The history of corruption
E DII TO RII A L
As much as we seem to loathe it, corruption has been around in Cyprus (and the rest of the world) for centuries, but it has been especially tolerated here because of many exogenous factors linked to the island’s conquerors.
From the time of the philosopher Greeks and entrepreneurial Phoenicians, followed by the ruthless Franks and Ottomans, and eventually the British colonials who perfected the art of ‘divide and rule’ in Cyprus, the natives have had to resort to fraud, embezzlement, theft, bribes and kickbacks in order to get things done. This mentality has, unfortunately, been imprinted into our DNA, which is why we have all heard of stories of pushing envelopes in the hospital or the Land Registry to get things done properly.
Over the years, this approach has also spilled over into non-essential services, such as the Registrar of Companies, the Customs Office, the ports and airports, the department of motor vehicles, and local authorities, which is why you have houses built on the wrong side of a coastal road or right next to the fence of an airfield or airport.
During a radio debate among MPs over the weekend, the bi-partisan approach was “we must combat corruption at its root.” But how can you when the regulatory bodies have been handed vague laws, or when transparency is chastised as an evil thing.
If MPs want to show the way to the rest of us mortals, they should start by putting their own house in order. It is strange that these same deputies who lecture ordinary folk about morals have prevented the passage of laws referring to the declaration of interests and are currently debating whether these should be limited to second or third degree relatives. Similarly, it seems, there are regulations about conflict of interest when it comes to decision making in key bodies or organisations, but these have never been implemented – only selectively, with a handful of scandals revealed in the past few years.
One proof of the establishment’s reluctance to deal with corruption and transparency issues is the lack of cooperation from government officials when it comes to the inquisitive media. To date, the journalists’ union has failed to break this wall behind which hide the people covering up for the real crooks, which is why frequent questions are faced with referrals to superiors. This also raises serious questions about checks and balances, as well as corruption when it comes to the new casino project.
If only we had a proper law securing whistleblowers, then we would see a tenfold of scandals being unveiled, and people in key places being more cautious in getting involved in any suspect deal or helping out a friend or relative, either for money or for moral satisfaction. Perhaps then we can start becoming a society of generally law abiding citizens.