The President of Northern Cyprus has fired the head of the lottery regulator after “a huge and unforgivable blunder” meant National Lottery tickets were printed with an image of a rival Greek nationalist paramilitary group.
Thousands of lottery tickets for a sweepstake scheduled in August had to be recalled, the jackpot was doubled from TL500,000 (€27,500) to TL1m and the draw was delayed by several days due to the incorrect image, according to local media reports.
The image on the tickets was supposed to represent the Erenköy Resistance, a pivotal conflict for Turkish Cypriot’s push for self-rule.
Instead, the tickets displayed an image of the National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA) waving a Turkish flag after it had captured a strategic position.
The EOKA was a Greek Cypriot nationalist paramilitary group that fought to end British rule in Cyprus, and for a union with Greece. EOKA is seen by many as stoking up tensions between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Northern Cyprus President Ersin Tatar started an investigation into the use of the incorrect image when it first came to light, promising legal action and said that “no one will be given any privileges in this matter”.
The country’s Prime Minister, Ünal Üstel, also said the mistake “could not be tolerated” and swore he would enact “necessary interventions” to prevent anything similar from happening again.
Just days after Üstel’s public statement, the Prime Minister announced the replacement of State Lotteries Administration supervisor Osman Uzun with Turgut Sunalp.
Üstel also announced that the head of the Prime Minister’s Sports Department, Hüseyin Cahitoğlu, had been replaced by Berhan Ongan.
Prior to his departure, Uzun released a statement to the local media saying the lotteries administration “apologises to our people and our heroes of the Şanlı Erenköy Resistance for the image used as a result of an inadvertent mistake”.
The de-facto state of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Turkey, declared its independence from the rest of Cyprus in 1983, following years of conflict on the island.
However, as reflected by the government’s reaction to the lottery scandal, images and discussions related to these conflicts still remain highly sensitive to most Cypriot people on both sides of the divide.
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