The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 29th February 2008

New AKEL President of Cyprus Christofias

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by our European Affairs Correspondent

of jubilant Cypriots took to the streets on Sunday to celebrate the victory of the communist candidate in the divided island’s presidential elections. Demetris Christofias, the leader of the Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL) won with a 53 per cent-plus share of the popular vote, defeating his right-wing Democratic Rally rival, Ioannis Kasoulides, in the final round of the election.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat called Christofias as soon as the results were confirmed to congratulate him on his victory and call for fresh talks “without delay” to end the Cyprus conflict.

Throughout southern Cyprus victory celebrations were well under way by Sunday evening. Drivers honked their horns and supporters lit bonfires and flares when the official results were released while crowds marched through the capital, Nicosia, waving red flags chanting “AKEL, AKEL, now and forever!” and “Cyprus belongs to the people”.

Christofias was supported by the social-democrats, the greens and a number of other democratic movements in the final round of voting that followed the defeat of President Tassos Papadopoulos in the first round the week before. Many people blamed Papadopoulos’ intransigence for the stalemate with the Turks while Christofias and Kasoulides had both pledged to kick-start negotiations during their campaigns.

clear vision

Addressing an overflow rally in Nicosia Christofias said: “We have a clear and noble vision: a vision to reunite our Cyprus, to free Cyprus from the occupation and its consequences, turn it into a common homeland for all its children, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.”

The new government, he declared, would work to build a strong economy and it would prioritise education, health, culture, sports, the environment and sustainable development.

Though Christofias said he would continue with the mixed economy on the island, whose major industry is tourism, he said: “Our vision is also for a more just society, with economic development that will go hand in hand with more social justice in a modern sensitive and humane state which will stand at the side of all our people who are in need.”

AKEL is the only Cypriot party to cross the sectarian divide. Though overwhelmingly based amongst the Greek Cypriot community in the south it has Turkish Cypriot members in the occupied north of the island and amongst the Turkish Cypriots who work in the south.

The communists also have good contacts with most of the Turkish Cypriot parties that are mainly social-democratic including Mehmet Ali Talat’s own Republican Turkish Party.

Christofias is off for talks in Athens with Cyprus’s major ally, Greece and then to Brussels to meet European Union officials. That will then be followed by talks with the Turkish Cypriot leaders under the auspices of the United Nations.

In northern Cyprus there’s considerable support for a new initiative based on the “Annan Plan” that envisaged an island reunited along federal lines. That was accepted by the Turks but rejected by referendum by the Greek Cypriots in 2004. However, in recent years some barriers have come down, allowing cross-island travel and giving Turkish Cypriots, who are all legally citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, easy access to work in southern Cyprus.

a share

But Turkish Cypriots want a share of the economic benefits of the prosperous south and to get much needed EU and UN funds to develop their tourist industry and transport system. The thorny problems of the rights of refugees on both sides of the fence and the powers of the central government in a new federation remain and the key to progress is still Turkey, which has over 30,000 troops stationed in northern Cyprus.

Turkey invaded Cyprus to “protect” the rights of the Turkish Cypriot minority in 1974. But the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is recognised by no one apart from themselves and the Turks have long realised that the Cyprus problem is an obstacle to Ankara’s bid to join the EU.

But Turkey will want to retain bases on the island, like the two British bases in the south, after any settlement and it will defend the right of the 140,000 Turkish immigrants who have settled in northern Cyprus since 1974.

The Cypriot communist movement has long campaigned for a viable, workable and long-lasting solution to end the partition of Cyprus. The first step to fulfilling that dream has now been taken with the election of Demetris Christofias.



Who is to police the police?

MORE than 100 lawyers who had been working with the four-year-old Independent Police Complaints Authority last week resigned from its advisory body. They sent a letter to the IPCC chair Nick Hardwick complaining of “increasing dismay and disillusionment” at “the consistently poor quality of decision-making at all levels of the IPCC. The lawyers said they had tried to resolve these problems before but the response to their efforts was “pitifully poor”.

 The IPCC was set up in April 2004 after decades of complaints about the inadequacy of police investigating complaints about themselves. The Government began to get worried when it began to be common knowledge that people with a genuine grievance against the police stood a far better chance of justice by suing them in the courts rather than leaving the matter with the existing Police Complaints Authority.

 Reports of deaths in custody, especially black youths, formerly in good health, mounted. Many more were seriously assaulted. The PCA was useless to them and their families. The whole police service was imbued with institutionalised racism. But it was not just black youths who were victimised – so were the Irish, Gypsies, immigrants of any kind and white working class youths. The was a culture among some young police that regarded the whole general public as “the enemy”.

 Compensation cases started appearing in the courts and winning serious damages. In just one case in Plumstead, south east London, Danny Goswell, a black youth, kneeling on the ground with his hands cuffed behind him was attacked by a racist police constable with a truncheon inflicting serious injury and permanent scars. He was awarded over £300,000 damages against the Metropolitan Police force. The judge described the awards as “exemplary” – a warning to the police they could not get away with doing anything they pleased.

 Then came the Stephen Lawrence racist murder and subsequent inquiry which laid bare the extent of racism among many police officers and their contempt for black victims of crime. There was a lot of publicity and efforts from the top down to change the “canteen culture” of racism and general contempt for the public.

 These had some impact but visitors to Plumstead police station were still finding BNP leaflets on the desk and officers at the station were telling prison officers at nearby Belmarsh prison that “Stephen Lawrence was murdered with his own weapon” – when they themselves had significantly failed to find the murder weapon.

 If you got your regular dose of news from the press or BBC you could believe there had been great improvements. But black deaths in custody continue; they just don’t get reported so much now.

 Dev Barrah of the Greenwich Campaign for Racial Equality explained, regarding the local Plumstead police: “You get one lot who are decent, put them through all the ‘race awareness’ stuff and things get better. Then they get posted and another lot arrive and you have to start from square one all over again. And for many ‘community policing’ and ‘race awareness’ are just boxes to tick on their way up the promotion ladder. They’re not really interested.”

 The establishment of the IPCC in April 2004 was meant to be a big step forward. It was supposed to mean independent scrutiny of complaints against the police by people who were open-minded. The lawyers who have just resigned complain that there is still no effective oversight of investigations of complaints – and that the investigations are still done mainly by serving or former police officers.

 They say there is a pattern of favouritism towards the police – with some complaints dismissed in spite of powerful supporting evidence. Investigators have been indifferent and rude to complainants; complaints take years to resolve and managers who take decisions have no legal training.

 For some families in death in custody cases, the fact that the case has been referred to the IPCC means everything becomes shrouded in secrecy during the investigation and they must wait months or years to find out how their loved one died.
 It seems the complainants could be better advised to take their cases back to the courts.
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