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Protecting society in 2017

Whether in a court of law or via the media, a number of issues and cases will define our society and legal system. Seeking justice for animals, looking after patients’ health or punishing criminals, will, in 2017, once again make a compelling case about who we are as a people and what we view as important.

Here are some of the particularly noteworthy topics to consider:

Shielding animals

After another year of animal cruelty and neglect, animal welfare advocates in Cyprus are hoping 2017 will be a year of change including the better coordination of government organisations responsible for animal welfare.

Animal Party Cyprus (APC) President Kyriacos Kyriacou told the Cyprus Weekly the year had come to a close with the start of meetings between the 10 successful people amongst the 19 mayoral candidates APC had supported in the recent local elections.

“In November, we met and agreed on a 16-point plan, including, among other things, the creation of a fund for a sterilisation programme, as well as the need for educational campaigns, dog parks and encouraging people to register and microchip their dogs,” Kyriacou said.

One of the first meetings was with Paphos Mayor Fedonas Fedonos, he said, who had been very receptive.

A sticking point, however, remains the creation of a body to help coordinate some 35 government departments dealing with animal welfare issues.

Animal welfare NGOs and other stakeholders found the proposed legislation to be unworkable, and the Agriculture Ministry instead moved ahead with incorporating some parts in its existing regulations, instead.

“I hope to meet with President Nicos Anastasiades about this issue early in the new year,” Kyriacou said, adding previous meetings had indicated the President recognised the need for such a body.

On a learning curve

State high school teachers’ union Oelmek head, Demetris Taliadoros hopes 2017 will be a year of positive change.

“Let’s hope it will be the year the Cyprus problem will be fairly solved in a manner that will satisfy both sides. This is certainly something that will change the state of play in education, too,” he told the Cyprus Weekly.

Whether or not the national problem is solved, Taliadoros said he hoped 2017 would be a creative one for education in Cyprus.

“A lot of issues remain open as the year comes to a close. These include teacher appointment and evaluation procedures, and teacher training, as well as issues connected to the function of the middle school, so a lot of decisions must be taken,” he said.

Taliadoros said he and Oelmek as a whole: “call on the Education Ministry, the House Education Committee, parents and peoples to remember that all these issues must be handled through dialogue, with serious consideration and responsibility, so that the best solutions can be found.  These solutions should satisfy not only one or more parties, but serve all education”.

Taliadoros had earlier this year blamed Cypriot pupils’ poor performance in international evaluations on a difference in the way they were usually evaluated at school, saying the results did not reflect their true abilities.

Big Brother

Drivers in Nicosia are weary of the two-speed cameras on Griva Digeni Avenue, and a better system in the works is not likely to help them relax unless they ease off the pedal.

Currently there are only two functional traffic enforcement cameras in the Republic of Cyprus. But they have been a pain in the neck for short-staffed police and thousands of unsuspecting drivers who use the main east-west connector every day.

Money has already been earmarked in the 2017 budget for the government to open a public tender to expand the use of speed cameras, but the successful private bidder isn’t expected to start issuing tickets any time soon.

Electromechanical Services director Loucas Timotheou says the system will be fully automated, but police will maintain supervisory authority on both fixed and mobile cameras.

Health wars

The long and protracted debate on national healthcare won’t end this coming year, but 2017 promises to be a defining moment for reforms with stakeholders and critics upping the ante.

Despite more doctors and nurses in state hospitals feeling disenfranchised and frustrated within a badly-run central system, their unions seem unwilling to jump on the wagon of reform.

A bundle of incentives proposed by Health Minister George Pamboridis, as a gesture to move things forward, was turned down on the basis it did not address concerns at the collective level, but rather focused on the individual productivity of doctors and nurses.

Pamboridis is now ringing in the New Year with a bigger challenge, as he tries to reinforce his message that any changes or meaningful improvements can take place only if coupled with decentralising state hospitals.

There are critical bills in the House Health Committee, and stakeholders are dissecting them in ways that are either causing delays or casting doubt over whether or not they really want a National Health Scheme.

The minister will now have to hit back and he is running out of time as state hospitals are in disarray.

See you in court

High profile murder cases expected to come to a conclusion in 2017 include that of Christos Thoma, 31, accused of the premeditated murder of three people – brothers Paraschos and Constantinos Dorzis, 19 and 21, as well as 24-year-old Emilios Miltiadous.

The killings followed a heated dispute – in Thoma’s father’s kebab shop in Heroes Square – over a Larnaca girl he had been in a relationship with. Thoma will appear in court again on January 18 and remain in prison until then.

The second trial involves the third suspect in the November 2015 murder of Daniela Rosca (photo). Panayiotis Alexandrou, 26, was in a relationship with Rosca and is accused of orchestrating her murder. Two other men have already been sent to prison after being found guilty of her murder.

Proceedings against Alexandrou will continue at Larnaca Court on January 9, 10 and 11.

Legal cannabis

While police on the streets are busy making drug-related arrests, there are signs that legalising cannabis for medicinal use is gaining momentum on the island.

Currently, only Health Minister George Pamboridis has the authority to approve the use of medical cannabis for patients in the Republic of Cyprus.

But there are many obstacles including red tape even with the approval, prompting medical marijuana supporters to call for legalisation.

Law enforcement and part of the political establishment have, for decades, favoured a tough stance that has demonised the plant and those who support its cultivation.

But as people with legitimate medical issues are challenging the courts, and with a Cabinet decision approving industrial cannabis, things are looking up in 2017 for the vilified plant.

“Let’s talk about medical cannabis without prejudice. A European society ought to be in a position to discuss the issue openly,” the minister said on social media.

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