“Did they come for gambling?” asks PM
At times, the transport minister Tolga Atakan and Tourism Minister Ünal Üstel who tried to address the assembly from the podium were shouted down and left the without being able to answer questions.
Prime Minister Tatar said: “ “If there was a shortcoming, it should come out. . .this is a very important investment. . .these people did not go into the public,” he said, but he added: “If however they did go into the public, if they gambled, there was a big mistake. It is all being investigated.”
Deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Kudret Özersay said there was “no written decision or any publication in the Official Gazette for a special permit to be issued” for the arriving group.
“The respective minister had given information and a verbal agreement had been reached,” he said – referring to a meeting of the Council of Ministers.“But question marks have not ended. We were told in the Council of Ministers meeting, that it related to Lapta. It was not stated to us that the visit concerned a renewal of the assurance. I have learned that there are connections to the [Cyprus Turkish] Contractors’ Union.
“There is a need to investigate whether the purpose of the visit by these people was for another reason,” he said.
Answering questions from screaming opposition MPs, Mr Özersay said: “There is a need to investigate whether there were immigration, health and custom controls. . .” adding: “If the necessary controls were not carried out, then we first need to determine what happened.
“An investigation is needed to determine whether the people who arrived with a special permit, violated the stated objective of the visit, whether they conformed to quarantine rules and whether there was customs checks.”
Mr Özersay said that permission “had been given” in the “latest incident” because “it is an urgent need for tourism.”
He explained that the Tourism and Health ministries had been in consultation – they sent a written request to the Transport Ministry stating that there was “no problem” from their point for the people to enter the TRNC.
He said a letter by the Health Ministry had “stated an arrival of people” and that they would be “arriving into the country and would be subject to quarantine.”
He said, based on the information of the Health Ministry that there will be a quarantine period for the arriving people and based on the discussions at the Council of Ministers on the matter where it had been “presumed” that Lapta municipality was aware of the visit, he had become aware that mayor Mustafa Aktuğ had said he had no knowledge of the visit.
“The opposition, when questioning what has happened, is not unjustified in doing so,” he said.
“The Health Ministry is responsible for regulating the thousands of people who enter the country and go through quarantine. The entry of these people was approved by the Council of Ministers after being told that they would enter for one day and would be in quarantine”.
Health Minister Ali Pilli said the issue had been brought to the attention of the Council of Ministers where they had put forward the condition of having a “central quarantine” requirement “where no concessions on this was made.”
“We took on this responsibility. If these people went out, and it can be determined, then the government is responsible. This is being investigated.”
Answering a question as to whether they had undergone a PCR test, Dr Pilli answered: “PCR tests arent required for people who are going into quarantine. If they were going to go out then we would have requested a PCR test. They left the country in a very short period of time. We don’t know who they had contact with. We will however be carrying out a PCR test on people at that hotel in 14 days time,” he said.
Tourism and Environmental Minister Ünal insisted the “visit of these people was done within the rules.”
“The Contractors Union contacted us and applied, stating their request for a visit by a technical delegation of the company to undertake technical work at the spot [of the marina project].”
Among shouting by opposition MP’s, Mr Üstel reacted: “If you are against investments then just say so,” causing a bigger storm in the assembly.
The opposition shouted: “Just answer the question, where these people tested when they arrived, did they go through a quarantine?”
Mr Üstel: “They came within the rules, they stayed within the rules, we are continuing investigations,” he said.“No one had a bad intention.”
“We are talking about a visit of a world tourism market person. The Contractors Union and Lapta municipality has been in consultation The visit was conducted because of this firm’s desire to be included in the tender process and they wanted to make research,” he said.
“Perhaps there was a communication issue. . .necessary permissions were given. We did not undertake any consultation with Lapta municipality however we have been in contact with the Contractors’ Union head Cafer Gürcafer,” he said.
Public Works and Transport Minister Tolga Atakan, who has also been on the receiving end of criticism, answered: “Ever since the quarantine conditions were introduced, all passengers are entering not from the terminal building, but from the fire entrance [gate].
He said they don’t undertake research on technicians or whether they are visiting for a different purpose if they are visiting for a “technical capacity”. He said the same rule was applied for diplomats.
Mr Atakan explained that the group,” who visited for investment purposes,” had “stayed at a quarantine hotel”.“We do not look at whether those coming is a tea maker or an engineer . . .because we only look at the purpose of the visit,” he said.
Main opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) leader Tufan Erhürman said the Government has chosen to act like the “three monkeys”.
“There has been a double standard approach in the quarantine issue,” he said.“In order to manage a crisis, you need to earn the trust of the public so that they can adhere to the decisions.
“What is needed is for there to be a single voice, for decisions to be taken based on scientific advice, to be transparent, but none of these has been adhered to.“Can you imagine? The Transport Minister has stated that the Council of Ministers was deceived!What does it mean that the Council of Ministers was deceived? Every minister has their own version of events, which are contradicting!
“If people are entering from the fire gate than this is illegal.
“All we have heard is how important investment is for the country. But no one is making any criticism concerning the investment itself. What is being criticised is that all of what has happened has contravened the rules in place concerning how people can enter the country that runs until July 1.
“From this point on, we have lost complete trust in the Government’s handling of economics and health -- nor are we making any calls for cooperation. Our public sacrificed their salaries for three months . . .this was not done for you to act so irresponsibly,” he said.
Rebirth Party leader Erhan Arıklı said the “public conscience has condemned the Council of Ministers,” adding: “Workers who go South are told they cannot return. Even funerals are more or less put into quarantine. They have placed a quarantine requirement on thousands of TRNC nationals in the UK and in Turkey, should they wish to return to their country.
“Then suddenly, we see over the weekend a mysterious aircraft . . .with the arriving people entering from the fire gate near the VIP building.
“We made an investigation. The visitors are business people. They are officials of the firm that came second in the Lapta marina tender – which was the purpose of their visit.
“But the Lapta municipality knew nothing of the visit!
“I ask, why did these people come in a private jet now, why couldn’t they wait until July 1?
You are passing the buck to each other. What has happened is, treatment is being given according to who the person is. Its a disgrace. Having this government in office is a bigger misfortune than the presence of Corona virus itself!”