Thursday, March 3, 2011

Point #5 of November 30 1963 proposal - Debate it!

Point 5.  The constitutional provisions regarding separate majorities for enactment of certain laws by the House of Representatives to be abolished.

The Constitution provides that any law imposing taxation and any law relating to Municipalities and any modification of the Electoral Law requires separate majorities of the Greek and Turkish Members of the House of Representatives taking part in the vote.

This provision is obviously contrary to all democratic principles. Its effect is that, though a Bill may be unanimously approved by the Council of Ministers and though it may receive the overwhelming majority of votes in the House of Representatives, nevertheless it is defeated if it does not receive the separate majority of the Greek or Turkish Representatives taking part in the vote.

The House of Representatives consists of 35 Greek Members and 15 Turkish Members. If, for example, 35 Greek Members and 7 Turkish Members vote in favour of a Bill, i.e. the Bill receives a total of 42 votes in favour, it can be defeated by 8 Turkish votes. Even 2 Turkish Representatives can defeat a Bill if only 3 Turkish Representatives take part in the vote.

This provision obstructs the enactment of vital legislation, generally, and impedes the development of the country. In particular, it has already caused serious adverse effects on the State by preventing or delaying the enactment of taxation legislation.

Thus, on one occasion, by the exercise of the right of separate majorities, the State remained completely without taxation legislation for several months.

When, subsequently, an Income Tax Bill was introduced to the House the Turkish Representatives again used their right of separate majority to defeat the Bill, with the result that the State remained without an Income Tax Law.

In an attempt to minimize the grave consequences of the situation thus created, an unorthodox system has been devised whereby one Income Tax Law was enacted by the House imposing taxation on non-citizens of the Republic and two separate Income Tax Laws were enacted by the Greek and Turkish Communal Chambers imposing a form of income tax on Greeks and Turks respectively. Thus, the Republic has three income tax systems, which cause administrative dislocation and give rise to a multitude of legal contentions. Further, in view of the fact that the Government has no control over the Communal Chambers, any amendment may at any time be made by the respective Communal Chamber in its income tax legislation, thereby creating incalculable difficulties for assessment purposes. The existence of three separately controlled tax systems requires separate accounting; the consequent slow rate of assessment and collection of the income taxes encourages tax evasion to a level unknown before in Cyprus. Past experience has shown that the right of separate majorities was not exercised by the Turkish Representatives because of disagreement with provisions of the taxation legislation before the House. The Turkish Members used this right against taxation Bills neither because they disagreed with their provisions nor because such Bills were discriminatory against their community, but for matters unconnected with taxation legislation.

A further difficulty in the enactment of taxation legislation, arising out of the separate majorities provisions, is demonstrated by the fact that such legislation submitted to the House requires months of frustrating negotiations.

Even if one assumes that in the future a more prudent use will be made of the right of separate majorities, the application of this procedure will always cause serious difficulties. It may well make it impossible for the Government to effect proper development of the direct taxes as revenue procedure and also as unified instruments of social and economic policy. No Government is able to carry out a programme of development unless it can also plan and control its resources.

There is no justification at all for the provision of separate majorities. If such provision were intended as a safeguard against discriminatory legislation, then it is completely unnecessary because there are other provisions in the Constitution affording adequate safeguards and remedy. Any legislation which is discriminatory can be challenged before the Constitutional Court by the Vice-President of the Republic. Furthermore, Article 6 of the Constitution provides that no law or decision of the House of Representatives shall discriminate against any of the two communities or any person as a person or as a member of a community. Any citizen has a right given to him by the Constitution to challenge any law or decision which discriminates in such a manner as to affect his interests directly.

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Turkey's Kurds & Cyprus' tCypriots

As either unitary state or federation solutions are discussed as replacements to Cyprus' 1960 and Turkey's 1923 unworkable constitutions, should we abide by "if a right is a right too many for Turkey's Kurdish community (circa 23% of population) then that right is a right too many for Cyprus' tCypriot community too (circa 15%), and vice versa." Is the adoption of this fair logic the catalyst to securing just solutions for both UN countries.