BRITS PUSH FOR THE VOTE
By KEREM HASAN / Chief Reporter
BRS representatives are expecting to meet prime minister Ersin Tatar this week to open talks on the issue. Mr Tatar has indicated that he is in favour of such a move, but Cyprus Today understands that other ministers, including interior minister, Ayşegül Baybars are not keen.
Full citizenship would allow Britons and other ex-pats to vote in all North Cyprus elections, though it is highly unlikely to come in time for the Presidential poll due in October. An alternative proposal is for long-term residents to be given the right to vote in local elections for their mayors and councillors and muhktars.
The move came at the BRS AGM last Saturday, where former chairman and government liaison officer, Mike Maternahan, called for the Society to begin discussions on citizenship.
He said: “Many of us have fulfilled our term, we have invested here, paid our taxes, and lived here for many years. In any other country, a person who lives in there for a long period of time becomes eligible to apply for citizenship based on a certain criteria. We should as the BRS start discussions on this.” His approach was adopted by the AGM.
BRS chairman, Peter Wilkins, told Cyprus Today that it would be “the first time” that a request was being made for citizenship rules to be discussed for all foreign nationals, including UK expats.
“This will be our first meeting on the matter with prime minister Tatar. We want to understand what reasons exist for not awarding citizenship to foreign residents, including the Brits.
“It will be an open discussion. We place great importance on residents being able to participate in local elections. But they should be given the option,” he said, in response to a question that citizenship will automatically allow for voting rights in all elections and referanda.
“The idea is to bring it to the agenda.In other countries like the UK, for example, a person is entitled to make applications for citizenship after five years.”
BRS honorary president, Stephen Day, said although he was not a figure head of the BRS, as a former politician, his advice was to continue pushing for voting rights in local elections.
“However, it is my belief that there would be lots of expats who would welcome citizenship.
“The expat and indeed all the foreign resident community are very much supportive of the Turkish Cypriot cause and that of North Cyprus. It would allow residents to play a part in scrutiny and become more interactive with the politics of the country which they love and have invested and lived in.”
Human Rights lawyer, Emine Çolak, said that European Court of Human Rights judgements provided for citizenships to be granted based on a “reasonable time period” residing in a country.
“There is no set time specified,” she said. “The TRNC follows ECHR judgements and has its own domestic criterias as to how citizenships are granted, such as how many years a person resides in the country, how many days they must not have left a country in a year, having all the stamps, and being of good character.”
Many long-term British residents have been unsettled by the scrapping of a established “gentlemen’s agreement,” that meant they didn’t have to re-apply for residency after the age of 60. One said: “It seems the longer you stay here, the more difficult the government wants to make it for you. We pay our way and should have citizenship and the vote- remember “No Taxation Without Representation!”
Former BRS government liaison officer, Mike Maternghan proposed that the BRS lobbies for citizenship for ex-pats at the Society’s AGM last Saturday.
He called the current practice of giving long-term expat residents who own properties “never ending residential permits,” an injustice.
This was accepted in a vote and the BRS will seek an appointment with Prime Minister Ersin Tatar to discuss the matter.
THE British Residents Society re-elected the same committee to be headed by chairman Peter Wilkins.
The AGM, which was held at MC Palace hotel in Çatalköy, also saw former deputy and Cyprus Today columnist, Stephen Day become honorary president.
The other re-elected committee members are Mike Diplock, Karen Callard/Thraves, Tina Sone, Julian Mawdesley and Patricia Waddington.
The substitute members for election were Barry Nicholls, Val Clayton, David Veasley and Christopher Lightfoot.
Members also voted by majority to increase the annual membership fee to 80TL.
Prime minister Ersin Tatar could not attend the event, but his legal and political affairs director, Serap Destegül Redif, was present.
There were emotional moments when Pru Lundie, who stepped down as head of the
BRS blood donation subcommittee, was called to the stage to be presented with a bouquet.
Peter Wilkins told members of the work conducted by the BRS – stating that they had reached a record membership. He said, however, that the 2019 finance had seen “shortfalls” due to “increased costs due to increased inflation following foreign exchange rate changes, artificially low membership fees and increased translation costs and general overhead costs”.
He said the highlights of the year included the work of government liaison, particularly on residency “since the introduction of the new regulations, the team has had numerous meetings to achieve concessions [that] included reduction in financial requirements and removal of blood tests for the over 60s.”
He also said they were lobbying for the introduction of ‘Civil Partnership’ documents for couples to include same-sex relationships.
Mr Wilkins said it had become apparent, that the government did not have authority over the work of municipalities – so they had decided to introduce a position of ‘Local Government Officer.’
Mrs Redif refuted claims by some members that there had been “discrimination” against foreign residents. They accused the TRNC of treating them like third class citizens, asking them to pay for quarantine and PCR test packages not required by TRNC nationals.
She answered: “This is not correct. Turkish Cypriots are also required to pay for the quarantine. Any person coming from the UK pays for the quarantine and test. This is to do with the country of origin and not the nationality of the person arriving,” she said.
Answering a question by Cyprus Today that expats who had stayed at the Olivia Palm hotel following their arrival last month and paid for PCR tests had instead received the cheaper and more unreliable antibody blood test, Mrs Rediff said she would be “asking the health ministry to look into this.”
Mr Day said he was “honoured” to have been elected as honorary president of the Society.
Also in attendance was the Creditwest bank expat branch members and manager Figen Kaymak – who sponsors many BRS events and activities.