While in theory permission should be granted by the antiquities department for ancient monuments in the north to hold cultural events, in practice this cannot be done, Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides said in his report on whether staging the ancient drama Antigone in the Salamis theatre by Thoc in September was illegal.
Michaelides had launched a probe at the request of Diko chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos who wanted an investigation into the procedures of staging the tragedy at the ancient amphitheatre, which was attended by some 4,000 people. Papadopoulos wanted to know whether the antiquities department had been asked for their permission and how much the production had cost.
The play was a co-production of the state theatre company (Thoc), the National Theatre of Greece and the National Theatre of Northern Greece, under the auspices of the bicommunal technical committee on culture.
Michaelides sent a letter this week with the findings of the probe to Papadopoulos and to Disy leader, Averof Neophytou, who had also inquired into elements of the production particularly relating to the bicommunal committee on cultural heritage.
Neophytou had also wanted to know whether the provisions of the law on antiquities were observed when it came to the restoration of historic monuments in the north by the committee, including the monastery of Apostolos Andreas in Karpasia and a number of other churches.
Staging the play in Salamis, cost Thoc €11,723 in total the auditor-general’s letter said. Expenses included buses for the transportation of the public, setting up dressing rooms for the actors, renting portable toilets, and for electrical installations.
In his letter, the auditor general said that there is no specific policy regulating the use of ancient monuments in the north.
“Regarding the use of ancient monuments in the occupied areas, as is the ancient theatre of Salamis, the (antiquities) department considers that for the use of an ancient monument…, the written permission of the director of the antiquities department must be first obtained, which, however, even if it is requested, it would not be given as the ancient monument is in an area in which the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control,” the letter said.
It added that the antiquities department said that for everything concerning ancient monuments in the north, they turn to the foreign affairs ministry for instructions.
As to the staging of the play in Salamis, the foreign ministry informed the audit service that it was “promoted within the framework of the technical committee on culture”.
The committee was established last year by the two leaders as part of efforts to promote cultural events to bring the two communities closer.
Michaelides said that the antiquities department has not made any suggestions, “as to possible measures that could be taken, if it considers that such measures are needed in the case of the use of the (any) ancient monument by any person, without the permission of the antiquities department”.
The theatre at Salamis has been used for other cultural events but not bicommunal ones, the letter said. Referring to Turkish Cypriot news sources, Michaelides said that the ancient theatre has been used since 2005 for local events and concerts, while in July 2015, the renowned Belgian singer Lara Fabian had also given a concert there.
“We suggest therefore, that the antiquities department defines a policy on this issue too, which could include the procedure of granting permission on the use of ancient monuments, and possible measures against persons who use ancient monuments illegally,” the letter said.
This policy, which could require legislative amendment, it said, should be drawn in cooperation with the foreign affairs ministry and the legal services.
As regards the restoration of ancient monuments in the north – by the technical committee, the church or other organisations – the antiquities department said it does not grant written permissions, but that it offers its expertise and technical support when asked, the letter said.
It added that in the case of the Apostolos Andreas monastery, the antiquities department had approved the architectural study prepared by the University of Patras and gave its permission to the Bishop of Karpasia,but that it does not have the capacity to control any restoration works in the north.