The Justice for Cyprus Co-ordinating Committee, Victoria
By Pavlos Andronikos & Constantinos Procopiou (First published in Neos Kosmos p. 7, Saturday, 26 July 2014.)
““... fatalism would be the worst betrayal of all. The acceptance, the legitimization of what was done–those things must be repudiated.”
From Hostage to History: Cyprus from the Ottomans to Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens
What is SEKA?
SEKA stands for Συντονιστική Επιτροπή Κυπριακού Αγώνα, i.e., Co-ordinating Committee for the Cyprus Struggle. It is a Greek rather than a purely Cypriot organisation in that its members are the Greek community organisations, each of which has the right to participate in the Committee by sending representatives to its meetings. Interested individuals who want to be involved are also welcome to attend. It was created soon after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, and its purpose is to campaign for the liberation and reunification of Cyprus.
In English it is called the Justice for Cyprus Co-ordinating Committee, which indicates that the struggle referred to in its Greek name is perceived as a struggle for justice. Because there is a possibility that “justice” is understood in different ways by different people, it is laid down in the constitution of SEKA that it must follow the policies of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. This is to ensure that it does not function as a loose cannon, but acts in accordance with the wishes of the elected representatives of the Cypriot people.
SEKA Victoria is the local branch of a world-wide network of SEKA committees. It comes under the umbrella of PASEKA, the Australia-wide body, and the world-wide body P.S.E.K.A. (Παγκόσμια Σ.Ε.Κ.Α.), which meets annually in Cyprus.
What does SEKA do?
In practical terms, we see the task of SEKA as twofold:
In relation to our first aim we organise various commemorative events throughout the year, with the main events being the July activities in remembrance of the invasion of 1974.
In relation to the second aim, we have created a web site at http://www.seka.org.au/index.html, the development of which is ongoing, and we organise Cypriot historical and cultural exhibitions, lectures, book launches, etc. In addition we lobby Australian politicians to ensure that the stance of the Australian Government with regard to Cyprus does not deviate from the now-established position; and we respond as appropriate to media items and political initiatives which are hostile to the cause of justice for Cyprus.
These are demanding responsibilities which we fulfil as best we can with much voluntary work from many patriotic individuals. There is room for more such people, and for new blood and new ideas. The SEKA Committee has, like many other community organisations, gotten older, and we need to look to the future. The more young people get involved with SEKA the better.
Lest we forget...
Whereas some think the number of people participating in the annual Protest March has steadily dropped, this is not the case. The number of demonstrators has fluctuated considerably over the last forty years, and this year there were more people than in the last two years. In fact, the policemen who looked after us were impressed by both the turnout and the vigour of the 2014 demonstration.
Nevertheless time is working against us in that the aging of the population which lived through the events of 1974, and remembers them with vivid horror, has significantly affected their ability to attend the Protest March. For example, after this year’s march a young woman told me that her father had never missed a march but due to old age and illness he could not attend this year. Also, I know that my Cypriot neighbours have now reached an age where they cannot attend. For many Greeks and Cypriots it is not that they don’t care or that they have forgotten—no, the memory still pains them, and the sense of loss is still with them, but the body is weak.
Some ill-advised individuals think the Protest March is a waste of time and that it achieves nothing. They are wrong. In the lead up to each Protest March there is a substantial publicity campaign. Greek-Australian newspapers cover the issue, radio programmes are dedicated to it, thousands of e-mails are sent, including a letter to every Victorian MP, state and federal, outlining the issues and inviting them to participate in the March. This annual reminder to the community plays a key role in keeping the Cyprus issue alive, and is extremely valuable in itself. A publicity campaign without the Protest March would not generate the same sense of urgency, but of course the publicity campaign and the διαφώτιση have far more weight and are far more effective if they are backed up by a huge turnout to show everyone that the Greek-Australian community feels strongly about the Cyprus issue. Numbers do count, and politicians are very sensitive to numbers.
Conversations with many people have shown us that Greek-Australians care deeply about the Cyprus issue, but, because the issue is a painful one and the sense of injustice overwhelming, many have fallen victim to an apathy born of despair. Forty years is a long time, and with every passing year the de facto state of affairs in Cyprus becomes more deeply entrenched. In addition, the hypocrisy of the great powers, which over the years have turned a blind eye to the injustice of a small defenceless island being invaded and carved up by a powerful neighbouring country, breeds cynicism and a sense of futility. Who, they say, will listen to us? What difference can we make?
And yet, there is another way of seeing the matter. We, and that small defenceless nation, have managed to keep the issue alive for forty years. This in itself is a success. Not only have we kept the issue alive, Cyprus managed at the same time to become a member state of the EU, and to successfully ride the wave of lies, distortions, and hypocritical recrimination which followed the Greek Cypriot rejection of the deeply flawed Annan Plan. Now at last the balances are shifting in Cyprus’s favour:
At present the Government of Cyprus is trying once again to negotiate a settlement with the Turkish Cypriots. They may at last succeed. We hope they do, but what can we do to help? We think the best thing we can do is to continue the work of SEKA. It is still important that the true facts of the Cyprus issue become widely known, and it is still important that we continue to remember. After all, the time for forgetting may still be a long way away.
Constantinos Procopiou is the current President of PASEKA, and was the President of SEKA Victoria when this article was written.
Pavlos Andronikos is a former General Secretary of SEKA Victoria, and is currently Deputy President and Webmaster.
Anyone who wants to be involved in the work of SEKA Victoria can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.