The state Legal Service was racing against time to determine the legality of bills passed by parliament on the last day before it dissolved, Attorney-general Costas Clerides said on Wednesday, as he criticised MPs yet again for being sloppy and irresponsible.
Two of those bills, one offsetting loans with bank bonds, and one on the participation of bailed-in depositors on the lender’s board, were only received on Wednesday – from the Presidential Palace – he said. Others were expected in the coming days.
“We will start working on them immediately,” Clerides said, but he warned that the lack of time could have an impact on the quality of their work.
The president has 15 days to refer a bill passed by parliament deemed unconstitutional by the executive.
Clerides said the two first bills his office received appeared to have problems.
“At first glance they appear to have constitutional problems,” he told the state broadcaster.
Opposition parties insisted on passing the two bills despite warnings that they were probably unconstitutional. Other bills were passed with last-minute additions that were also likely to come into conflict with the constitution.
“This is what I want to especially castigate; this sloppiness exhibited by parliament and lack of responsibility to include last-minute provisions that had not been adequately discussed,” he said.
Parliament issued a statement responding to the AG’s comments saying passing a number of bills before the House dissolved was common practice and some the bills “either due to their seriousness or complexity or due to controversial provisions, it was not possible to complete their examination earlier.”
Nevertheless parliament found “it would not be proper to leave those bills outstanding for the next session and thus completed their examination” voting for them on the last day, the statement said.
It went on to say the “executive authority” had sent them “a significant number of bills” only a few days before parliament dissolved with the government encouraging the House to pass them.
As a result, the April 14 session was particularly overloaded however “the 44 bills passed are a small number compared to the approximately 1,700 bills it has dealt with in its term.”
Apart from serving as a legislative body, parliament is also a political body which sends political messages to the state, members of the public as well as dealing with social and financial problems in the way it deems best fit, the statement said.
Expressing its respect for the AG, parliament stipulated it was perfectly possible parliament could, without intending to, “make decisions which possibly have constitutional problems.”
Nevertheless, the President has the right to send bills back to parliament or refer them the Supreme Court. “The final judge on questionable constitutional matters are concerned is the Supreme Court,” it concluded.
Last week, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades expressed strong reservations about provisions of the bill offsetting loans granted to bondholders with the bonds they acquired prior to 2013 crisis as collateral.
The minister said that the bill violated the constitution as it treated one class of citizens – bondholders – more favourably than others — depositors whose uninsured deposits were seized but were not entitled to offset these against loans.
Buyers of bonds, which had been issued by Bank of Cyprus and failed lender Laiki, in an attempt to raise capital to withstand the Greek crisis, said they had been misled.
They demand compensation from Bank of Cyprus, which absorbed the operations of Laiki, as the value of their bonds was wiped out. Also under the terms of the bailout, 47.5 per cent of uninsured deposits at Bank of Cyprus was turned into equity while Laiki depositors lost all their deposits in excess of €100,000.