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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 31 January 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 31 JANUARY 2015 27 OPINION OPINION THEO THEOPHANOUS Forgiving debt to prevent a Greek tragedy In 2009, the newly elected centre left PASOK Greek government imposed austerity measures demanded by the dreaded ‘troika’, made up of the EU Commission, EU Bank and IMF. These draconian measures were continued under the centre right New Democracy government which came to power in 2012. The impact of these policies was so severe that Greece's GDP plummeted by a quarter between 2009 and 2015. Its household income dropped by more than a third and its unemployment rate trebled to 26 per cent. Youth unemployment is over 50 per cent. One third of the population have lost their social security and health insurance and live below the poverty line. Suicide rates have doubled. When I visited Greece last year I saw more beggars than I have ever seen in Athens. LETTERS How can a film show the exact opposite? I am writing this letter to express my shock at the false portrayal of historical events in the Russell Crowe film The Water Diviner. The film is presented as being 'inspired by actual events', but as a person whose family has been deeply affected by the genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman government during that period (19141923), I can say that the events in the movie are far from the truth. In fact, they are a gross distortion of it. In May of 2013, the New South Wales parliament officially recognised the mass killing of Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians during that period as an act of genocide. Similar recognitions have occurred throughout the world condemning the acts as genocide. Geoffrey Robertson QC has for years been calling on Turkey to recognise its past, using the term 'genocide' to describe the events. Turkey has continuously denied committing genocide, while the rest of the world has been calling for recognition. So how can a film such as The Water Diviner be made? How can a film show the exact opposite? How can Rus- sell Crowe direct a film in which he portrays Greeks as satanic, while he portrays the Turks as victims? Just two weeks before the ANZAC landings, some 32,000 indigenous Greeks living in the Gallipoli peninsula were forcibly deported by the Ottoman Turkish government, and many died of harsh conditions. Other Greeks of Asia Minor such as those from Livissi (today Kayakoy) were also victims of the genocidal campaign during that period. Ironically, the final scenes in the movie were shot at the current ghost town of Livissi, Turkey. In 1919, the Greek Army was sent to the western Ottoman port city of Smyrna (Izmir) via a British mandate, to protect the remaining Christian population in Anatolia from further massacre. When Greek forces landed, the Christians saw them as liberators. During and after WW1, the international media widely reported Turkish massacres against Greeks and Armenians. The methods used included mass killings, death marches, rape, forced conversion to Islam and confiscation of property amongst others. On April 24, 1915, just one day prior to the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli, the Ottoman government rounded up some 240 Armenian intellectuals and most were killed. By 1923, over half of the Armenian population (1.5 million people) was massacred, some 1 million Greeks, and several hundred thousand Assyrians. All these events were happening during the time period of the scenes depicted in The Water Diviner, yet Russell Crowe managed to paint the Turks as victims. The Water Diviner is a film that offends the descendants of genocide victims and should therefore be condemned. If a film depicting Adolf Hitler as a hero and the Jews as terrorists were made, the reaction would be one of shock and outrage. Russell Crowe's film is a distortion And no wonder - it's estimated 18 per cent of the population is unable to afford basic food needs and huge numbers rely on soup kitchens for a meal. Greece was the birthplace of democracy, and given the suffering of its citizens in the last six years, the world should celebrate the election of its new, radical-left SYRIZA government led by 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, who promises to discontinue the austerity measures. Greeks could just as easily have voted for the right wing neo-fascist Golden Dawn Party, which made the same promise. Golden Dawn did get six per cent of the vote but SYRIZA received 36 per cent. New Democracy, which supported austerity, attracted 28 per cent and the PASOK Party, which five years ago ran Greece, managed a paltry five per cent. Despite only gaining 36 per cent, SYRIZA came within two seats of an absolute majority thanks to a new electoral law implemented in 2012. That law introduced ‘reinforced proportionality’, under which the party which gains the highest proportion of the vote is allocated an additional 50 seats in parliament. This meant SYRIZA won 99 seats in the 300 member parliament and was allocated the additional 50 seats, bringing it just shy of a majority. SYRIZA has struck a deal with the Independents Party, which gained 13 seats, to form government. This rise of the radical left in Greece has been met with nervousness in financial markets and among centrist parties. But a shift to the left in Europe is better than the alternative. In France and Germany it is the neofascist National Front and NDP parties which are gaining prominence. Newly elected Greek Prime Minister Tsipras wants a large part of the debilitating debt, which now stands at $448 billion, or 175 per cent of GDP, to be forgiven (by contrast Australia's debt is 11 per cent of GDP). Tsipras points to the fact that Germany, the country most insistent on Greece paying its debts, was forgiven more than half its war debts in 1953. Germany was forgiven huge amounts of post-war debt even before 1953 and under the London Debt Agreement Germany did not have to repay debt unless it achieved growth and trade benchmarks. This made it in the interests of Germany's debtors to help it grow and by 1959 Germany had a debt to GDP ratio of less than six per cent. Tsipras is asking Germany to return the favour that the allies heaped upon it after the war. He wants debt forgiveness and he wants future interest payments tied to economic growth. But he is not just asking. He is demanding a reduction of debt and a discontinuance of key austerity measures. He wants to raise the minimum wage from $825 to $1,070 a month, increase the lowest pensions, provide coupons for food and electricity for 300,000 households, provide access to free medical care and scrap heating fuel tax. He has also promised to cut tax fraud, smuggling, corruption and the black market which is endemic in the Greek economy. This ‘emergency’ plan will cost $17 billion which the country does not have and is unlikely to be able to borrow at affordable rates without troika help. Whether the Germans and their European partners in the troika have enough foresight to help ease the financial burden on Greece or whether they will insist on current arrangements even if Greece is forced out of the eurozone remains to be seen. Either way the stakes are exceptionally high. If Greece is forgiven debt and austerity requirements are relaxed the other debtor nations in the EU such as Italy, Spain and Portugal may demand the same. If Greece is forced out it would default on its debt, its creditors would lose their money and Europe would be destabilised. These are challenging times for Europe. Many of its member nations are on the brink of bankruptcy and are struggling to control growing fascist movements. If Greece is not dealt with fairly and its people given some respite, the whole of Europe may pay a very high price indeed. * Theo Theophanous is a former Victorian govenment minister and political commentator. Email your letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org of history that only serves to appease Turkey and its continued agenda of genocide denial. Kon Bouzikos Victoria Vale Kostas Nikolopoulos Kostas Nikolopoulos, a pioneer of multicultural journalism in Australia, passed away last week aged 67. An exemplary political journalist, Kostas' dedication and integrity earned him the highest respect. His incomparable commitment to Australian society was evident not only in his twenty years at Neos Kosmos, Have Your Say LAST WEEK’S QUESTION: Will SYRIZA emerge as the winning party of January 25 elections in Greece? 78 % YES 22 % NO THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: Do you agree with Tony Abbott’s decision to award Prince Phillip a knighthood? Yes/No Vote online now. Go to neoskosmos.com Published by Ethnic Publications Pty Ltd (ABN: 13005 255 087) of 169 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122. Printed by Rural Press Printing, Ballarat. NEOS KOSMOS Published since 1957 Contacts Reception Phone: (03) 9482 4433 Fax: (03) 9482 2962 Email: email@example.com Phone: (03) 9482 4433 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.neoskosmos.com Advertising letters Email: email@example.com NEOS KOSMOS - English Publisher: No. 5532 Address: Level 1, 169 Burwood Road, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122 Mail: PO Box 6068 Hawthorn West, Victoria 3122 Subscriptions Phone: (03) 9482 4433 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: (03) 9482 2962 Letters should not be more than 200 words and they must indicate your full name, address and a day time telephone number for verification. By submitting your letter to us for publication you agree that we may edit the letter for legal, space or other reasons and may, after the publication in the paper, republish it on the internet or in other media. Editor-in-Chief: Sotiris Hatzimanolis Graphic Design: Peter Kelidis Fotis Petsinis Contributors: Dora Kitinas-Gogos Christopher Gogos Journalists: Proof Reader: Angela Costanzo Maja Jovic, Helen Velissaris, Michael Sweet, John Pyrros, Nelly Skoufatoglou, Anastasia Tsirtsakis but also in what he gave to the Greek Australian community through his tireless work towards promoting and celebrating Australian Hellenism. I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of such a great man. My prayers are with Kostas' family. Senator the Hon. Arthur Sinodinos AO New South Wales Elitism I can think of many Australian Greeks who are more deserving of being knighted and that have made a more worthwhile contribution to Australia through hard work and education. Our prime minister’s obsession with privilege and status is selfish and shallow just like his government’s agenda. His decision-making skills are weak and should be of deep concern to everyone who believes in smart liberals philosophical ideals. Elitism reigns supreme in this very unpopular government. Melina Smith Victoria Please note that the submission of a letter does not guarantee that it will be published. We reserve the right to edit your letter for clarity, grammar, spelling and style. Letters that use inappropriate language will not be published. All letters published will include the author’s name and location. Comments posted on Neos Kosmos’website, Facebook and Twitter pages can also be included for submission at the editors’ discretion and will be edited accordingly.
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