On Thursday the 14th of September, an open invitation by Kudret Özersay, leader of ‘Halkın Partisi’ held a public talk at the Grand Palace venue in Wood Green, North London.
Mr Özersay commenced an introduction by presenting the future vision of Halkın Partisi for the TRNC, and highlighted the existing problems within the TRNC, as well as the difficulties commonly faced by Diaspora Turkish Cypriots.
Mr Özersay addressed some of the inadequacies within the TRNC as follows:
*Education standards – Those who cannot afford private schooling for their children receive a significantly lower standard of education than those attending private institutions, thus, creating inequality of future opportunities
*Industry – The lack of industry, production, and factories in the TRNC – the lack of which misses the possibility to create jobs, which could raise living standards and contribute to the independent and economic growth of the country
*Traffic violations – Mr Özersay pointed out that in 1974, 1600 people were killed in that year, and between 1975 to 2017, 1900 people were killed on TRNC roads in accidents as a result of dangerous driving. Emphasizing that measures need to be taken in order to enforce the law to deter dangerous driving and standards raised for those trying to obtain a driving licence.
*Political bureaucracy – (i) Many instances of obtaining citizenship, passports, and other such like documents which should be simpler are long and drawn out processes which are exhausted at the hands of those who should be dealing with a clear system of protocol.
(ii) The endless access which politicians have to public taxes in order to fund personal expenditure and activities, as well as the self acquisition of land, business and property among politicians.
These were a few of the issues Mr Özersay eloquently explained. Mr Özersay then moved onto the challenges faced by Turkish Cypriots abroad;
*Aviation- (i) The enormous ticket prices to Ercan airport which are set to inflate by next year
(ii) The collapse of ‘Kıbrıs Türk Hava Yolları’ (North Cyprus Airlines), and the importance of re-establishing a North Cyprus airline.
*Obtaining Citizenship – The difficulty faced by Diaspora Turkish Cypriots who seek to attain citizenship to find a month’s long process, which should be a process of clear rules, requirements, protocol and clear time span between application and completion of the process.
*Voting – The notion that Turkish Cypriots abroad who heavily invest in North Cyprus, who identify Cyprus as their motherland, who are expected to serve in the military if the granted time of stay is exceeded, yet, these very people do not have the right to vote is abysmal by the standards of Halkın Partisi, and is one of many issues further isolating Turkish Cypriots abroad.
*Inheritance – Turkish Cypriots who have inherited homes or land under family dispute are not dealt with due process of clarity, and most of these cases are met with years long court hearings and astronomical legal fees
*Turkish schools – The TRNC should be taking responsibility and offering input into the curriculum given in the many of the active weekend Turkish schools internationally. Again, taking the responsibility of care for her citizens abroad.
And of course, the elephant in the room – the Cyprus solution.
Mr Özersay made it quite clear that according to their research (Halkın Partisi visited every village in the TRNC during its formation) the TRNC is in dire need of a government which works within the boundaries of internal and international law, with professionalism and protocol- (something I personally agree with – government should not resemble a family business).
And that thus professionalism must be applied when liaison and negotiating with the South of the island where solution is concerned, without excluding the legalities surrounding Vakif land or cases which should have been investigated which remain out of the courtroom instead of within.
Mr Özersay referred to a comment made by President Akıncı – one which I heard first hand from his mouth ‘ Anastasiades and the ROC are not ready to negotiate’.
Offering a possible future scenario, Mr Özersay stated:
…” if president Anastasiades is not ready for a solution – what is to say he will not be elected for the next presidential term? And if he is elected, will he not be ready then? Where do we draw the line of waiting for a side to be ‘ready’ before we realize that pushing for a solution which has failed for half a century will not solve this problem? We cannot remain like this for another 5 decades- and for this reason, it would be far more sensible look for a new and fresh solution as all the previous avenues have been exhausted….”
Mr Özersay did make this clear – when dealing with an issue with two decisive sides; one cannot submit a defence and desire of one single side with the expectation of a realistic and just solution. We cannot acknowledge one side, and not the other. And while it is a fact that the struggles of Turkish Cypriots beneath the weight of no solution exists, a solution can never be one with an expectation of infringing the human rights of Greek Cypriots.
Mr Özersay invited questions from the audience members and spent well over an hour patiently answering each individual question posed.
It is worth mentioning at this point, Halkın Partisi is not government funded nor do they spend public taxes in order to engage in their campaigns.
Even after the meeting had concluded, Mr Özersay received members of the public in a humble and courteous manner. I noted from his body language and composure how he made an effort to approach people on an equal level rather than with the air of arrogance one may hold when he is an established political figure.
I recalled a meeting held by President Akıncı, which I had attended at the Presidential Palace shortly after the collapse of the Crans-Montana talks. Although I give acknowledgement to the fact President Akıncı was clearly exhausted, exasperated and frustrated by the recent fiasco of these talks, I felt far more a connection between Mr Özersay and the public in comparison to what I felt during the meeting with President Akıncı and the public.
In light of the issues highlighted by Mr Özersay, I find it admirable that he has made no exceptions for the very things he could have chosen to exploit and personally profit from – for example, in the event that he would be a democratically elected leader, according to his own beliefs, he would impose rules and law to restrict any politician – including himself- from making gains off of the fat of public taxes.
On the contrary, Mr Özersay seems to passionately believe that one can only gain trust of the public through complete transparency, and that every lira spent should be answerable to the citizens of his country.
Halkın Partisi is the first political party to acknowledge Turkish Cypriots abroad and the challenges they face, as well as their isolation, past and present, which removes them from their own mother country and have somewhat been forgotten by past and present political parties.
Outside of the obvious competition from opposing political parties, I can identify one major problem which may cause an obstacle for Mr Özersay and that is the style of thought process which some Turkish Cypriots themselves have.
Some of which who are so blinded by nationalism, that they cannot see that, as Mr Özersay pointed out, a problem with two sides cannot be solved with solely enforcing the desire of only one side.
Or Turkish Cypriots who have spent their lives mixing with Greek Cypriots, either as friend or as close as family, who associate the desire of Turkish Cypriots who seek historical and political knowledge, or those who quote injustice and facts that are branded as fascists, rather than identifying the people have a need for justice and to develop as a Turkish Cypriot, rather than the Hellenic identity which has been given to ‘Cypriots’ internationally- and that this is not fascism or racism and should not be considered in such a way.
Of course, some Turkish Cypriots who refuse to see the complexity of the solution problem and choose to believe that there is a way of solving this in a simplistic manner (which is impossible ), instead of listening to one another and applying impartiality, philosophy, empathy, fact and legality and exploring the issue on a deeper level as is necessary.
It more important, now than ever before, that we learn how to address one another in this respectful way if we are to support the possibility of electing a leader who holds the value of honesty, integrity and justice.
Because if we don’t, we will risk losing a potential leader with a great vision which encapsulates the integrity, forward thinking, development and future that we truly need for our people, home and abroad – simply because we were too stubborn to listen and understand.
Mr Özersay is one I will be following with great interest and I hope you all do. All of his details are available in English and Turkish on the Halkın Partisi website click here