Having come from Malta where there were not only protests at the Libyan embassy, but at a moment when Libyan pilots landed and sought asylum, now in Cyprus, approximately 30,000 Cypriots from the northern Turkish-controlled area of the country assembled in Nicosia joining the millions around the world protesting proposed austerity measures. This time the protest was against the Turkish government.
In themes reminiscent of Madison, Wisconsin, the protestors are angry at plans to significantly cut salaries and to privatize state-sponsored projects and businesses – and the unions are worried that this will lead to mass lay-offs. Interestingly enough, many protestors took the time to use this protest platform to reiterate their support for the unification of all of Cyprus – north and south [see my prior blog post “a complicated matter” www.flyingnorth.net/?p=286]. The head of the Turkish teacher’s union KTOS pleaded with the EU and the Republic of Cyprus [the south] to do more to reunify the island. “Turkish Cypriots will be the power behind reunification.”
In a small but important show of solidarity, Greek Cypriots also protested on Ledra Street in the Green Line [where we crossed into the north this week]. The idea was simple: we stand with our friends in the north, and we want to work together to identify and change those things that are keeping our country divided.
While the protest was peaceful, it was met with sharp criticism from the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, who expressed his disgust with a Turkish Cypriot population that wants it both ways: they want Turkey out of their internal affairs but at the same time openly welcome Turkish aid.
This is yet another example of what is happening globally: economies that are unsustainable due to bloated programs, years of neglect and bad decision-making. This inability of the leadership to identify what is working and make the proper choices – choices that will be for the benefit of their citizenry – is at the heart of the current problems in many countries around the world. In this respect, it is a failure of governments to respond to the pressing needs of the citizenry, preferring instead to engage in the politics of the moment. And no country has the market cornered in this failure – there are scores of examples of this on every inhabited continent.
After all, what is a government for if not to protect and to provide safety nets for its population in the hope of raising the quality of everyone’s life?