Attorney-general Costas Clerides’ legal opinion on the constitutionality of a Disy-sponsored proposal to transfer decision-making on commemoration of historical events in state schools from parliament to the education ministry will be presented prior to Friday’s plenum, when the proposal is scheduled to be put to a vote, House speaker Demetris Syllouris said on Wednesday.
Although officially denied by the party, it is understood that Disy’s proposal is aimed at facilitating the reversal of a parliamentary decision in February, by which the 1950 referendum for Enosis (union with Greece) will be commemorated for a few minutes in class every year in state schools.
The Enosis Day commemoration decision had prompted an angry response from Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci who withdrew from the UN-backed peace talks with President Nicos Anastasiades.
Challenging the legality of the proposal, Edek leader Marinos Sizopoulos called for an opinion from the Legal Service, citing the 1965 law replacing the ‘Greek communal chamber’ – the constitutional body for educational affairs in the Greek Cypriot community – with the newly founded education ministry.
Sizopoulos argued that the 1965 law granted parliament the power to set commemorations and celebrations.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Syllouris said that, although the opinion will be delivered to him by Thursday, he will not make it public until the parties have been informed of its content on Friday morning.
But irrespective of what the legal opinion says, he added, Disy’s proposal will be discussed and voted on at Friday’s plenum.
In fact, the AG’s legal opinion will be part of the whole discussion at the plenum, as will any suggestions to postpone discussion of the proposal.
Discussion of the proposal will come days before the agreed resumption of talks on Tuesday.
It remains unclear whether Akinci will agree to resume talks if the proposal is not passed on Friday.
“If we are honest about being in favour of negotiations, we mustn’t constantly create a climate of obstructionism,” Disy spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said on Wednesday in response to claims that the resumption of talks hinges on passing the proposal.
“The statement by the United Nations on Tuesday was short but clear – the negotiations resume without any preconditions, and that was the party’s concern: to restart the talks without preconditions.”
Asked to address his cryptic comment from Tuesday, that it was not a given that all Disy deputies will support the proposal, and in light of party leader Averof Neophytou’s veiled threat of expulsion against anyone who does not toe the line on a political talk show on Tuesday night, Prodromou remained non-committal.
“First of all, Disy’s proposal was tabled with specific reasoning attached,” he said.
“When a legislative proposal is tabled, the sponsors have sole say on justifying its submission. The sponsors never linked this proposal with the talks process. The view that we will see what happens on Friday still stands. It is a matter for our parliamentary group, but at the same time everyone should remember that this proposal’s justification has nothing to do with the talks. It has to do with how matters of education should work institutionally.”