By Andria Kades
Ruling DISY MP Evgenios Hamboullas remained defiant on Tuesday as House President Yiannakis Omirou condemned the fact that he had uploaded a photo on social media of himself at a dinner table with a platter of songbirds whose hunting and consumption are banned.
Blasting it as a “reprehensible act” Omirou said MPs “need to be models as regards compliance with the law.”
But it appeared that Hamboullas would not be facing prosecution as Attorney-general Costas Clerides said the MP’s behaviour would not be judged by court.
“The behaviour of the particular MP is reprehensible and will be judged by the people and not by court after lifting his parliamentary immunity,” the AG said.
Main opposition AKEL condemned the incident saying it was unacceptable for MPs to break the laws parliament itself had passed.
Hamboullas’ action did not demonstrate guts, but behaviour that “is not unrelated” to the upcoming elections.
“MPs and politicians should avoid actions and moves that further discredit politics and institutions in the eyes of society and the public,” AKEL said.
The Green Party also condemned the act, saying it was obvious Hamboullas “started his election campaign for the 2016 parliamentary elections with his peculiar away.”
In a statement, the party said it expected the police and attorney-general to handle the matter seriously, blaming the state for “tolerating and encouraging illegality.”
However, Hamboullas, a member of the House Environment Committee, remained defiant.
Asked if he believed he had broken the law, he cited US president Thomas Jefferson’s quote “if a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.”
Although he said he was not adopting the philosophy 100 per cent, he stated “if one directive is wrong or unfair the least we can do is fight it.”
Hamboullas maintained he was keeping the traditions of the country alive, suggesting the hate came from circles conspiring against him who were hiding behind their finger.
“I am Evgenios Hamboullas and I will not be hiring a communication specialist to teach me hypocrisy so I can be liked by some newspapers and some media outlets” he said on Sigma TV.
“I’m not going to tell you where I got them from (the songbirds) but I will tell you one thing. Whenever someone puts them in front me, I eat them. I have no problem. If I’ve committed a crime for this let them take me to court.”
The MP also stressed – repeatedly – that if he had committed a crime he would not be using his parliamentary immunity to hide from the consequences.
“I live in Limassol they can come find me,” he said of the authorities.
“I know what is illegal and legal…under no circumstances do I believe I am above the law.”
While the journalist sought to stress the irony of him belonging to a party that so dearly adheres to European principles, Hamboullas said voting for the legislation to ban songbird hunting was wrong.
“It was mistakenly voted for and we’ll change it. Should I change party? No I’ll change the law.”
Some lauded his move and praised his boldness.
Paralimni mayor Theodoros Pirillis said the absurdity of the law meant someone who hunted songbirds for personal use could pay a €2000 fine while a drug dealer may pay €800.
He stressed the need for dialogue to ensure that mass traders should be penalised but people that hunted “just to get by” and was a hobby for them, practised sometimes since the ages of five or 10 should be allowed to do so.
Hamboullas warmly supported a government plan, which conservationists argued would effectively legalise ambelopoulia hunting, and is likely to put the island in hot water.
Getting into trouble with the EU commission is an imminent risk Cyprus faces, over a scheme the cabinet approved for selective hunting of the birds with slingshots and airguns.
The scheme was approved in May, ostensibly to combat the widespread large-scale poaching of birds.
The commission however, rejected the notion as firstly, on a practical level, slingshots and airguns cannot be used to hunt the songbirds.
“It‘s impossible when you look at it practically,” the commission’s spokesman for environmental affairs Enrico Brivio told the Cyprus Mail. “It’s a very small bird you can’t shoot it.”
Poachers use limesticks and mist nets to trap the birds, which are attracted by electronic bird calls.
Hamboullas said “we should stop being submissive to every rule and irrationality imposed by Europe and if they have a problem they should take us to court.”
According to Brivio, the commission is looking into the matter but it was still at departmental level.
“Normally measures include opening infringement proceedings but we are still positive.”
To get the approval of the commission, Cypriot authorities would need to prove and justify how selective hunting will be controlled, something they have failed to do so far.