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    Here’s what I think: President Erdoğan’s Good News

    Much was made in the run up to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Cyprus of the apparent “good news” he was to bring with him. Rumours were rife of what he was going to announce at the Turkish Cypriot Parliament on Monday, with Deputy Prime Minister Erhan Arıklı even touting a potential name change from the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” name used since 1983. Some were hoping for international recognition by other countries, but in any case it was never going to be Erdoğan’s place to announce that.

    Here's what I think: President Erdoğan's Good News 1
    Tom Cleaver

    In the end, the news was less dramatic than that. In front of a Parliament missing the delegations of CTP and TDP who chose not to attend his speech, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the imminent construction of a new Presidential Palace and a new Parliament building for the Turkish Cypriots. The new buildings are going to be located in Metehan, on the western edge of Nicosia. Of course, this is a gift, and one should be grateful for gifts, but I can’t help feeling that this project is not the correct course of action at this time. I have two reasons for this.

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    First of all, there are so many different parts of Cyprus’ infrastructure which I feel should take priority when it comes to investment. This is a place that doesn’t have a coherent public transport system, and where many people still live in poverty. I found this to be most striking on Erdoğan’s visit to the walled city after his speech in Parliament. In the walled city live a lot of immigrants from eastern Turkey and their descendants – they love Erdoğan, and treated him like a rock star when he arrived. They are also some of the poorest people on this island.

    I also live in the walled city (though I’m doing alright, thanks), and it is clear to see that their living conditions are poor and often crowded and unclean, many of their houses are close to derelict, and most of them have not had access to a good education. In my opinion these people, and this area, are more in need of this investment than government buildings, and they would be incredibly grateful for it. I am of course aware that a government can do more than one thing at once, but I think that new government buildings.

    To move ıt to Metehan would be to do away wıth the hıstory of the place

    My second point is more ideological, but one I would still like to make. I am of the opinion that where possible, a government should be in touch with its people, both physically and metaphorically. I like how the Presidential Palace is in the walled city, and that just outside its gates there are ordinary people going about their lives. I like how the Parliament building is also close to the city centre, and how the centre of power of this is place is slap bang in the middle of town.

    I cant help but feel that moving the Presidential Palace and Parliament all the way to Metehan would distance power from the people, and also detract from the history of both institutions. Metehan is on the edge of the city, and given the existence and placement of Cyprus’ dividing line is pretty well cut off from the rest of the city. Furthermore, what of the historical context? The Presidential Palace was home to Dr. Fazıl Küçük, to Rauf Raif Denktaş, and in more recent times to Talat, to Eroğlu, and to Akıncı – and it was good enough for all of them. Akıncı made it quite clear in a statement last week that as far as he was concerned the current Palace was in good condition, and though he is embittered by his election defeat, his word is not worthless.

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    Additionally, it was on the steps of the current Parliament building that Rauf Raif Denktaş proclaimed an independent Turkish Cypriot state for the first time to adoring crowds filling the streets in front of it. Unlike the Presidential Palace, the Parliament building itself is in need of renewal, but there is nothing at all wrong with the location. To move it to Metehan would be to do away with the history of the place, which itself tells part of the story of the people of this island.

    That is what sums this up for me. The current Presidential Palace and Parliament buildings are steeped in the history of this place, and are located exactly where I would want them to be. I don’t want them to be taken out of the heart of Nicosia, and I don’t want money to be spent when it doesn’t need to be, and when it could be better spent elsewhere.

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