Humiliation or wise decision?

By Jean Christou

People on the streets of the capital are divided on the landmark decision taken by President Glafcos Clerides not to deploy the Russian missiles on the island.

“Clerides made the right decision,” said 36-year-old Marios Yiannos, who was having his shoes shined at Eleftheria Square.

Shoe shiner Andreas Pouros, 61 agreed: “I believe in the President and I think he did the right thing.”

Panayiotis Constantinou, 57, a Greek Cypriot returned from South Africa, said the missile issue was the biggest mistake Clerides had ever made.

“It wasn’t well thought out from the beginning. They were trying to cheat the people just to get votes in the (presidential) elections,” Constantinou said. “They could have brought them here without making a big deal out of it, if it was really about security.”

Friends Nasia Leonidou and Andri Mili, both 18, disagreed between themselves on whether Clerides should have stuck to his election promise to bring the missiles to the island.

“He promised they would come and he should have brought them,” said Leonidou, “but I don’t think he should have to resign over it.”

“It’s a good thing they are not coming because other countries have been giving us a hard time over it and we don’t want a war with Turkey,” said Mili.

Two teenage boys pass hurriedly and say they agree with the President’s decision, but don’t want to say any more.

It appears most people would rather keep their identity a secret on the missile issue: a 50-year old taxi driver, who likewise did not wish to be named, simply said: “I wanted them to come.”

He did not want to say why.

“It was the correct decision not to bring them,” said mother-of-two Maria Stavrou, 37. “If such a decision was reached then it must have been reached with a lot of thought. Of course I would feel safer if the missiles were here but what can we do.”

“It’s better not to say anything at all because whatever happens Cyprus is ruined,” an obviously disillusioned lottery ticket seller said.

Theodosis Efsthatiou, 55, a shopkeeper on Ledra Street was more emphatic. “Humiliation,” he said. “It is the biggest humiliation that Hellenism has ever had.”

Efsthatiou said he has never heard of a sovereign country not being able to bring weapons, and that if the government continued the way it was going, the remainder of Cyprus would become occupied by Turkish troops.

He said the next thing the international community would demand would be the scrapping of the 1993 defence pact with Greece and the dismantling of the Paphos air base.

“Our country has become a joke. If our politicians are leaders than I am a General in the army,” said Efsthatiou. “They should just pull their pants down and bend over. It’s a sell out. The president should just get on his boat and leave.”

Efsthatiou said Clerides had come to power on the back of the S-300 issue and the defence pact with Greece. “People think Greece is standing at our side but that is just coffee-shop talk and they are fools if they believe it.”

The Nicosia man’s views may sound extreme, but they were strongly supported by a group of boy scouts further up the street.

“The decision says to Turkey ‘we are afraid of you’,” said one of the three 13-year-olds, none of whom wished to be named.

“We have to show that defence plays an important role in our country. The missiles may have had a negative effect on tourism, but it was good for morale,” said one. “We spent our money in vain,” said the second.

A former national guard commando was also disillusioned.

“What’s the point of fighting any more. It’s all obviously planned,” he said.

He added the felt like handing in his gun and not even going for training again, adding that all his friends felt the same.