Letters: Cyprus rule

Greek Cypriots exiled by Turkish tyranny in northern Cyprus
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The Independent Online

Sir: Regarding the article on Cyprus (16 August), I wish to point out that the "workable" UN plan already on the table was rejected by the Greek Cypriot people because it overwhelmingly favoured the illegal occupiers of the island who, of course, voted yes.

And certainly the northern part of the island retains its charm; we know that well, as Greek Cypriots whose houses are being occupied by foreigners.

Greek Cypriots living in exile are only allowed to visit their former homes but not allowed to remain on their own land for fear of being imprisoned by an illegal regime whose 30,000 or so troops remain. We are exiles whose fathers and forefathers worked unstintingly to acquire land for their children and who are barred from returning to their rightful homes.

There are still Greek Cypriots living under the tyranny of the Turkish in their homes in the north of the island. But their children were not allowed to remain at school after the age of 12 so their parents had no choice but to let them move to live with relatives in the south of the island to continue their education. They were not allowed to return home to be with their parents and have had to make their homes in the south of the island or abroad.

Turkey wants to be a member of the EU, but how can this be possible while it illegally occupies our land. We are ageing exiles but we have children and grandchildren who will not give up the struggle to gain their human rights and return to their land.

Now we want the UN to think again and work on a fairer Annan plan.



Honours degrees not earned

Sir: If it is true that the standard of A-levels is higher than it has ever been why have there been so many reports in the past year or so about the crisis of literacy in higher education and the shocking inability of many undergraduates to write competent English?

Everyone in higher education knows this to be true (though regrettably few have the courage to say so) and they also know that behind this lurks another truth that is waiting to be unmasked: that many students getting upper second-class honours degrees have not earned them.

This is not a matter of a sterile debate between cartoon characters labelled "progressive" and "reactionary", or "elitist" and "inclusive". Nor do cheap gibes about people wanting to put the clock back to the 1950s help. It is simply a matter of acknowledging that education is about giving young people the intellectual resources and power that the pontificators and leader writers made damned sure they in their day got hold of.

If we all pretend that the emperor is wearing a dazzling set of new robes then the only victims are the young people themselves who are being tricked and let down by us, cheated out of a legitimate entitlement in a democratic society.



Sir: I am surprised that with relation to A-level grades the examining bodies have not moved to the American system of percentiles. A student given a grading of 90 percentile would know that he/she was in the top 10 per cent of students taking that particular paper.

Similarly, someone given a 40 percentile standing would know that 60 per cent of students got a higher grade and 40 per cent a lower grade. This would enable the universities to differentiate easily between students by knowing their relative standing.

It could also mean students taking "easier options" to get an advantage by obtaining an A grade may find universities prefer a student with a higher percentile standing in a "more difficult" subject, even though the grade could have been lower.

Finally, it would stop this constant, annual, senseless bickering over whether or not standards are falling.



Sir: I looked in vain for any mention in the coverage of A-level results of the fact that a significantly higher proportion of students in Northern Ireland achieved A grades at A-level (32.4 per cent) compared with those in either Wales (23.9 per cent) or England (23.8 per cent).

This is not a new pattern; Northern Ireland students consistently outperform their contemporaries in the the other two countries. Why is this not of interest and the reasons analysed and assessed?



Cameron plan is misguided

Sir: The report of David Cameron's speech setting out his proposals that local authority and housing association tenants should be able to convert their rents to mortgages (18 August) induced a sense of deja vu.

Such a scheme was introduced in 1993 and had to be abolished in 2004 due to low take-up rates. There were fewer than 100 purchases based on rent-to-mortgage each year. Reintroduction of a failed scheme is hardly a dazzling policy innovation, and is anyway misguided.

The social rented sector has declined in size and status, primarily because of the sale of 2.45 million properties under the right to buy since 1980. Currently, more than 60 per cent of social tenants are entitled to housing benefit due to unemployment and low incomes. The proposed scheme would cause further indebtedness of those least able to afford it, as well as leading to a complicated system of partial sales and re-purchases between landlords and tenants.

Attempts to boost owner-occupation in this way would also reduce the already small pool of social housing available for those genuinely in need. Mr Cameron's advisers need to think again.



Apologies needed, not pardons

Sir: By no means all of the 306 men shot at dawn in the First World War "could not measure up to the appalling reality" (Comment, 18 August). The issue of justice for them cannot in the end be determined without scrutiny of individual cases.

One case that should be examined is that of Sergeant John (Jack) Wall, 3 Bn Worcestershire Regiment), shot at Poperinghe at 5.25am on 6 September 1917 at the age of 21, after five years of blameless, indeed exemplary, service. I challenge anyone to find him guilty of cowardice or desertion, because the evidence against him is so meagre (to put it at its best or worst). He and his family are owed not a pardon but an apology. Indeed, it is time for the British establishment to beg the forgiveness of the families they have so cruelly wronged.



Welcome news about the Thames

Sir: The anti-flood plans to deepen the Thames will be received with shouts of welcome in at least one particular neck of the woods, namely the borough of Spelthorne (comprising Staines and Ashford, Middlesex). Here, we bore the brunt of the 2003 floods, and every winter there has been a fear of reoccurrence.

I note that the plans come from the well-respected Environment Agency rather than the now universally despised Thames Water. The EA performed well in a tight situation in 2003 and I am sure folk round here will have every confidence that their proposals are well-based and sensible.

One extra thought. It is to be hoped the three options are not mutually exclusive. In the context of my local area I would guess that for optimum defence we will need elements of all.



Bird behaviour echoes our lives

Sir: In bed, we watch vantage points in our garden, which birds take up from 7am on and fight for. The other morning's contest started with a crow taking up position on the top arm of a television aerial, normally occupied by magpies.

They sent in an attack squad of four to repulse the interloper, surrounding him and probing his exposed parts from different directions until he flew away. A family squabble then ensued to determine who among them would occupy the centre of the top level. This sorted, three flew away leaving the victor in position but he was ousted by a dove who had been watching.

I saw the birds waiting, got up and dressed, broke four slices of wholemeal bread in water and cut an apple into small pieces for the communal breakfast.

As I spread it on the lawn,the starlings, who had been invisible, appeared as if by magic, and waited for me to go, then swarmed down and vacuumed the lawn, leaving only crumbs for our resident small birds.

Isn't that just like life?



Merciless torrent of new regulations

Sir: Nick Clegg has not told the whole tale ("Labour crime spree", 16 August). Every two and a half hours, every day of the year, the Government makes a new regulation. From 1998 to 2004, Tony Blair's civil servants have made 24,468 new regulations, an average of 3,495 regulations each year, or 9.57 per day.

Mercilessly, the torrent of statutory instruments pours out - "Do this", "Don't do that", "Pay up" - and even if you have never heard of the regulation you must obey, or face fines and/or imprisonment.

And these figures do not include Acts of Parliament, or the fantastically detailed rules superimposed by bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive, or the mass of local authority regulations and byelaws, often more draconian and comprehensive than the central government regulations.

Most people do not realise that many of the Acts of Parliament are merely "enabling" Acts, which allow bodies such as the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive to make their own regulations without supervision or control.

Some of these regulations are truly necessary, many are paternalistic interference with daily life, most are ill-conceived and ill-constructed, and a large number are designed merely to get more money for the Government through purchasing licences and certificates.

Does a country such as England really need this detailed determination of our every action? Are we so stupid and corrupt that we must be dictated to in every aspect of our lives?

It is wise to remember that the imposition of excessive legislation is the first weapon of every aspiring dictator.



Sir: David Wilson (Opinion, 16 August) seems to think that because the case is proved that the Government has introduced too many criminal offences, that all the changes the Government has made to the criminal justice system are bad.

He states, without evidence, that Anti Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) "went wrong almost immediately".

In Manchester, the serving of hundreds of Asbos has given individuals and communities real protection from violent thuggery and other forms of anti-social behaviour, precisely the kind of support that the state should be giving to our poorer communities.

I have been proud as a Labour candidate to put the introduction of the Crime and Disorder Act, which introduced Asbos, in my election material as a major reason for voting Labour.



Browned off

Sir: Anybody who can be bothered to look at Cooper Brown's website will discover that other than being bald (probably shaves his head) his two other major faults are that he comes from Eureka, California and he suffers from SMS (Small Man Syndrome) as he is only 5ft 6ins. Because his tastes in music, TV, films, reading, and probably clothes are mostly crap, I think he should be pitied rather than vilified. He also has a lot of dubious friends. Oh well, at least Tracy Emin is away. Count your blessings.



Sir: While Cooper Brown's contributions to The Independent may be criminally absurd, Barry Barnett unfairly sticks the boot in (Letters, 18 August) with his accusation of "an obviously criminal act" in Cooper's viewing of an "obviously pirated" movie. I am sure a man as well-connected as Cooper has access to legitimate pre-release films. In any case, while it is an offence to distribute unauthorised DVDs and the like, the watching of such is not prohibited by criminal law. So breathe out, Cooper. On this occasion, the Feds have been stood down.



Safer flying

Sir: There is nothing new about passenger-profiling. My neighbours have an Irish surname. During the 1970s and 1980s, they were consistently selected for security checks while travelling by air. It is unfortunate for most Asian travellers that a handful of their fellows have branded them potential terrorists. We should have passenger-profiling if it makes air travel safer for all passengers, including those from Asia.



Light relief

Sir: I hope the call for the introduction of sharia law by our Muslim neighbours will be answered in a positive way by our government, who seem keen to increase religious diversity by approving more non-secular schools. It can only then be a matter of time before our Jamaican neighbours of the Rastafarian faith demand an extension of rasta law so they can enjoy the sacraments of that faith without feeling the heavy hand of the law on their shoulder every time they light up a spliff.



Writer wronged

Sir: Alexei Sayle pokes fun in his column (Extra, 18 August) at "fat scousers" who wanted to say hello to Chris Ryan, author of Bravo Two Zero for not knowing Chris Ryan was not his real name. Quite, but Chris Ryan did not write Bravo Two Zero: that was Andy McNab.



What's 10 years?

Sir: I was delighted to see my 5-Minute Interview (19 August), but I am 66, not 56. The mistake was mine, not yours. I said I had greatly enjoyed the 40 years since I was 16. Actually, it has been 50 years. Maths was never my strength and anyway, how time flies when you are enjoying yourself.