By Constantinos Psillides
THE House of Representatives voted on limiting the pension privileges of high ranking government officials in the midst of a financial crisis, the chairman of the House Legal affairs committee Soteris Sampson said, defending the legislation following a Supreme Court ruling deeming one article unconstitutional.
In a decision handed down on Tuesday, the Court decided that article 3(b) of the State Officials on Pensions Act of 2011 should no longer stand, as it violated article 23 of the Constitution which speaks of the right to protect private property. The article in question called for the suspension of pensions received by high ranking government officials in the event they were re-appointed to another post after they retired. The Court decided that a pension should be considered as private property and thus protected by article 23.
“The House did the right thing when it drafted that legislation. It was at a time when the state was in the brink of financial collapse, so the House opted to correct this through proper legislation,” said Sampson, adding that the Supreme Court’s decision will be respected.
The legislation was drafted in 2011 as a response to media reports exposing the fact that a number of government officials received multiple pensions, due to the fact that they were appointed to different posts throughout their careers.
While the core of the legislation still stands – limitations on multiple pensions are still enforced – the Court’s reasoning could still apply to future appeals filed by former high ranking officials asking for the legislation to be scrapped in its entirety.
Ruling DISY’s Sampson argued that the Court’s ruling doesn’t change the fact that the House tried to reform the pension system to make it fairer. Talking about the specific article, Sampson explained that MPs felt that in the current economic climate “receiving both a pension and a salary was considered an insult to the general public.”
Asked if the Committee will consider proposing an amendment to the Constitution, Sampson responded that such an action was never considered.
AKEL – which was the governing party when the legislation was passed – said in a statement that the party will consider the ruling and try and work with other parties to ensure that multiple pension payouts will not be reinstated.