The Malta Independent 27 May 2019, Monday

TMID Editorial: Constitutional convention saga - A ‘no comment’ simply doesn’t cut it

Friday, 15 February 2019, 09:49 Last update: about 4 months ago

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici replied with a "no comment" yesterday when asked, by this newspaper, why the role of leading the constitutional convention had been given to President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, when it had originally been promised to Law Commissioner Franco Debono.

The former firebrand MP launched a scathing attack against the Prime Minister last week, describing Muscat as "Malta's most corrupt politician", after the PM reportedly went against his word and decided that the President would lead the convention that will update Malta's constitution.

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Debono's attack on the PM may have been a bit too harsh, but one can understand his disappointment seeing that he had previously been earmarked for the post.

Debono said he had no problem in seeing the convention being led by an incumbent President - the issue here is that the convention will probably only take shape after Coleiro Preca's term expires, which means that she will no longer be President when the process starts.

Now this might create friction with Coleiro Preca's successor - who is widely expected to be former Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella - and who might rightly insist that the convention should be held under his patronage. Vella might even make this a condition for him to accept the Presidency. And he would be right in doing so.

Speaking on Indepth last week, Debono asked whether the Prime Minister had "ceded to pressure" from Coleiro Preca and given her the post as a way of keeping her from running for MEP after her term expires.

Since the President has so far not reacted to the claims, which have not even been verified yet, it is very important that someone starts answering questions.

As the person responsible for justice reform, the Justice Minister cannot simply hide behind a "no comment."

If anything, his refusal to comment raises even more questions, such as: is the minister refusing to comment because he disagrees with the Prime Minister's decision to give the constitutional convention to Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca?

Or is he keeping silent because he agrees, and he does not have faith in Debono to lead the convention?

When Debono launched his attack on the PM, first saying that Joseph Muscat or someone close to him owned Egrant, and then saying that Muscat was Malta's most corrupt politician, the PM remained silent. When asked, by one of our journalists, what his reaction was, he refused to comment, citing "freedom of speech."

When Bonnici was asked whether the PM was using two weights and two measures - he had sued Daphne Caruana Galizia for making the same exact Egrant claim - he skirted around the question, also citing freedom of expression.

But while the PM and the Justice Minister can refuse to comment on Debono's wild allegations, they cannot do the same when asked about the constitutional convention, the decision to give the role to Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and the reasons behind the decision.

'No comment' simply doesn't cut it.

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