SPEECH OF STEFANOS STEFANOU, MEMBER OF THE POLITICAL BUREAU OF THE C.C. OF AKEL, AT THE POLITICAL MEMORIAL SERVICE IN HONOUR OF THE HERO-MARTYR ANDREAS SAKKAS
Sunday 26th May 2013, Pera Orinis village, Nicosia District
We have gathered this year too as pilgrims in memory of Andreas Sakkas. We once again come to the village of Pera Orinis to honour a comrade of the People's Movement of the Left who fell victim of the bigotry, intolerance and fanaticism of the extreme-right in Cyprus.
Along with the memory of Andreas Sakkas, we honour the memory of all the other people's fighters of the Left who were brutally and inhumanly murdered by the masked hooded men of Grivas. The list is unfortunately long: Neofytos Cleanthous, Andreas Michaelides, Mihalis Mikrasiatis, Christodoulos Orthitharis, Costas Sfingos, Panagiotis Tsaros, Georgios Politechnis, Michalis Petrou, Ilias Toffaris, Kiriakos Patatas, Savvas Menikos, Demetris Matsoukos, Panagiotis Stylianou, Nikodimos Ioannou, Savvas Thoupos, Maria Charitou, Despoulla Katsouri and Pieris Pistolas.
All these heroes and martyrs had one common characteristic: they were all cadres and members of AKEL and the Peoples Movement of the Left. They were ordinary and simple labourers and toilers struggling to scrape a living, working hard in the very difficult period of British colonialist rule, a period of poverty and contempt, to bring a piece of bread on the table. This situation however didn't restrict them to wage only their own daily struggle for survival, but united their forces with those of thousands of other toilers and workers who within the ranks of AKEL and the Peoples Movement were fighting for our liberation from colonialism and to address the harsh class oppression.
Andreas Sakkas was a poor and progressive-minded family man who struggled and laboured to scrape a living for his large family. He was a member of the class-trade union of the Pancyprian Federation of Labour PEO and was a regular seller of the newspaper of AKEL "Haravgi". He insisted on selling and distributing "Haravgi" at a time when there was an escalation in anti-AKEL attacks and terror against the Left. This was considered a cardinal sin by certain fanatical circles and forces.
When the armed hooded men appeared in a small village coffee shop in the community of Pera Orinis and ordered him to put his hands in the air whilst swearing at him, Andreas stood up to them bravely. He did not yield, calling on them to tell him what treason he committed for his life to be in danger. The response of the cowardly masked men was to shoot him dead point blank, leaving his pregnant ready to deliver wife a widow and his 7 small children orphans.
To justify the crime the armed men with hoods left a note with the word "TRAITOR" on the dead body. Afterwards, they circulated pamphlets with the accusation that he allegedly supplied the British with three donkeys and clothes. These blatantly shameful lies have never been substantiated and backed up. In the case of Andreas Sakkas just a few days after his assassination prominent leading cadres of the EOKA organisation of the surrounding area stated that it was a tragic error.
The case of the murder of Neofytos Cleanthous from the village of Mesogi in Pafos is similar, which was committed in October 1956. Leading members of EOKA in the region had acknowledged that the murder of Cleanthous was a fatal mistake. This admission of course relieved the hero's family who were in mourning, but since there wasn't any official admission from the Association of EOKA Fighters for this atrocious crime the stigma and shame of betrayal and treason accompanied the families of our murdered comrades, their children and grandchildren. They all experienced the slander and smear about betrayal and treason against their family honour.
There is no denying that the murder of the people of the Left in the period of the culmination of the anti-colonial struggle was a political crime that had a concrete goal. The objective was to mislead and drag the country into a civil war and subsequently the most reactionary forces to find the way to impose their rule in a post-colonial Cyprus, by marginalising and weakening the Left. This is what Grivas himself admits in his letter addressed to the Bishop of Kitoiu Anthimos when he says that "The Communists are our opponents whether we like it or not. It is advisable that we exterminate them as a political entity so that they won't be any more a sizable force that could with its decisions influence the national issue, that is to say as is the case until today."
If we, despite all the abhorrent plans, did not get dragged into a civil war between the Left and the Right this is to a very large extent due to the maturity, patriotism and responsible stand of our Movement which in the face of the provocations, terror and murders replied not with the same methods, but with mass political mobilisations to condemn these actions. Through our political messages and resolute and determined actions, we condemn today too once again those killings and assassinations.
The objective of this political memorial service and other similar events is not to open wounds, not to denigrate struggles and honest fighters. We consider it our duty to pay our due honour and recognition to those people of the Right, such as Makarios, but also honest fighters of EOKA who disagreed with the murders and assassinations of the people of the Left, condemning them and exerting pressure on Grivas to put an end to them.
As AKEL we have never called for revenge for these crimes against cadres and members of the Party. We have not called for the dishing out of responsibilities; nor that those who pulled the trigger should be named. Besides, the moral instigator of the crime is well known and this is important. He is the same person who founded and guided later on the organisation of EOKA B (Note: the extreme-right nationalist and fiercely anti-communist armed organisation founded and led by Grivas which together with the Greek fascist junta and its foreign imperialistpatrons executed the coup d'état on the 15th July 1974, opening the door to the door to the Turkish Army to invade and occupy almost 40% of the Republic of Cyprus to this day) with all the disastrous consequences of its actions known to us all. It is the destructor and destroyer of Cyprus, Grivas. What we were calling for was the restoration of the historical truth; the restoration of the name and honour of our murdered comrades before the whole people because in our own consciousness they were and remain vindicated! They are heroes and martyrs of the struggle for national and social freedom, and this is how we shall honour them forever.
After half a century of this unacceptable situation the state during the administration of Demetris Christofias took the decision to restore the moral order and the historical truth. Struggles waged by AKEL and the Peoples Movement of the Left waged over many years for the restoration of the name of our heroes and martyrs - struggles which essentially began from 1958 when the Party raised the issue of the need to set up an independent commission of enquiry to investigate the allegations of Grivas and his associates on the cold-blooded murders of the people of the Left - were vindicated with the decision taken by the Christofias government to officially restore the memory of the unjustly murdered people of the Left by the masked men of Grivas.
This decision was taken on 22nd December 2012. The decision of the Ministerial Council stressed that "With the passage of time of over 50 years, with the calmness and clarity of perception which is ensured from the distance of time, but also from the objective evaluation of the historical facts and from the demands arising from the critical moments our country is going through, the Cypriot people and society are duty bound to restore all the persons who were murdered unjustly during the period 1956-1958. This act is owed to the families, children and grandchildren of all those who perished as a mark of solidarity and support of society and the state towards them. It represents a debt and an obligation of all towards the historical truth."
The action of the Christofias Government to restore the names of the murdered Left fighters constitutes a move that promotes unity and is a gesture of consensus, free from any disposition to stigmatise and criminalize anyone. The action to restore their memory satisfies the sense of justice, contributes in a substantial way to the healing of wounds and acts as a driving motor for self-awareness for the people. The act of vindicating the unjustly murdered is an act of reconciliation and this is how it should be considered by everyone.
Thanks to the struggles of our own Party, but also of other democratic forces, we have left behind the harsh and arduous years of the criminal and illegal activity of the extreme-right with its fascist mentalities. Democracy has been consolidated in the country. A political culture has been strengthened which doesn't allow the political and ideological differences that naturally exist in a class society to lead to extreme situations with terrorist acts and murders. This is a gain of our people. We are proud because we as the Movement of the Left have made a decisive contribution for this gain to exist and take root. Of course this gain, as all our other gains, must always be constantly defended and guarded because there will always be those forces that are nostalgic of the past anomalies, those forces with sick nationalist and ultra-right minds who dream of bringing back memories and practices they yearn for. Fascist-type elements wearing the mask of supposedly unyielding patriotism are once again appearing, getting organised and issuing threats.
Our duty is to be vigilant towards such worrying phenomena which flourish in times in conditions of social and economic crisis, as world history has demonstrated many times. Since we are currently going through such a period, our activity against these phenomena must be strengthened even more.
Our actions must also be intensified against the attempts the establishment of Cypriot society is making to stigmatise and marginalise our Party so that it loses its capacity to decisively intervene in the political and social struggles and affairs to the benefit of the working and common people. These attempts started from the very first day that AKEL managed to win the Presidency of the state and since then they have intensified.
In recent years, especially after the deadly blast at the naval base of Mari, these attempts have assumed an organised and targeted character. An intense and daily attempt is underway, using lies and distortions, to demonise the five year term of our administration by shifting the blame for the economic crisis on the shoulders of AKEL; a crisis that was provoked in Cyprus by the banks. An attempt is underway to stigmatise people and more specifically, the former President of the Republic. These efforts are a repetition of the campaign of the murders against the members and cadres of AKEL and the Peoples Movement of the Left in the second half of the 1950´s. Then, through the slander of betrayal and treason they would kill in cold blood. Today with shameless and obscene lies they are killing the dignity and moral status of people.
The goal, then and today, is the same: to attack and damage AKEL because the modern murders know that our Party will always continue to resist any attempts to force Cyprus and its people back to the dark times of brutal and acute exploitation, poverty and marginalisation. We will never allow this to happen. This is the reason why all of us must defend our Party, the honour and dignity of its members and cadres, to prevent the machinations and attempts to subdue and suppress it. Our response to these shameful efforts should be to strengthen the ranks of the Party and the People's Movement of the Left who demonstrated through the many decades of their struggles that they lifted the sun of freedom and social dignity over Cyprus.
This is the way the friends, members and cadres of AKEL responded to the political murders. This is how we must reply today as well, in honouring in the best possible way the memory of our comrades who were murdered.
Eternal honour to the memory of Andreas Sakkas and all our unjustly lost comrades!