Turkish Cypriots were dismayed to discover that their right to free healthcare in the South is to be curtailed – currently a draft law to that effect is being presented to the Greek Cypriot parliament. Now Turkish Cypriot organisations, including unions are protesting against the potential loss of their rights as citizens of the Republic of Cyprus. I should add that the new bill will also exclude 100,000 Greek Cypriots and foreigners from other countries will also be unable to claim free healthcare and social aid in the South if this bill becomes law. Interestingly, a female Greek Cypriot MP also protested against the new draft bill, saying that it was petty and just a ruse to catch a few extra votes. Greek Cypriot presidential elections take place early next year.
“The organisations argued that Turkish Cypriots are equal political partners of the Republic of Cyprus and therefore have the same rights as Greek Cypriots. They said that in case of alleged usurpation of the Turkish Cypriots’ rights, which derive from the Republic of Cyprus, they will apply to international courts”.
Well yes, but hardly equal political partners in practice. Turkish representatives withdrew from the RoC parliament in 1964. Since then, in 1985, the number of seats was increased to 80, with 56 allocated to Greek Cypriot members and 24 reserved for Turkish Cypriot deputies. No Turkish Cypriot has claimed a seat. How then can Turks be expected to be represented there?
In response to the reading of the new bill, Near East University Board of Trustees Chairman, İrfan Suat Günsel, said that since the university’s hospital opened in 2010, 6,000 patients have been referred there from state hospitals and that there was no longer any need for Turkish Cypriots to go to the South for treatment.
Nevertheless, the indignation of the Turks is quite understandable, they are used to hand-outs and naturally, there will be a concern over health matters. Perhaps some people have been crossing the border to get treatment for life-threatening diseases like cancer for example. However, they do live in a state which is unrecognised by all except mainland Turkey, and yet still expect to receive the same rights as Greek Cypriots. Essentially the North is annexed to Turkey in all but name and receives billions of Turkish Lira in aid, can they really expect to have it both ways in these stringent economic times?
It is hardly surprising if the Greek Cypriot government does anything it can to tighten the purse strings; the country is in economic melt down. Even their own countrymen will be affected by the new bill if it becomes law.
The war of words continues and the Greek Cypriots hope that that the presence of mainland Turkey will, like a bad smell, evaporate if it gets into the EU. I’m sure that the Turkish Cypriots would like to get on and live a decent life, to be allowed to trade freely, and access good health care facilities in the North, without losing their identity to the Turkish mainland.
If only the bickering and posturing could stop. If help could be exchanged for tolerance and mutual respect with an eye to a better and more peaceful and prosperous future.
Happy New Year!