President of the House Demetris Syllouris proudly presented Volume A of the code of conduct for deputies on Monday. The 155-page draft, grandly titled ‘Code of Principles and Rules of Ethics and Transparency for Members of the House of Representatives’, will be discussed by the House ethics committee and the final version put to the vote at the House plenum.
Few will have missed the irony of Syllouris presenting a code of conduct for deputies considering his recent actions. Just a few weeks ago, he was chairing a House committee meeting when a male Paphos deputy made a grossly sexist attack on a female colleague and Syllouris not only failed to censure this despicable behaviour and call the man to order, but he blamed the woman for provoking him. Even the deputy’s party leader publicly condemned this verbal assault, which Syllouris could not even bring himself to mildly censure.
His record on transparency has also been tarnished by the way he has pulled out all the stops to prevent the publication of the list of politically exposed persons (PEPs) with bad debts. He tried to suppress the release of the list by ignoring proposals by the governor of the central bank to submit it to the House watchdog committee and fully backed the committee chairman’s obstructionist tactics, while being fully aware of a glaring conflict of interest. The chairman was a PEP with non-performing loans.
A House president who turns a blind eye to conflict of interest, condones blatantly sexist behaviour and actively tries to prevent transparency does not appear to be the most suitable person to introduce a code of conduct for deputies. Even worse, was that some of the rules included in Syllouris’ code would suppress free speech, freedom of information and the transparency it is supposed to safeguard. The code would bar deputies from giving any information to journalists or having “isolated contact” with any. How would this serve transparency?
The code also stipulates what a deputy could write in articles published in the press. These stipulations will mean that the public must be left in the dark about issues that are being discussed in the legislature because any transparency means a violation of Syllouris’ code. He may as well ban public debate on parliamentary issues, as is the practice in authoritarian regimes.
It is clear the House president does not have a full grasp of the concept of transparency and democracy if he genuinely believes that they are served by this ludicrous code of conduct.