By Poly Pantelides
A NUMBER of lawmakers have submitted a bill aiming to ban the publication, sale or distribution of geographical books, maps or documents containing the unofficial names of places in the occupied north.
Head of parliament’s legal affairs committee and one of the bill’s signatories, said that all stakeholders – including police – have agreed that the non-standard use of place names– towns, villages, or geographical locations – must be criminalised.
This entails banning the publishing, circulating, and distribution and offer of maps, books and documents with non-official place names. Soteris Sampson, part of ruling party DISY, said the wilful and wrong use of official names harmed the country’s cultural identity, “occupied or not”.
The bill that submitted to parliament wants to criminalise the commercial use of any place name other than the ones in the gazetteer officially submitted to the United Nations decades ago in 1987 containing the official Greek-language and Turkish-language place names.
Other MPs lamented the sale of books referring to the post-1974 place name versions.
One of Turkey’s crimes “is changing place names,” one of the bill’s signatories, the independent Zacharias Koulias said. He added that a few days ago a Larnaca bookshop was selling “a multitude of books” – presumably with non-standard place names – as were a number of petrol stations. “This very serious issue concerning Turkey’s organised policy of conquest,” he said.
Although the Republic of Cyprus has theoretical jurisdiction over the whole of the island, lawmakers cannot enforce the law in the ‘TRNC’ that does not accept the Republic’s authority. The ‘TRNC’ refers to many areas in the north by its own versions, especially when there was no prior Turkish language equivalent before the 1974 Turkish invasion. Many maps and guidebooks now include two versions of a place name: a Greek language or Greek language transliteration and a Turkish-language version, which is not always in the official registrar.
AKEL MP Aristos Damianou hailed his colleagues’ initiative as “sending a clear political message that we will not tolerate any further pillaging of our cultural heritage”.
The state’s legal services were not present yesterday to discuss the bill.
Meanwhile, the committee proposed extending a deadline until the end of the year on possible legal action against debtors who fall back on their obligations.
Lawmakers said they would not be giving any more extensions. The government had wanted to extend the deadline until June 2014.
The committee members also gave their okay to regulation certifying the use of electronic signatures to enable people to effectively sign their names electronically.