YEARS after it was first tabled, a much-anticipated bill – particularly among the expat community in Cyprus – regulating cremations was passed by parliament on Thursday.
The vote by MPs was unanimous.
Individuals wishing to be cremated must register their preference in life, and not after death by their relatives. In addition, in order for such a preference to be valid, a person must have expressly indicated that this preference is their exclusive right.
This had been one of the main sticking points during the discussions at committee.
The new law regulates cremation procedures as well as matters pertaining to the licensing of crematoriums, funeral parlours and the delivery of the ashes to relatives.
A cremation permit must be obtained and signed by the district officer in whose district a crematorium is located and already possesses a license.
Where foul play is suspected, coroners are authorised to order a cremation suspended until an examination of the remains has taken place.
The law also sets outs the criminal offences arising from non-compliance with its provisions, as well as the associated legal sanctions.
Speaking at the House, AKEL MP Yiannos Lamaris – also chair of the House interior committee – said cremation was a difficult subject, given the conservative nature of Cypriot society.
During discussions of the bill, the Church had voiced its opposition to cremation, but said its position stemmed not from dogma but rather from the need to “preserve tradition.”
The Church, which stands to lose financially from cremations, argued that burial serves the purpose of fulfilling the need of relatives to visit the grave of a dearly departed, adding that this ritual offers them solace.
The option for cremations was especially popular among the expatriate community, who argued for it not only on personal choice grounds, but also on practical grounds, such as the shortage of burial grounds and the high cost of expatriating a body.
Cyprus and Malta are currently the only EU members without a crematorium.