HomeBuyers Pressure Group

Meeting with Yonca Senyigit

24 May 2007

MINUTES

 

 Present                               (YS) Yonca Senyigit, Private Secretary to the Prime Minister

                                                     One assistant and one minute taker from the PMs office

                                                     (MS) Marian Stokes, HBPG member

                                                     (DV) Don Vango, HBPG member

                                                     (SW) Steven Wright, HBPG member

Minutes                                         (SV) Sheila Vango, HBPG member

The meeting commenced at 11.00 am with Yonca Senyigit (YS), who is the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. YS started by welcoming us to the Prime Ministers (PM) offices and explained that the Prime Minister was unable to attend this meeting as he had a prior engagement in Famagusta, however he was anxious that we all meet as soon as possible rather than wait for him and he had given her full authority to speak on his behalf. YS went on to explain that until recently she was the TRNC’s representative in London, but that she was now returned to the TRNC to take up this post officially as from the first of June.

YS:       The PM has held many meetings in the days since the proposed protest was announced and now thinks he may have found a way forward to solve these problems. He has asked me to set up an office to deal with all property complaints – for all nationalities – within his offices.

MS:      With respect YS, we have heard this before, we were promised a committee to look at all the problems and solve them back in January 2006, nothing ever happened, why should this time be different?

YS:       Last time I was not involved, that is what will make the difference!  During my time in London, I met many unfortunate people who came to me seeking help with their problems within the TRNC, so I am under no illusion as to the challenges such an office will face. I too have been caught up in the property battle here. My flat should have been finished by February, it is not. I have a penalty clause in my contract, but do not expect to see any money; I have a little knowledge of the frustrations you are facing.

SV:       How soon will the office be up and running?

YS:       As I do not officially take up my post until the first of June, as soon as possible after that.

MS:      I don’t think that will be enough to convince our membership that a protest is unnecessary, they will want some strict deadlines in place to actually see change, not just talk about it.

YS:       I have to recruit appropriate staff to run the office, my understanding is that meetings to date have been hindered by translation problems, I want to make sure the people I employ have a good understanding of English as well of how the system should work.

MS:      We can provide the names of two people who currently work in the Interior Ministry who would fit that bill. There commitment to helping where they can cannot be faulted and their English is very understandable.

YS:       Thank you, I will take their details.

MS:      As you say the office may take a while to become effective and we welcome it, but we need some action now – what did the PM have to say about that?

YS:       He has asked me to look at the whole situation.

MS:      With respect, that does not help us now, there are a lot of angry people out there who, on one hand do not want to protest – after all they are all 50+, but are not prepared to keep waiting for the TRNC to do something.  We want you to look at the laws that are not being enforced and do something about it. The Permission to Buy law (PTBuy) needs to be enforced to protect the foreign investor. The Permission to Build (PTBuild) law needs to be enforced and illegal builders prosecuted. Buildings need to be monitored throughout the build to guarantee quality. Solicitors who have not shown a Duty of Care to their clients need to be disciplined.

SV:       Might I suggest the following, I assume the PTBuy process was designed to ensure that the influx of foreigners into the TRNC was monitored and controlled, ensuring a smooth transition for all parties concerned. I would say it is too late to enact that process; we are already here and have spent a great deal of money. You have a backlog of some 2500 applications to process, why not just rubber stamp the lot and start afresh? This would give you the advantage of being able to enforce the PTBuy process afresh as by clearing the backlog you should be able to process new applications in a timely fashion. It also means outstanding taxes could be collected to help fund some of the changes we are calling for.

YS:       We can certainly look at this.

SV:       Also, last year you offered an amnesty to illegal workers, so that they could become legal. You have also called for all persons in receipt of rental income to come forward and pay their taxes as honest citizens. So why can’t you ask all honest citizens who have in their possession title deeds that have been paid for by another to lodge those deeds with land registry? If they are sincere in their dealings with us foreigners they should not object to this.

YS:       I don’t think this will be possible.

MS:      But why not, it is going to be part of your new Estate Agency Law? PTBuy is only the first hurdle our member’s face, the power welded over them by the person who holds the deeds is paramount to blackmail.

YS:       I understand what you are saying, but do not think it will be possible.

MS:      We are told that the Land Registry Office is now computerised and the Immovable Property department is also computerised. I am told, by a database administrator, that it would be possible to link these two databases so that the land registry would be aware that a plot of land has been sold to a foreigner – would it be possible to do this. At least then a plot of land would have a registered interest against it?

YS:       I know about computers and do not think this would be possible. Anyway the computerisation is not yet complete.

MS:      Ok, on another topic, when are we going to see an illegal builder prosecuted? When are we going to see unfinished sites finished?

YS:       Again, I need to get this office up and running. It would help me greatly if you can prepare a report of all the things that cause your members problems, I can then look at that and see where we can direct our efforts. It would help me greatly to have names of offenders; I have some already from my time in London, but need more. I have the names of some solicitors that people have complained about for example.

MS:      I have prepared for you a file of case histories, centering on certain sites where more than member has been impacted by the illegal practices of the builder and/or the negligence of a solicitor. I am happy to pull together a report for you, but you must appreciate that many of our members will not name the wrongdoers as they fear repercussions.

YS:       They should not be afraid to name and shame.

MS:      One of our members has been threatened with a law suit by the solicitor he named and he could not get any lawyer here to defend him against that charge! I don’t think you realise how much courage it takes to speak up.

DV:       We are suing our builder for building us a sub standard house – he is counter suing us for one million pound sterling for ruining his reputation! This is reality in the TRNC.

YS:       But unless we name the wrongdoers and investigate their behaviour, how will things change?

SV/MS: If all the solicitors who are charged with lack of Duty of Care were investigated there would be no one to practice law left, if all the solicitors who broke the law by not enforcing the PTBuy process were disciplined, there would be no one left to practice law.  Some cases may warrant extra investigation but, on the whole, if the laws were enforced many of these situations would not have occurred and that is down to the government. The government turned a blind eye to the non-enforcement of the PTBuy process for economic gain; lawyers ignored it and other laws as ‘they were unworkable’. The people who suffered are our members. This mess is of your making, we would like to see the solicitors who did not protect us punished, but in truth the fault lies at the door of the government for making lawyers and builders alike think the law was worthless.

YS:       We will investigate all these matters, but I will need your help as you know all the problems.

MS:      On another matter, I have been asked to hand you this paperwork from the Aga group – have you seen this before?

YS:       No

MS:      It was supposed to be handed into the Prime Minister some time back.

Can you tell me if you have any plans for sorting out the Aga saga? Some time ago the government promised all these people would get their houses.

YS:       I do not think the government promised them their houses, they may have promised to look into the matter.

DV:       I am sure it was reported in the local press that the government would sort this debacle out – our members have taken that to mean a government guarantee of completion was on the table.

YS:       No, it is too expensive for the project to be finished by the government; they do not have the funds.

DV:       Might I suggest then, that all the illegal builders who have got rich illegally and all the legal builders who had funds paid into Turkey and the UK by innocent buyers, be fined for their wrongdoings. If that money went onto a separate pot maybe it could help these innocent investors who have lost everything. If the project is too expensive to complete, then maybe the government could use these funds to pay back the money people have invested.

YS:       As I said the government did not promise anything on this matter. There are many pending court cases and an investigation is ongoing.  Anything else?

MS:      Yes, two of our members, Ron and Brian have asked me to ask if the Attorney General can be called upon to release the paperwork he holds in connection to Aga to Medview as Medview need this information to finalise their take over offer to complete the project.

YS:       I will see what I can find out.  However, if the Attorney General will not release the paperwork there probably is a reason why he will not do so.

SV:       Can I talk about the Courts for a moment? According to your constitution – we are entitled to a interpreter when we go to court. I have attended court many times and never seen one, instead we sit outside the judges’ chambers, (like children outside the headmaster’s office), the lawyers go into chambers (our parents discussing our futures) and come out and give us another date to attend court. I want to know exactly what is being said on my behalf – every word – not just what my solicitor tells me in brief. What can you do about this?

YS:       I will see what the procedure is.

MS:      What exactly do you see this office going to do? I need answers for our members, I only represent them, I do not control them and so far you have not given me anything that they asked me to achieve on their behalf. If I do not go back with satisfactory answers for them, it will be their decision to protest or not.

SV:       Can I ask if you have read our website?

YS:       No, I have not.

SV:       I would suggest you do, maybe then you will have a clearer idea of the complexity of the task you have been asked to undertake.

MS:      The TRNC is coming in for a lot of criticism on the internet, we tried so hard in the past to work with the government to sort this out before it became an International scandal, we are so frustrated by the lack of progress, please tell me what good news I can carry back to our members?

YS:       I am going to talk to the PM this afternoon and discuss all the things we have talked about. It would be wonderful to have some quick hit successes – maybe around PTBuy. I will get the office up and running as soon as possible, what more can I say, I do not want to give false promises, you have had enough of those.

SV:       Might I suggest that you could get this office up and running very quickly, you obviously have a room in mind, we could help man it while you are recruiting. I think it is vital that the office opens very quickly.

MS:      Yes, we have lots of people who would be willing to help. We are mainly retired people who have a wealth of experience and would be willing to share. We could start collecting information, or handing out advice as to what people should do before buying.

YS:       Could you, that is interesting and certainly worth thinking about.

MS:      We would all be volunteers of course, but I am sure we could set up a rota.

MS:      One of the many issues we have is lack of feedback and information from the government.  We want the Prime Minister to make a public statement to the Turkish and English language press on his proposals for solving the construction industry mess.  We also want reassurance that we will receive regular feedback on all our issues.  The Aga crisis is an example where lack of information has led to rumour and speculation which in turn has caused a lot of stress for these buyers.  Letting us know that nothing is happening is preferable to silence.

YS:      We will endeavour to keep communication open and transparent in the future.

DV:      When you speak to the PM could you talk to him about the investment we foreigners have brought to the TRNC? By your own figures we contribute 40% of the GDP of the country – all we ask is fairness. We came to your country to embrace the way of life here – including your laws. We are not the ones who are in breach of your laws. We estimate we have contributed £1.2 billion over the last three years, compared to the declared £1.43 million the construction industry has contributed to the economy. Next to Turkey we bring the most revenue to this country – please recognise this fact and give us the respect we deserve.

YS:       The PM wants you to stay and invest in the TRNC; he welcomes you all and recognises that you are friends to the TRNC.

MS:      I know from my conversations with him that he detests all sorts of discrimination – but our members do feel discriminated against as they are not protected by your laws from those in your community who cheat us.  We are discriminated against in all manner of ways – being treated like a tourist at your historical sites particularly irks our members. 

YS:       What do you mean? 

MS:      We have to pay double price to get into the sites; we are not classed as TRNC citizens. 

YS:       But you have your resident’s cards. 

MS:      We do, and show them, but it does not make any difference.

YS:       This is easy to solve, I will have a word. I think this is a case of jobsworth, the message just needs to be clarified. 

MS:      Thank you that would be nice, if only all our problems were so easily resolved. Our time with you is nearly up, can we just clarify what is to happen from now?

YS:       I am going to speak to the PM about all this and give you a call later today or tomorrow and let you know how we will proceed.  

MS:      As I say I do not think our members will be happy with more words, they need to see some action pretty quickly. We do not want to keep threatening ‘protest’ – but that was part of the deal for postponing it. 

YS:       I do not want to give more false hope so will have to ask you to place your faith in me. I am going to fight very hard for you and hopefully you will see this within the next few days. I understand you position, but I am sure you understand mine, I have a lot to learn, an office to get running and if there is something I can win for you, I will. Please give me a chance, if you protest now I may not get that chance. 

MS:      I will take your message back to our members, but will hold off until tomorrow afternoon to publish it on our website – maybe by then I will have something positive to tell them. 

YS:       Thank you Marian, I too hope for positive news, thank you all for coming and we will speak shortly.

Meeting closed at 12.30pm
 

UPDATE 1st June 2007 

We were contacted on Friday 25th May and informed that approximately 700 permission to purchase approvals had been located with approximately 700 names.  We received these on Tuesday 29th May and 329 of these were new approvals and 227 had already been received and published on our website.  Yonca Senyigit also stated that the Interior Ministry hoped to process approximately 500 per week until the backlog is cleared. 

Various discussions and e-mails with Yonca during w/c 28th May have taken place and the office space has been identified and is being set up and an office manager has also been appointed.  The office should be fully functional in approximately one week.