questioned the motives behind the decision to close, claiming they had received information that the hotel was preparing for a multi-million pound refurbishment, followed by plans to re-open in time for the new season.

    A PEO representative said, "We put forward our view that the hotel should follow the provisions of the collective agreement for winter closing." The collective agreement enables the hotel to shut while retaining their existing workforce on 25 per cent of their salaries after the date of closure following full payment of any holiday entitlement.

    "We have information that the hotel are planning to refurbish the hotel, and are aiming to get rid of the existing staff, and employ a new workforce, at cheaper rates, without a collective agreement or union representation," said the PEO official.

    Following the failure to reach agreement at the meeting, the unions have decided to call on the Labour Ministry to become involved in the negotiations.

    Asked what would be the employees' position if the owners decided to sell the hotel after closing and subsequently re-opened under new ownership, the PEO representative said, "Under existing law, the redundancies would become invalid, the new owners would have to reinstate the former workforce."

    The PEO representative said the union had evidence the hotel did plan to reopen. "We have records of bookings already made for next year." The alleged response from the hotel was that the bookings would be cancelled.

    The decision to close the 228-room, four-star hotel which opened in 1981, is the first of its kind on the island and was taken just days after the Hoteliers Association (PASYXE) and Commerce and Tourism Ministry publicly disputed the state of tourism in Cyprus this year.

    PASYXE claim that revenue from tourism has dropped by 120 million this year, while Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis stated that Cyprus had enjoyed the highest growth in tourism throughout the world over the last five years. Rolandis subsequently refused to submit a proposal to the Cabinet to abolish the three per cent Cyprus Tourism Organisation tax in what he described as, "an atmosphere of misinformation."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Larnaca tops national unemployment figures

    By Sofia Kannas

    LARNACA tops new unemployment figures for Cyprus according to statistics released by the Labour Ministry.

    The figures show that in the Larnaca and Famagusta area, unemployment has risen from 2.8 per cent in the first six months of 2001 to 3.8 per cent for 2002.

    This significant increase is all the more striking given that Larnaca had the highest number of employed people in Cyprus just one year ago.

    The change coincides with recent findings by tourist analysts, which show Larnaca and Ayia Napa to be the worst hit by the recent decline in tourism.

    Unemployment in the other main districts did not show such a marked increase, however.

    Limassol in fact experienced a 0.1 per cent drop in unemployment in 2002, while Paphos also saw its number of unemployed fall to 2.6 per cent, currently the lowest on the island.

    Only Nicosia's unemployment figures were unchanged, remaining at 3.1 per cent.

    The statistics also show that island-wide, unemployment has increased from 3.1 to 3.4 per cent, a fact which does not surprise Dimitris Christodoulou, General Secretary of Trade Union, PEO.

    "The rise in unemployment in Cyprus is the result of a drop in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2002. The economy is simply not on the same footing as it was last year.

    "The job sector worst affected by unemployment is the hotel industry," Christodoulou added.

    "However, there has been a decrease in unemployment in the construction and development sector, which is experiencing a mini boom. Technicians such as computer specialists and electricians are also more employable this year."

    A worrying trend revealed by the Ministry's statistics is the continuing increase in unemployment among women in Cyprus. The number of women unemployed rose from 50 per cent in 2001 to 54 per cent in the first six months of 2002.

    Asked why female unemployment was so high, Christodoulou cited the decline of the textile and shoe industries as prime factors.

    Similar factors were noted by Labour Officer Elena Sivitanidou at the Labour Department.

    "The clothing and footwear industries employed a large percentage of women, particularly those over 40 years of age.

    "The decline of these industries has therefore left older women, who are most vulnerable to unemployment, without jobs.

    "This sector of females is also the least likely to begin training in new fields of work. They do not like change," she added.

    Christodoulou however, believes there is little opportunity for female victims of dying industries to retrain and take on new jobs in Cyprus.

    "It's just crazy that there are no institutions to provide training courses for these women," he said.

    "There are 31,000 legally employed foreigners working in Cyprus, not to mention illegal workers. Yet our own women are unemployed. It is a deplorable situation."

    Sivitanidou agreed that training institutions ought to be set up. She stressed, however, that this would not be the responsibility of the Labour Ministry.

    "All we can do is try and persuade women to participate in training programmes once these are set up by the relevant authorities," she said.

    Christodoulou is also critical of the lack of opportunities for working mothers in Cyprus.

    "As far as women with children are concerned, the government isn't helping them out. It isn't providing child-minding services to enable them to work.

    "We have long demanded the development of an infrastructure whereby young children can be looked after while their mothers are at work.

    "The initiative, and more importantly, the means to these improvements lie with the Government. They must establish such policies. But of course, these can be expensive," he said.

    "A pilot scheme for child-minding in the industrial area of Ayios Athanassios failed because the local authorities could not finance the scheme."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Stall owners slammed over live animal prizes

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    THE Founding member of Animal Responsibility of Cyprus (ARC) said yesterday it was unacceptable and completely illegal for betting stalls to sell live wild birds in cages at the Limassol Wine Festival.

    As a member of the Green party, Kyriacos Kyriacou reported that a number of tourists and concerned citizens had reported the incident to the party and were shocked at the lack of care for the welfare of the imprisoned birds, including parrots.

    Local authorities have a responsibility when giving out stall licences to check what they are selling, he said.

    Offering wild birds in cages as a gambling prize in public places is against the 1994 law on the welfare and protection of animals, which states, "no person may exhibit animals in public or present them to the public for commercial or decorative purposes without a licence from the relevant authority," in this case the Veterinary Services.

    The law also stipulates that animals must be kept in an environment which fulfils their ethological and other natural needs. Kyriacou pointed out that stall owners were not the only ones violating these laws, as many pet shop owners did not properly consider the welfare of the animals: "They must have proper cages, appropriate food, covers for birds which are preparing to roost and not have fluorescent lights in the store keeping them awake all night."

    The District Animal Welfare Committee in Limassol is organising, in co- operation with the Veterinary Services, a seminar in September to inform and enlighten farmers, pet shop owners, the police and other interested bodies, on what the law says. "It is done in a spirit of co-operation to let people know what's required of them, from the law enforcer to the seller, trainer or breeder," said Kyriacou.

    New regulations soon to be implemented will require animal breeders or trainers to verify their status with requisite documents.

    Kyriacou highlighted that it was pointless enacting laws on animal welfare as part of the EU harmonisation process without providing the necessary infrastructure to back them up.

    He warned that the impending law on the transport of animals could not be passed until the groundwork was done to ensure enforcement of the law. "If there is no infrastructure regarding the responsibility to enforce the law, such as a budget and appointed inspectors, then what is the point of implementing EU directives? It's not enough just to have signed papers," he said.

    "After all," pleaded Kyriacou, "we, as human beings, domesticated animals so I think we should take some responsibility for them."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Why was CyTA fine so long in the coming?

    By Elias Hazou

    THE Pancyprian Association of Retail Telecom Companies (PARTC) yesterday welcomed the massive fine imposed on local telecoms monopoly CyTA this week, but wondered why action had been so long in the coming.

    On Tuesday, the governmental Competition Commission slapped a mammoth 20 million fine on CyTA for abusing its dominant position in the market, raking in over 133 million in net profit in the past two fiscal years.

    Following the imposition of the penalty, a number of deputies rounded on CyTA, saying the semi-governmental organization should readjust call rates to consumers' benefit.

    This prompted PARTC president Ioannis Diakos to wonder yesterday "what were parliament and deputies doing all these years when approving CyTA's budget? Were they misled, as they now claim? Do they mean to tell us that they did not know what bills they were passing?

    "While welcoming the commission's decision, we cannot help but wonder why it was so late in coming."

    Diakos went on to suggest that "games" were being played behind the scenes. He said that when his association turned to the Competition Commission in late 2000, the commission's report did not find CyTA accountable for abusing its dominant market position. But now, went on Diakos, the commission conducted an investigation on its own initiative and reached the exact opposite conclusion. "What happened in th emeantime?" asked Diakos. "Why the sudden shift in stance?"

    PARTC's main gripe with CyTA is that it used its assets to enter the mobile telephony retail market, dealing a devastating blow to retailers, who simply could not compete. "For example, they sent out 400,000 leaflets to customers - their subscribers essentially - advertising their mobile services."

    As things stand, the 20 million fine, if paid, will go directly to the state coffer and it would take additional legislation to return to consumers the overcharging imposed on them over the past year. One hike involved raising the monthly fixed fee for a telephone line from 1.75 to 5.

    For its part, CyTA has described the commission's decision as "unjustified" and says it will appeal to the Supreme Court. PARTC has also long since appealed to the Supreme Court, though for a different reason: to reverse the commission's findings in early 2001 that CyTA was not at fault.

    Sources suggested that the Competition Commission's slap-in-the-face to CyTA was not, as some pundits have said, related to the government's concerns to meet EU accession criteria by ending monopolies in the telecoms sector. Rather, they said, the move was more tangibly linked to the recent decision to allow one more service provider to enter the market. With two corporations, that might leave mobile retailers out of the loop.

    Another question raised by Diakos regarded the manner in which CyTA was fined. "The penalty was most severe - almost the maximum penalty the Competition Commission is allowed by law to impose. And to cap it all, it was given no prior warning. It's as if CyTA is being treated as a criminal."

    Asked what measures PARTC would take in the event CyTA ended up not paying the fine, Diakos said the association would consider these matters if and when they came up. In the past, PARTC members had "occupied" a CyTA outlet, and it took 20 police officers to end the sit-down protest.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] 1,300 litres of diesel leak into water supply

    By Sofia Kannas

    Inhabitants in the village of Psimolofou had their water supply cut yesterday after the smell of diesel was detected in their drinking water.

    The problem was brought to the attention of the Mukhtar when residents reported a strong smell of diesel in their piped water.

    Lakatamia Police, who were called to the village to investigate, discovered that 1,300 litres of the fuel had accidentally leaked into a borehole from which the community drinking water was drawn.

    A source at Lakatamia police yesterday ruled out any possibility of foul play.

    "It was an accident. The leakage happened when a rubber pipe feeding diesel into a generator split in one place.

    "We are not treating the incident as suspicious. There is no evidence that anyone tampered with the pipe. It occurred through normal wear and tear," he added.

    Village Mukhtar Ioannis Lazarides confirmed that water coming from the affected borehole had been cut off until the deposit tank and generator were cleaned thoroughly.

    "A clean-up operation is already under way and another borehole will be used in the meantime so that our residents do not go without water.

    "It's an unfortunate incident but it is being dealt with by competent authorities," he added.

    Samples of the contaminated water have been sent to the State Laboratory for testing.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Hannay flies in to support UN efforts to break deadlock

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash met yesterday to discuss the issue of citizenship as part of their ongoing peace talks that began in mid-January.

    The meeting was held in the presence of UN special envoy Alvaro de Soto.

    The direct talks continue as the two leaders prepare for next week's meeting in Paris with UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan, who hopes to give the deadlocked negotiations a new lease of life and help the two sides, through his special advisor, to crack the core issues of governance, security, territory and property.

    Meanwhile, Britain's envoy for Cyprus, David Hannay, arrived on the island yesterday to hold separate meetings with the two leaders and De Soto. Reports said that the visit is an expression of support to the UN efforts to break the deadlock and Annan's decision to invite the leaders to a meeting in Paris next week.

    Earlier in the day, the UN special envoy talked with Clerides for 90 minutes as part of regular contacts with both leaders during the peace talks. De Soto reported that the agenda for the Paris meeting on September 6 had already been prepared.

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides said after the meeting with De Soto that the Republic of Cyprus would continue to exist as a state while the new constitution that would emerge from the talks would essentially be the solution of the political problem.

    He said a UN plan for a solution was unlikely to be proposed until after Turkish elections in November. Regarding the question of sovereignty, a major obstacle in the talks, Markides said that as far as the Greek Cypriot side was concerned there would only be one state, with a single sovereignty.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Watch how much you pay, shoppers warned

    VIGILANCE was the message a senior Commerce Ministry official sent out to all consumers yesterday, despite government efforts to protect them from being mislead or taken advantage of.

    And although it is entirely illegal to advertise one price and then charge another, it does happen, warned another consumer official.

    "Although our department carries out frequent checks at shops around the island, I wouldn't say consumers are safe. They still need to keep their eyes open and to check and compare prices and sell by dates to ensure they are not being deceived in any way," Commerce Ministry Acting Director of Competition and Consumer Protection, Leontios Pericleous, told the Cyprus Mail. And although such complaints are not necessarily plentiful, they are not exactly a rarity either, according to Consumer Association General Manager Dinos Ioannou.

    Ioannou said there had been a case several months ago when a Nicosia supermarket had mistakenly charged a shopper 70 for a loaf of bread, instead of 70 cents. Because the man had bought a lot of goods on that particular day, he did not notice his mistake until after the transaction had taken place, explained Ioannou.

    "Once he noticed how much more he'd paid and pointed it out to the checkout girl, she wrote him out a voucher for 69.30 which was valid for three months," he said.

    "But, once he went home and had time to think about it, he realised he didn't want to be forced to shop at that particular hypermarket for up to three months, so he went back to the shop and asked for his money back. The problem was, the checkout girl said she could not give him back money from the till. That was when we were contacted and intervened. The manager then apologised and the shopper's money was returned to him." Ioannou pointed out that though the man had given his consent to the voucher, and there was nothing illegal in its being issued, he never should have been overcharged in the first place.

    "It may have been a genuine mistake, a gimmick, or it may even have been an attempt to see whether or not this could be a way to start issuing vouchers, " he said. "However, it is totally illegal to advertise one price on the shelf and then charge another at the counter. In fact any hypermarket doing so is liable to be sued."

    Admittedly this gross overcharging was a one-off, but, because shoppers rarely check their receipts, errors for lesser sums usually go amiss, he said.

    "What can happen is a product is advertised for 29 cents on the shelf and then charged 39 cents at the counter. That is why we warn consumers to double-check their receipts, ensuring that what they thought was the price of a particular merchandise is in fact what they paid for."

    Consumers should not pay a single cent more for a product and are within their legal right to refuse to pay if that is the case, he said.

    "Initially hypermarkets had excused such errors in prices when VAT was increased," said Ioannou. "They claimed that they did not manage to change the prices on all their products. At first this was a reasonable explanation, so we did not see the need to make a fuss. But the new VAT has been in place for several months now and so this can no longer be used as an excuse." He added that VAT could not be charged at the counter and had to included in the advertised price because consumers could not be expected to calculate the final price in their heads.

    In most instances, shoppers prefer to sort out the problem themselves, but if this proves ineffective, the Consumers Association steps in. Fearing bad publicity, this has always resulted in a happy ending for the customer.

    "My warning to consumers is that they should compare prices at various supermarkets to see whether or not they are being ripped off, check sell-by dates and always go through their receipts," said Ioannou.

    Ministry official Pericleous agreed with this advice, particularly since understaffing within the Ministry's consumer protection department was a problem.

    "In Nicosia, we have five or six employees that carry out spot checks at various supermarkets, in Limassol three employees, in Larnaca and Famagusta we have one, plus a part-timer, and in Paphos not a single one," he said. Although this did not mean employees were not dispatched to other towns at least once a month to check up on various supermarkets, it did mean that not all supermarkets could be covered at once, he said.

    Supermarkets were aware they were being checked and were therefore unlikely to dupe their customers, said Pericleous.

    "But, this doesn't mean consumers are safe. They should still keep their eyes open and check that what prices they are finally paying and that the products they are buying are not out of date," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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