Cyprus MPs urge AGBU to reconsider Melkonian closure

Cyprus MPs urge AGBU to reconsider Melkonian closure

The Financial Mirror – Nicosia
March 24, 2004

Members of the House of Representatives Education Committee urged the
Armenian General Benevolent Union Tuesday to reconsider its plans to
close the Melkonian school in June 2005 and asked that it remain open
until all the present students graduate.

Deputies from all parties, headed by Committee Chairman Prodromos
Prodromou, grilled the AGBU’s global representative, Gordon Anderson,
over plans to close the school.

He stated firmly that the House considers the Melkonian a place of
Armenian education and a part of the cultural and national heritage of

The Committee Chairman issued a stern warning to the AGBU to delay a
final decision and consider resuming negotiatiosn with the Cyprus
community and others, such as the local alumni association, over the
school’s future.

Prodormou said that in the worst case, all presently enrolled students
should be allowed to complete their education, stating that otherwise
the Cyprus parliament would view the unilateral decision as a hostile

Prodromou also asked the AGBU to inform the House of its immediate
plans on the future of the school, in response to explanations given
by Anderson, claiming that the `AGBU does not intend to sell the
buildings, and instead is considering alternative options.’

DISY MP Ionas Nicolaou and fellow lawmaker Nicos Tornaritis were not
impressed by the explanation given, reminding the AGBU representative
that the two main buildings were in the process of being declared
national heritage buildings, which in any event does not allow their

`This is outrageous,’ Tornaritis said, raising his voice to the AGBU

Nicolaou was highly critical of the strong-arm tactics used by the
AGBU to quash any opposition to the closure plan, by preventing local
Board members from expressing their dissatisfaction over the plans.

MPs were unimpressed by Anderson’s explanations that the AGBU is
considering turning the Melkonian either into a day-school, or enter
into partnership with another school or establish an Armenian
department within another school.

`I call on you (AGBU) to immediately inform the House of your plans,
since at stake is the future education of 200 students and we don’t
wish to see this uncertain situation continuing any longer,’ said
Committee Chairman Prodromou.

A scathing attack unleashed by Anderson against Armenian
Representative, Bedros Kalaydjian who had brought the issue before the
Committee also backfired after many MPs voiced their displeasure.

`I call on you to show respect,’ Kalaydjian told Anderson when the
AGBU’s American official attempted to distort facts presented by Nareg
Elementary Schools board Chairman, Dr. Vahak Atamyan, who had earlier
testified that most of this year’s graduating class of 22 pupils had
expressed an interest to enroll at the Melkonian.

Masis Der Parthogh, representing the interests of the Cyprus Alumni
and the Parents Coordinating Committee informed deputies regarding the
AGBU’s reluctance to enter into a dialogue with the worldwide
Melkonian Alumni towards finding an acceptable solution, adding that
the network of alumni associations is prepared to take charge of the

He asked the House to declare the Melkonian a national heritage
foundation following the decision by the EU to recognise the Armenian
language as one of the 54 languages of the Union, which Cyprus will
join on May 1, and asked the MPs to call on the Ministry of Education
to intervene in the whole affair.

Der Parthogh’s call for the House to back a proposal submitted by the
Green party to consider altering the current zoning of all the
school’s lands, from commercial to green, was received warmly.

AKEL and DIKO MPs promised that they would seriously consider
submiting a draft bill changing the zoning status of the Melkonian
property, in the event that the AGBU did not come back with fresh
proposals to find an acceptable solution.

The Cyprus Alumni has repeatedly warned that the real motive behind
AGBU’s decision to close the Melkonian is to sell the land and whisk
up to CYP 40 mln out of the country for use for unspecified purposes.