Leadership and the Cyprus Problem

The term “Cyprus Problem” suggests that a “Cyprus Solution” must be found and like many glib phrases steers leaders away from that solution by suggesting that as in a complex algebraic equations there must be a set of solutions to fit all the variables. These variables include the demands of complex sets of people, for example. As is always true, if one of these sets of people receives a positive outcome as part of the solution another will invariably suffer negatively. Balance is usually achieved by spreading the negative and positive outcomes between these sets of people as equally as possible.

Unfortunately, the real problem is in identifying who these people are and what they really want. On the face of it, it appears that the only people involved are Greek and Turkish Cypriots; the predominant inhabitants in 1974. Following on from that would be the argument, by the Greek Cypriot side of course, that any solution should follow democratic procedures and favour them proportionally, as standard voting practices would.

Recent Middle East events however show that suppressing the demands of one set of people to freely continue their way of life unhindered can result in social chaos. The British Empire was a prime example of how not to establish long-term social cohesion. If a group of people did not like the “British Way,” and British interests, and decided to protest against them then they were read the Riot Act and, as in 1931 in Cyprus, shooting into the protesters resulted in deaths. In that case a crowd of 5000 Greek Cypriots, demanding enosis with Greece, were destructively rampaging on the island. Strong leadership demanded strong actions.

In 2011, the demands from the Greek Cypriots are perhaps less clear but it does seem that anything less than a return of control of the entire island will leave them unsatisfied. When it comes to Turkish Cypriot demands there is a problem. This problem is typified by the recent angry exchanges between Turkey’s government and Turkish Cypriot demonstrators.  The demonstrators seemed to be mirroring Greek Cypriot demands but in their case these Turkish Cypriots only wanted to have control of the North where they live. The Turkish government response seemed to indicate that the 850 million TL per year they paid to the TRNC came with strings even though 350 million TL of that went to maintaining Turkish troops there. Greek Cypriots call the TRNC a “puppet” government suggesting that Turkey pulls the strings and TRNC government’s actions follow. This would be insulting to Turkish Cypriots if it were ever true.

March 2nd 2011 seems to be a date set to challenge both Turkish and TRNC government leadership, with gleeful and malicious Greek Cypriots preparing to try to inflame the situation by bearing pieces of cloth in the shape of Republic of Cyprus flags. In a way, the TRNC flag on the mountain facing south seems to have come back to haunt those who decided it would be a good idea to so prominently  display a flag they obviously knew would  “wind up” Greek Cypriots.

“Strong leadership” is a two-part phrase. Strength is fairly obvious in that people in control of a government, for example, set out what they intend to achieve and stick to it in a way that Margaret Thatcher typified in her “you turn if you want to, the lady’s not for turning,” speech. Unfortunately, in her case, she eventually entered a dead-end and found that she had violated the second part of the phrase; “leadership.” Strong leadership implies that enough people follow you to allow you to bring about the changes you seek.

So, the Middle East is currently experiencing the fall of “strong leaders” who were strong but without sufficient followers to allow them to remain as leaders. In North Cyprus there appears to be a lack of strong leaders at the moment and the problem is that there could be a temptation for them to act heavily in the mistaken belief that this shows strong leadership.

March 2nd may prove to be a pivotal point for relationships between the TRNC government and Trade Unionists, the South and with Turkey. Hopefully the TRNC government will have studied recent event and will avoid the same mistakes.

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