The Malta Independent 25 February 2020, Tuesday

The Economist’s annual index report ‘disappointing news’ - Owen Bonnici

Wednesday, 22 January 2020, 12:38 Last update: about 2 months ago

The Economist’s Annual Index report is ‘disappointing news’ but the government is obliged to strengthen and fix the island’s reputation, Education Minister Owen Bonnici said today.

“We have put in a lot of work in our governance, implemented new legal reforms, such as the Whistle Blowers act, but it is fact that there were events which took place that affected our reputation,” explained Bonnici.

Bonnici was answering questions to journalists after his first official school visit as Minister of Education and Employment.

On Wednesday it was reported that Malta registered its worst score ever in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, and was regulated from a full democracy to a “flawed democracy”. The political turmoil the country experienced in 2019 resulted in Malta being just one of five countries in Western Europe that are classified in this category, joining Italy, Cyprus, Greece and Belgium.

Bonnici said that while the news was disappointing, the government has the obligation to strengthen and fix the island’s reputation, and he believes that all the necessary steps are being taken to head in the right direction.

Asked whether the new process to select a police commssioner truly does make a difference, Bonnici replied that the change is in line with the demands that the Venice Commission proposed.

“As part of the committee of governance, I fully believe that the changes are in line with the proposals; not only that, we also have taken a step further as we added another form of scrutiny. The Venice Commission did not add the proposal for there to be a grilling session in parliament, but we added this, and this shows that we have taken the proposals of the Venice Commission and added on to them.”

Bonnici explained that the competition will not be internal within the police force, but a public one, and therefore those eligible persons will be able to apply for the post through a public call.

He added that the Public Service Commission is an authority established in the Constitution, with two of the representatives on it are appointed by the government, two appointed by the Opposition and the Chairman agreed up on the political parties. He said that the list of applicants will be whittled down to two candidates, from which one will be chosen to occupy the position of Police Commissioner.

When asked whether it is right for the Prime Minister should continue to have the final say, he repeated that “this is an important change”, and explained to look into the Venice Commission report. "I believe we are going in the right path.”

On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced the new method of selecting the police commissioner, which will start with a public call followed by screening and a final decision by the Prime Minister.

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