By Evie Andreou
THE head of the Greens party George Perdikis on Thursday maintained that his appreciation of the work done by the bi-communal technical committee on cultural heritage did not change, despite his complaint about the change into Turkish of some geographical names in the occupied areas mentioned in a booklet.
The committee’s booklet, which is distributed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was slammed by the national geographical names standardisation committee, which ruled it is illegal because next to the Greek names of some villages where the committee has restored monuments, the Turkish names given by the occupation army are printed.
The booklet, that was published with the financial assistance of the European Union, is being distributed by the UNDP and it aims to introduce the work of the bi-communal committee to the wider public.
In the booklet, the committee’s work is introduced and it gives an overview of the group’s completed and ongoing projects. But what alerted Perdikis, was the fact that printed next to the Greek names of some of the villages are the Turkish names, which he said was illegal according to national legislation.
Perdikis reported this to the Foreign ministry, which in its turn asked the geographical names standardisation committee to investigate.
In a letter to the ministry announcing its ruling, published by daily Phileleftheros, the standardisation committee said that it finds the printing, circulation and distribution of the booklet as illegal.
The letter stipulates that the standardisation committee found that the booklet includes a number of “illegal geographical names given to occupied areas like Buyukkonuk, Bahceli, Serhatkoy, Yayla, Gecitkale, Degirmenlik, Gazikoy, Demirhan, Camlibel and Pasakoy”.
“The aforementioned names were imposed with military force on the occupied areas of Cyprus, in violation of the international law and UN resolutions…” the letter said.
It added that it also violates the 2013 law on the standardisation process of geographical names of the Republic of Cyprus, based on which the alteration of geographical names of areas of the republic is criminalised.
The same applies, it said, for “illegal publication, import, circulation, and distribution of maps, books or other documents, digital or conventional on which geographical names of areas of the republic are shown differently from those provided according to the law or from those included in the official dictionary of geographical names”.
“The illegal publication, circulation and distribution of the specific publication is in no way justified,” the letter said.
It added that based on existing legislation, changing geographical names of the Republic is a criminal offence with up to three years imprisonment, and or penalty up to €50,000 fine and all documents are subject to confiscation and destruction.
The letter suggests that the ministry promptly protests to the cultural heritage committee, the EU and the UNDP and that it should also ask the opinion of the Attorney-general.
“In the booklet, unfortunately, some names are mentioned, given illegally to occupied villages. My goal was to inform the government because if we do not protest, this will be repeated. This is very serious and it cannot be tolerated,” Perdikis told the Cyprus Mail. “It is odd that the UN that supports the publishing of the booklet disregarded its own legislation”.
He added that his protest as regards illegal naming of geographical areas in the north in no way affects his appreciation for the cultural heritage committee and their work.
“The work they do, restoring cultural monuments, is praiseworthy and very important. We have nothing but appreciation for the committee’s work,” Perdikis said.
The foreign ministry responded to the ruling by saying that it will take the necessary actions so that compliance towards the relevant provisions of the law is observed.
On the back cover of the booklet, however, a disclaimer states that “the views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme”.
The heritage committee said they did not wish to comment. The standardisation committee was not immediately available to comment.