Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

Antiquities department staff to down tools over ‘dangers to antiquities’

The main bone of contention was the status of the antiquities department - so far under the transport ministry - which under the new law would be folded into the fledgling culture ministry.

Antiquities department staff will hold a one-hour work stoppage on Wednesday to protest plans which could see the division of responsibility on cultural heritage to the two constituent states in the case of a solution to the Cyprus problem.

The employees said in a statement the work stoppage between 8am and 9am is to protest the fact that the antiquities department will be integrated into the yet-to-be established deputy ministry on culture, which would lead to the division of antiquities between the two communities in case of a federal solution.

The staff will gather during the work stoppage outside the four archeological museums in Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos.

Citing recent reports on a document with the government’s proposal on a decentralised federation sent to the UN secretary-general in April, the staff said that according to this, cultural heritage and excavation licensing was among the federal powers suggested for transfer to the constituent states.

This, in tandem with the fact that the bill on the establishment of the deputy ministry on culture stipulates that it will have responsibility for cultural issues only of the Greek Cypriot community, has raised the concerns of the antiquity department staff.

“We are unable to understand why responsibility for antiquities should be shared among the constituent states,” the staff said.

“The law on antiquities defines the antiquities as scientifically unified and indivisible and the Constitution secures them as the property of the state,” they added.

The employees said that “as professionals who daily serve the science of archeology and the implementation of the relevant legislation, they have a duty to warn of the dangers, if they consider that the interests of the Republic of Cyprus on its antiquities are endangered.”

They said that this could land archaeological heritage and its management in dangerous paths with serious, unpredictable problems.

“The culture of a country with a history of 11,000 years, which has always been in creative dialogue and fruitful interaction with all neighbouring cultures, cannot and is not meant to be fragmented and divided into individual parts,” they added.

The staff also argued that culture creates identities and has the power, depending on its use, to unite or divide. They called on the state to ponder what role it envisages the management of the archaeological heritage of a reunited Cyprus, “a country that has suffered so much from cultural divisions and intolerance”, would play.

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