General Meeting

21 May 2007

MINUTES

 

Chair:                                               Marian Stokes

Other Admin Team Members:           David James

                                           Patricia James

Minutes                                            Sheila Vango

The meeting was opened at 11.15 am by Marian Stokes, who thanked everyone for turning out at such short notice and to the Pia Bella for accommodating us, also at very short notice. 

The past week has been very interesting and busy for myself and Admin Team and I would like to bring you up to date with the happenings. 

Monday 14 May: Preparations were made for the two sign up days, Tuesday at the Courtyard and Wednesday at the Haci Ali restaurant. Don and Sheila Vango located and met with the TRNC representative for Human Rights, who was very interested in our plight and suggested that we met them as a group and explain our position. 

Tuesday 15th May: First of the sign up days, held at the Courtyard (thanks Mo and staff). Reasonable turn out over the two hours, but would have liked to see more. Visited by Girne police who wished to know what our complaints were – they were given a list. They were fairly insistent that I should talk to the PM, I told them we had been down that route.  

Following that meeting, I went into Lefkoşa with Don and Sheila to meet Hasan Yilmaz Işik, who is the President of the TRNC Human Rights Association and the TRNC Consumers Association. We outlined all our problems to him and he asked why we had not involved his Associations before now – we explained that was because we did not know such Associations existed! After much discussion it was decided that the protest should be a joint effort as our issues were relevant to both the Associations Hasan represents, it was decided that the most effective way of letting people know about the protest was to call the Press and TV channels to a press conference, to tell them why such action was being taken. 

Wednesday 16th May:The second sign up day was held at Haci Ali restaurant in Lapta, again turn out was moderate, but between the two venues and on-line sign ups we can expect about 60 members to attend. Received a call from Hasan to let us know that the press conference was scheduled for Thursday at 11am. 

Thursday 17th May: Dropped into the Girne police station to inquire about the permit needed for our demonstration, to be told that foreigners are not permitted to protest. They also requested a copy of the letter we want to hand into the PM’s office on Monday whilst we protest. I asked what they would do if we protested without the permit – arrest us? They said No.

Don, Sheila and I met with Hasan at the offices of the TRNC Consumer and Human Rights Associations in Lefkoşa. Representatives from Genç TV interviewed Hasan and myself about the problems we are experiencing and Hasan let it be known that a joint protest was being planned for Monday 21st. We were also interviewed for a report in the Kibris, which was published on Friday and distributed to other newspapers. 

We spoke at some length to Hasan about the problems we were experiencing getting a permit to protest, he assured us that he could get a permit, but of course that would be in the name of his Associations, not the HBPG – bit disappointing, but needs must. 

After we left Hasan, we dropped into the Interior Ministry to see if there was a new Permission to Buy list ready – No – there has been nothing for 6 weeks. 

From there we decided to go to Lefkoşa police station to double-check the situation regarding our members protesting, as it would be the Lefkoşa police involved, not the Girne. We were told, No –you cannot protest as you are not citizens. We asked the police to call Hasan – Hasan explained it would be a joint protest and the police seemed happier about this. Whilst there I took a call from the TRNC foreign office in London asking us if we would call off the protest on the promise of a guaranteed meeting with the PM? I said No – it is the will of our members that such a protest takes place. I explained that we had called off the last published protest on the basis that our voices would be heard – and yet although that meeting and others took place, nothing had changed. 

Friday18th and Saturday 19th May:  Preparations made for Mondays protest, times confirmed with out members, placards written etc. My phone was very busy, with phone calls from interested parties, the papers, Cafer Gürcafer, Raşit Pertev, the foreign office, - all wanting us to call the protest off. Finally it was put to us that as the government was willing to negotiate, that negotiations should take place, that they were not denying us the right to protest, and indeed would sanction such protests if we were not satisfied with the outcome of negotiation talks. I consulted with our Admin Team and other key members and our new colleague Hasan to decide a way forward. It was decided that, as our protest would have government approval if it was felt it was still required after the negotiation talks took place, we decided that this was a win-win outcome and took the decision to postpone the protest planned for today. This decision was communicated to our members, with the request to attend an emergency meeting here today. Hasan communicated this decision to his supporters and we will meet with him later today to discuss further media coverage. 

Monday 21st May:  I had another call from Cafer Gürcafer this morning, who informed me that following on from meetings with the government over the weekend his teams of building inspectors would commence work in the Kyrenia District as of the 1st June 2007. The teams would be visiting sites to check the legality of the build with particular regards to Permit and infrastructure. This is a big step forward and something we have been asking for since early last year – we still need to flesh this development out and understand the measures to be implemented when a site is found to be illegal etc. We will find out more this coming week I hope. 

Don, Sheila and I popped down to Lefkoşa this morning, just in case the message had not reached everyone but our grapevine had worked wonderfully! 

So, the situation presently is that we are awaiting a call from the PM office to attend a meeting tomorrow or Wednesday. So how do you all feel about this turn of events and how would you like us to progress our cause? 

DJ:   I think the lines of communications have to kept open, we have been trying to get mains electricity for three years and finally it looks as if we might be a step closer. With help from Sühat of the President’s staff, we are hopeful that we shall be on mains within 3 months. We have talked to everyone time and time again, finally someone listened. 

BH:   Although our campaign against the proposed hotel in Bellapais is a splinter from this group, we have had success by protesting. Ours might have been helped by the fact that we are a joint group of residents, Expat and Cypriot alike. Now that we have links with other groups here who will support our cause, maybe we should what weight their voices add to our valid complaints. However, we cannot risk another stalling tactic; time is short as the summer recess is only 6 weeks or so away. I think we should talk, but not open ended – deadlines must be set within which time we expect to see some results. 

DP:   I would like to reinforce what BH has said, the problem is if we lose momentum now – when are we ever going to pick it up again? There are other ways we can continue to get our message across – we all have relatives and friends in countries other than the UK – they should be alerted to our plight and our plans to protest – then if we do all get arrested, the story can go worldwide. One other point, while I have the floor – placards – please keep your messages short and sweet, some of the best such as Ban the Bomb, Stop the War and Vote for Women – have been very identifiable and effective. Materials for construction of your placards can be bought from Deniz Plaza Art Department – we may never need them, but lets be prepared. Also they should be translated into Turkish for maximum impact. 

RP:   I would like to see the government write a public statement, outlining all the things they promise us, with timeframes/deadlines clearly stated, to be published in the English and Local press with days of the meeting. If they are not prepared to publicly declare their intent – then I think we should still hold our demonstration. Part of me says we should just hold our protest anyway. 

RL:   The problem is they promise all sorts when you meet them and then renege on it. How many promises have been made to the Aga buyers which have then come to naught? The sites or the problems of the homeowners have not moved forward since Gary Robb’s return. We must not be duped again! Action not words. 

DV:   We have no choice but to talk to Özkan Murat, Cafer Gürcafer etc  - because who else is there?  

MS:  Yes, I agree, we often feel let done by unfulfilled promises too. But we just have to keep going back and trying, sadly some in the UK have run out of patience and are rubbishing the TRNC – but the government must own up to that criticism because all we say is true. The problems of the Aga buyers are the same problems as we all have – theirs are just with one builder, whilst ours are with many. The protection of the Koçan is important for us all. 

DP:   Have we given any consideration to asking Dr Doğan Harman to write on our behalf in the paper? He has put his neck on the block with the Attorney General for instance. 

SV:   I would have hoped as a man of conscience that he would not have needed an invite – he is fully aware of the Aga saga – so cannot be ignorant of the fact that they are not the only cheated foreigners here. But any press coverage would be good. 

MS:  OK – lets move this forward.  

1.     Can I have a simple show of hands for those who want to protest now – regardless of talks? Thank you

2.     And now a show of hands for those in favour of talks with tight deadlines, with the option of protest if deadlines are flouted? 

Thank you – the second option wins. 

MS: Can I ask how you feel about the interaction between us and the TRNC Human Rights and TRNC Consumer Association? 

All:   Resounding YES! Great, it is wonderful to have the support of groups that see the problem, not the race! Would be great to know what else we can approach them with? 

MS:  Can I ask how you feel about employing an independent interpreter to attend these government meetings with us? Sheila writes up the minutes, but she can only record what is translated. 

ANOY: Yes, I think that would be to our advantage, and the meetings should be recorded. Would it be to our advantage to have a declaration prepared to get the ministers to sign up to, especially regarding our freedom to protest without threat of arrest if talks fail? 

MS: That is a good suggestion. 

SV:   Meetings are recorded but the quality is not very satisfactory, large rooms, air con, etc, etc, we do need someone there that can take notes and then we can compare notes with them after – (not to interpret for us at the time as they provide someone to do that) it would be interesting to see how their minutes differ from mine ! 

PJ:    Yes, it would be interesting to have our own interrupter, maybe then we can hear what they say, instead of the shorthand version we get after 10 minutes conversation. If this does not work, it is time to name and shame them to the world! 

MS:  Ok, can we just recap what we have decided today? 

We are prepared to negotiate – but want tight deadlines instead of vague promises. 

We want a signed document to say we are able to protest without fear of arrest, if talks fail/deadlines pass. 

Protests will start as soon as a deadline expires without sight of a fulfilled promise. 

We are to employ our own interrupter to take minutes at all government meetings. 

SV:   Can I ask on which areas we want to concentrate on for deadlines? 

Various:                

DS:   As a founder of this group, I feel I must speak out now. We have made too many goodwill gestures in the past and we are still waiting. I am fed up with waiting, I have lost all faith in this country, let alone my savings, I am in court and do not trust I will be treated fairly. I bought my house three years ago with my life savings, I cannot even live in it, I have to go back to the UK to earn enough money to come back here and fight my court case. Mostly I spend hours waiting outside the court, for the matter just to be postponed again. We have got to fight this now, they think we are toothless wonders, this is the second time we have not carried out our threat. I for one am sick of it all. 

BH:   We do all fully understand your position DS, but if we protest right now we risk shutting the door on any kind of communication and losing the support of the Human Rights and Consumer Association, which we have just fostered. We are only talking of a delay – if the government cannot give a declaration of intent to the press following our meeting, we will be out in force. If a deadline slips past, we will be out – we are just giving them enough rope to hang themselves. 

MS:  I think we are all agreed as to how we feel in private and how we have to behave in public – I for one would love to tend my garden and spend some time being retired. I think we will wrap this up now, please keep an eye on the website and your mobiles for updates. 

SV:   Can I just ask – how do you all feel about this daytime meeting – would you prefer this the evening meetings we have currently? 

Majority – daytime better. 

Marian closed the meeting at 12.30.