Deadline for coalition as strikes and protests loom
9 December 2016
The north of Cyprus is likely to enter a new week of demonstrations, strikes and clashes as the ultimatum by trade unions to the ruling coalition to implement Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends on Friday.
The Turkish Cypriot platform of unions have also demanded that transport, interior and education officials, whom they see as responsible for last week’s tragic school bus accident, are sacked, and have pledged to strike indefinitely unless the coalition meets their demands.
According to media reports on Friday, the strikes – should they go ahead – “will create chaos” centre at the Turkish Cypriot electricity authority, the local hospitals and Tympou (Ercan Airport). A recent strike at the same airport affected 23 flight and thousands of travellers.
The ruling National Unity Party UBP-Democratic Party DP coalition has dismissed the call, saying it’s impossible to follow daylight saving along with the rest of Cyprus.
It insists that the north has to align with the time zone in Turkey, since all transportation, communication, banking and finance systems are connected.
It further suggested that the protests that have been continuing for over a week are a conspiracy to alienate Turkish Cypriots from Turkey.
A school mini-bus and a lorry collided head-on last week on a road in the Pentadaktylos, claiming the lives of three and leaving seven students seriously injured.
The demonstrations initiated by a group of students protesting against the ruling coalition for not taking necessary measures to protect the lives of their friends, rapidly grew into a public outcry with the involvement of the trade unions.
Deputy head of the coalition Serdar Denktas said that the underlying purpose of the protests is “an attempt to alienate the people from their state and from Turkey in preparation for a possible referendum”.
Huseyin Ozgurgun, head of the coalition, asserted during a TV programme that the protesters “want us to adapt to South Cyprus”.
“I don’t need to adapt to South Cyprus,” Ozgurgun said.
“What has the south shared with us till now? Why would I adapt my time with an entity that has never wanted to do anything with me? It is clear that those who want to alienate Turkish Cypriots from Turkey are politically exploiting the situation.
“Why should we adapt to the EU’s or the Archbishop’s time?”
Amidst this bizarre debate which has reduced the cause of the accident to a mere time zone issue, hardly anyone is addressing the primary causes, such as the poor state of the roads, lack of inspection of heavy vehicles, scarce lighting on the roads and failure to implement road safety regulations.
It has, for example, been revealed that heavy vehicles are banned from traffic during morning and afternoon rush hours – a rule that is not implemented. Moreover, the lorry driver, who had no working permit, had hit another lorry some months ago, but was still on the roads.
Statistics put forward by Mete Hatay, senior researcher at PRIO Cyprus Centre, show that the rate of fatal accidents in the north are far higher than those in the rest of the EU.
While the death rate in accidents per 100,000 people is an average 5.7 in EU member states, it is 14.6 in the north, according to Hatay.
Before the November 2015 general elections, Turkey had delayed ending DST by two weeks, whereas the north had turned clocks back one hour with the rest of Europe. No major problems were recorded.