Fifty-seven years after Cyprus gained independence from Britain there are still laws referring to the queen instead of a president, MPs heard on Wednesday, as they discussed the need to enable the office of the law commissioner to produce more work.
Chairman of the House institutions committee, Zaharias Zahariou, said a lot had to be done to improve the department, created in 1971 and tasked with translating legislation from English, propose new laws, assist in processing bills, and modernising legislation in general.
There are still laws referring to the Queen of England instead of the President of the Republic, he said.
Law Commissioner Leda Koursoumba told MPs that the office did not perform as well as she wanted, mainly because of staff shortages.
It started with 10 legal experts in 1971 and currently had no permanent legal advisers in its employment.
“There are three on open ended contracts who cannot travel abroad for further training — it is a sector that needs such training – and they are forced to buy services from the private sector,” Zahariou said.
The manner in which the system of buying services operates presents difficulties in completing tasks, and the fact that Koursoumba also acts as child commissioner is another drawback, he added.
“We are talking about specialised jobs, lawyers educated in producing laws, knowledge of international treaties, having adequate background,” the committee chairman said.
He added that expert staff must be hired if the office is to function properly.
“There should have been two commissioners. One for law, the other for the protection of children’s rights.”
Akel MP Aristos Damianou said other countries had law commissions that oversee law and constitutional reviews.
“Not only do we not have such commissions, but even the law commissioner institution is under-performing,” he said.
Koursoumba asked MPs for help in reinforcing her office with the proper personnel to be able fulfil its duties.
“It may be considered a small issue but it is not,” Damianou said. “All the problems we face concerning the modernisation and improvement of laws relate to the ability, or inability, of the law commissioner’s office to carry out its task.”