The Suleyman Affair

PASEKA Was Quite Right To Seek Clarification

Opinion: Pavlos Andronikos, Deputy President, SEKA Victoria

Published in The Weekend Neos Kosmos, 19 March 2016, p. 7.

Regarding Neos Kosmos’ article “MP Defends Cyprus Visit” (8 March 2016) I would like to clarify that Labor MP Natalie Suleyman has not been criticised for a “private visit ... to Cyprus”, nor has she been criticised for merely making “an appearance at the parliament of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)”. Rather, she has been criticised for making what seems to have been an unauthorised formal visit to the “parliament” of an entity not recognised by the Australian Government. This is a serious breach of protocol, to say the least.

The President of PASEKA, Constantinos Procopiou, was quite right to seek clarification regarding Suleyman’s visit to the “TRNC parliament”, and his questions regarding how she entered Cyprus, and whether the trip was funded with government money were completely appropriate. These were necessary enquiries, which Suleyman could have answered without attacking Procopiou for making “petty allegations”.

We are reassured by Suleyman’s statement that she entered Cyprus via the legal route, and that her trip was “privately funded”, but we find her claim that her "visit to the [‘TRNC’] parliament was not an official visit” hard to accept. According to a report in the Turkish Cypriot media, Suleyman was greeted at the “TRNC Parliament” with a welcoming speech from the “Speaker” Sibel Siber. It is not customary in any parliament to greet private individuals in the public gallery with an official speech. Of greater concern however is Suleyman’s reported response to that welcoming speech. Apparently she said she would “work towards building bridges between her Parliament and the Parliament of the TRNC and that in April she would revisit northern Cyprus and would bring with her some other members of her Parliament.” This would suggest that Suleyman plans to engage in actions which are contrary to official Australian Government policy, which regards both the “TRNC” and its “parliament” as illegal.

As can be seen from the above, Constantinos Procopiou’s concern was entirely justified, and certainly did not warrant an attack from former MP Theo Theophanous. Moreover it seems to us that your reporter’s decision to end his article with Theophanous’ critical comments without offering Procopiou an opportunity to reply makes the article itself seem like an attack on Procopiou and on SEKA.

Theophanous is wrong to claim that we at SEKA are “out of touch... with the many, many people who are promoting dialogue and a solution to the Cyprus problem”. I for one have been an active member of the internet discussion group “The Cyprus List” for decades—almost since its inception. It was the first intercommunal discussion group, and was created at a time when the illegal physical border between the two communities was closed tight. I am still a member, but I am also a member of many other bicommunal groups which have come into being more recently.

Theophanous’ claims that Procopiou’s concerns are “rash, unsubstantiated allegations”, and that we need people like Natalie Suleyman “who want to build bridges” seem to us to be a remarkable display of ignorance. Perhaps Theophanous was not aware just what sort of bridges Suleyman is trying to build. Judging from her reported statement, her real intent seems to be to gain recognition for the illegal “TRNC” and its “parliament”, despite longstanding Australian government policy. We are not aware of any attempts by Suleyman to build bridges between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in Victoria.

 

Postscript

Theophanous would do well to read the Turkish Cypriot journalist Sener Levent's article “Et tu, Akis Lordos?...” It can be found here: Link to Article