Antiquities department staff said on Friday they disagreed with a proposal to transfer their department to a planned deputy ministry of culture as it risks placing the status of antiquities in doubt, particularly pending the continued division of Cyprus.
The department is currently under the transport ministry. The government wants to set up a deputy ministry of culture under the umbrella of the Education Ministry. This would be the fourth deputy ministry to be established by the Anastasiades government after shipping, tourism and innovation. The proposal is to transfer antiquities to the new deputy ministry which will also handle issues such as theatre and classical music.
But antiquity department personnel said placing the department under a deputy minister who does not have a vote in cabinet will in effect reduce its importance as it would come under a lower administrative ranking.
Important executive powers which under the current antiquities law belong to the transport minister would be transferred to the deputy minister raising concerns that this may lead to operational problems in the management of antiquities, they added.
Under the constitution, antiquities belong to the state and are not divided between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. Any change as regards administrative responsibility for antiquities while the Cyprus issue remains unresolved risks placing the status of Cyprus’ archaeological heritage in doubt to be used as an excuse for partitionist moves at the expense of the island’s cultural heritage, they stressed.
Previous governments had considered transferred the department either to a single cultural authority or the education ministry but after weighing the risks opted not to go ahead, they also pointed out. “The recent unfavourable developments as regards the Cyprus problem make the timing unsuitable for changes which alter the basic principles of the constitution,” they said.
Establishment of the deputy ministry would not entail additional funds, which antiquities need, thereby raising questions as how it could improve things in any way.