ND leader Meimarakis attacks education minister
Main opposition New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis on Tuesday strongly criticised the statements made by Education Minister Nikos Filis regarding the Pontic Genocide, calling it a “ruthless challenge to national memory and the decisions of the Greek Parliament.”
Meimarakis said the minister’s statements during a talk show on Monday night – in which Filis suggested that “ethnic cleansing” was a more accurate term than “genocide” to describe the massacres of the Pontic Greeks by Turks – were in direct contravention of the Greek Parliament’s decision in 1994 to officially recognise the Pontic Genocide and establish May 19 as a day to commemmorate the genocide of the Greeks in the region.
“After 21 years, the education minister sets aside that decision and denies the Pontic Genocide, claiming that he adopted this position as a journalist,” Meimarakis said. “Fixations and personal obsessions cannot overturn Greek history,” he added, and noted that the prime minister was obliged to adopt a position on Filis’ “slip”.
The government’s junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) also expressed its opposition to Filis’ position, in a statement made by the party’s spokeswoman Marina Chrysoveloni.
“We say that the Independent Greeks do not adopt the minister’s statements. We consider that we do not have the right to disregard the planned and tragic uprooting of thousands of people that were sacrificed in a violent way,” she added.
In defence of Filis, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Amanatidis told reporters that “academic approaches can be freely expressed in a democracy,” and rejected ND’s criticism as ‘jingoism’.
“The government’s position is known and publicly expressed, both through the statement of the former government spokesman on May 19, 2015 and with the addresses on the corresponding days commemorating the Pontic Genocide in the past,” he said.
Sources at the education ministry said the minister’s statement was a personal view on a purely academic level and one he had expressed in the past, while he did not dispute Greece’s official position on the issue.
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