The contested bill voted into law last April transferring the power to set school celebrations from parliament to the government is unconstitutional Attorney-General Costas Clerides said before the Supreme Court plenum on Monday.
Although on the face of it, the law supposedly gave the executive the decision-making power, Clerides argued a specific clause in the law actually compromised the separation of powers imposed by the constitution. The contested clause stipulates the education ministry would be tasked with decision-making over school holidays and in-class commemorations “following consultation with” the House education committee.
It was passed into law as a face saving move after deputies in February voted to introduce an annual commemoration in public schools of the January 1950 ‘Enosis’ (Union) referendum, in which 96 per cent of Greek Cypriots voted their preference for the island to be annexed to Greece.
Tabled by far-right party Elam, it prompted outrage within the Turkish Cypriot community with the leader Mustafa Akinci, withdrawing from the peace talks until “the mistake is corrected”.
Consequently, Disy tabled the proposal which outlined that the decision-making power should lie with the education ministry. Passed in to law, it served to restart the talks at the time.
But Clerides questioned why parliament should have a decisive role on executive powers through consultation saying “this is a right it does not have because it does not belong to it.”
“It is our position that the new provisions on using regulations are unconstitutional and violate the separation of powers as well as other articles of the constitution.”
The law gives parliament an indirect – yet clear – role in a matter that concerns executive powers, Clerides added and instead of solving a problem parliament itself created, it chose to completely intervene in executive powers through the contested bill.
The supreme court will be hearing parliament’s attorney Polys Polyviou defending the legislation at midday on Tuesday.
It is understood President Nicos Anastasiades had referred the bill to supreme court after seeking the legal opinion of the AG.