INTERIOR Minister Socratis Hasikos has withdrawn the provision from a law amendment on the protection and management of wild birds and game that stipulates granting learners’ licences to 14-year-olds, Greens MP Charalambos Theopemptou said on Friday.
Theopemptou, who is also the deputy head of the House Environment committee, told the Cyprus Mail that Hasikos withdrew the provision in a letter on Friday.
The reasons of the withdrawal were not immediately available, as the letter in question was not made public.
The news emerged after the joint meeting of the House Environment and Human Rights committees, scheduled for next Wednesday, was cancelled, as the law amendment will now be discussed only by the environment committee, on the same day.
The interior ministry had said last week that it will table before parliament a law amendment to grant 14-year-olds learner licences. The move was deemed necessary, it said, to control the way the youth are learning about hunting as a sport because they usually learn from their fathers or other licenced hunters, which is an illegal practice.
The proposal provides that interested teenagers will be afforded a licence only if they pass an exam that follows obligatory courses on the ecology of hunting, the rules governing the conduct of hunting, as well as the safe storage, transport and use of guns.
The ministry said that the proposed legislation does not have the slightest connection with the possession of weapons, but concerns exclusively the possibility of granting a learner’s hunting licence to persons under 18. The legal age limit for gun possession, the ministry said, will still be 18.
The House Human Rights committee had requested last week to discuss the amendment jointly with the environment committee, as it was directly linked with children’s rights. As, however, the provision in question was withdrawn, the issue is to be discussed only by the House Environment committee.
Among the people invited to participate in the joint meeting on Wednesday were the Children’s Rights Commissioner Leda Koursoumba and representatives of welfare associations, but due to the withdrawal of the provision in question, “it is not necessary for them to be present,” a notice on the parliament’s website said.
The move comes after strong reaction from political parties and groups.
Commissioner Koursoumba had expressed concerns on Tuesday as to the provision and said that any decision should be based on whether 14-year-olds are mature enough to handle a weapon.
Such an evaluation, she said, should first consider whether the maturity and training of 14-year-olds allows them to use responsibly a hunting rifle in a way so as not to harm themselves or others.
The Animal Party said on Friday that the government should in fact withdraw altogether the bill in question, as well as a bill on the creation of places to train dogs with live game, as they disagree with their provisions.
The bills stipulate that the Game and Fauna service and the police should be given the authority to issue fines to all hunters breaking the law. This, the party said, would mean that poachers will not be reported for their offences, nor will they appear before court.
They are also against the provision to allow falconry in Cyprus, as they argue, we lack the proper infrastructure on the island. “These predators have to be trained properly, there is a welfare issue, and we don’t know how they will hunt and who will be in charge”. They could also pose a threat to small children, the party said.
The party also questions the provision which allows the use of fake game and equipment producing bird sounds, as they said, these methods are now illegal, and are baffled as to why the Game and Fauna service would want to legalise them.