The House ethics committee, scheduled to have a meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss the deputies’ code of conduct, said they would not convene as a mark of protest over the fact that House president Demetris Syllouris has not yet resigned.
Head of the committee, Disy MP Zacharias Zachariou upheld the suggestion by Greens’ MP Giorgos Perdikis to call off the meeting. Perdikis is the committee’s vice chair and head of the subcommittee tasked to examine the study the proposed code of ethics for MPs that has been in the pipeline for some time, and was originally initiated by Syllouris.
Syllouris announced on Tuesday he would abstain from duties as of next week pending investigations into reports he expressed willingness to help a Chinese businessman with a criminal record acquire a Cypriot passport as revealed in a documentary by Al Jazeera, but he has stopped short of resigning.
He is currently acting president of the Republic since President Nicos Anastasiades is in Brussels for the EU leaders’ summit.
“Cypriot society is absolutely right in the way it sees us and spits in our faces,” Zachariou said.
He said they agreed to postpone the meeting to send out their own message that there are honest people in politics who are determined to enact the right laws and do what’s right. Zachariou said that the committee would however complete what it has started, especially on bills on the declaration of assets of public figures and MPs’ code of conduct “so that politicians are controlled and there is transparency and every citizen knows exactly who is in front of him and who to vote”.
“It is inconceivable to discuss the deputies’ code of ethics while the head of parliament is facing such accusations,” Perdikis said.
He added that any discussion on the code of conduct of deputies should resume after Syllouris’ resignation. Perdikis said that as the head of the subcommittee, he refuses to chair any meetings until then.
“As long as Mr Syllouris is head of parliament, there is no such thing as ethics,” Perdikis said.
He added this was the first case ever of MPs striking.
Disy, main opposition Akel and Diko backed the motion.
The House legal, education and environment committees carried on with their scheduled meetings for the day.
Elam and MPs Angelos Votsis, Marinos Mousiouttas and Giorgos Prokopiou of the Cooperation of Democratic Forces party, that was recently established by former Diko members, also said they would not sit in any House sessions until Syllouris resigned.
In the meantime, former attorney-general Costas Clerides said Syllouris either needs to resign, or carry on with his duties, citing a constitutional gap.
Clerides told the Cyprus News Agency that it was paradoxical that the House president publicly apologised for his behaviour and abstained from his duties but a day later he was called to exercise duties of a position much higher than the one he holds.
Clerides said this was a “a matter of moral order”.
The abstention of the House president from his duties from next Monday, he added, creates “a constitutional gap”.
“The constitution provides absolutely nothing for such a case,” Clerides said.
He said that the House president will either continue his duties normally despite the situation that has been created or will resign. “There are no intermediate solutions,” he said.
He explained that the constitution provides that in the case the seat is vacated, then elections must take place the soonest possible and, in the meantime, the most senior MP will preside over the legislative body.
Clerides said though according to provisions the most senior MP can stand in for the House speaker in cases of temporary absence of the incumbent due to illness or a trip abroad, there are no provisions for voluntary, indefinite abstention from duties.
Head of the Citizens’ Alliance Giorgos Lillikas, citing operational problems due to Syllouris’ absence from next week, calls for the annulment of Syllouris’ election as House president and for elections for a one.