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Cyprus Internet Directory [ National Guards insists on controlling alternative service ]

National Guards insists on controlling alternative service

WITH yesterday marking the beginning of this year’s annual round of induction into the army for thousands of male school leavers, the heated issues of conscientious objection and alternative forms of service have once again been thrust into the limelight.

The Ministry of Defence and National Guard have said the best way to stem the increasing number of conscripts who choose to cite psychological problems as a method of avoiding service is by channelling them into an auxiliary wing, under the command of the military but not engaged in the conventional operations of the army. This option would be much more preferable to the National Guard, which has described the phenomenon of service-evasion as a “continuous gangrene for the military and Cypriot society in general”.

In the face of an ever increasing number of conscripts who opt to confront the bureaucratic, psychologist-lined obstacle course to absolve themselves from the compulsory 24 month army service, Defence Minister Costas Papacostas has announced that he is currently in consultation with legal departments of the Ministry in developing an alternative form of service that conscripts will be able to choose instead of the National Guard.

Papacostas, who described the current phenomenon of army-evasion as a “ticking time bomb”, has been working on an alternative option for some time. Plans that had originally been made in 2007 to offer conscripts the option of 30 months unpaid community service have had to be rethought by the ministry due to “practical difficulties” that had arisen.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence Petros Kareklas explained that these included the management of the different squads and the coherence of their various tasks based on the advice of doctors.

Since conscripts who opt for the alternative programme will still be under the authority of the National Guard, Kareklas said the Ministry deems it vital to maintain a clear aspect of control in their coordination, and this means placing and training military superiors in the various fields in which these conscripts will serve.

When asked whether the extended period of 30 months would also be reviewed under the new plans, Kareklas explained how “the timeframe of 30 months is analogous to the amount of time a normal national guardsman will have to spend in duty”.

“If conscripts who decide to choose this alternative programme go home every day at 2.30 pm, then this is not the same as a soldier who needs to spend many nights in the army, on guard etc,” he said. “If it is decided to reduce the overall length of army service, then the 30 months will also be reduced correspondingly.”

Kareklas also confirmed that the new set of plans were being worked with the relevant law-making authorities, and that he expected a new proposal to be taken to parliament for approval in either September of October. It remains to be seen what the actual content of these new plans will be, and whether they will be considered a viable alternative for the hundreds of conscripts who feel that the environment of the National Guard is detrimental to their psychological health.

In the meantime, Papacostas has assured conscripts that particular care has been taken in ensuring a healthy a pleasant atmosphere in the training camps, and that parents should not worry about the situation of their children. He also added that specific instructions had been handed to officers and other superiors to be “welcoming and friendly” to the new arrivals.







(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.



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