The Malta Independent 8 May 2021, Saturday

Mechanism to increase women in parliament is ‘historic moment’ for Maltese politics – Robert Abela

Bettina Borg Sunday, 18 April 2021, 13:27 Last update: about 19 days ago

The corrective mechanism approved in parliament to increase female participation is an “historic moment” in establishing a fairer political system, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Sunday morning.

Abela addressed the approved bill in an interview on ONE TV, where he said that the representation of women in parliament has alarmingly never jumped beyond 14% since women were granted suffrage in 1947 in Malta.

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“We want to be the best in Europe”, Abela said. “It can’t be that we are the best in vaccination, but the worst in female representation in parliament”.

The bill will allow the addition of up to 12 seats (six on each side of the house) if one gender gets fewer than 40% of seats, assuming that two parties are elected to Parliament.

Abela added that elections will not be carried out differently because of the increased representation of women, and the same method of election will continue being used.

This does not mean that men will be given an advantage in parliament, he added.

The last 70 years have shown the Maltese that unless this mechanism is put into practice, nothing is going to fix the uneven representation of sexes in parliament, Abela said.

“The participation of more women in the highest institution in our country is crucial for Malta to progress and move forward”, he said.

Marsa Junction Project

Abela also discussed the Marsa Junction Project, which was officially inaugurated last Thursday evening.

He described the junction as a “mirror” that we can look at to see what is in store for Malta in the years to come.

The junction has decreased congestion and has enabled more than 100,000 drivers to cut down on 79% of their journey time.

This has marked a radical shift from the Opposition’s handling of transport pre-2013, Abela continued, as it primarily focused on buses that were not fit for Maltese roads.

These buses increased congestion on our roads, while other buses would overheat and go up in flames, Abela said.

The junction, on the other hand, shows a wider understanding of Maltese transport and keeps in mind other spheres of transport beyond buses, such as walking, cycling and individual drivers.

This multi-dimensional approach to transport is catering to our vision of what Malta will look like in the next 10 years, Abela said.

The government will also be considering more pockets of society that should be traveling for free on public transport, and work to ensure that these groups of people travel free of charge.

He said that the junction is not an isolated project, but one of many more projects that will provide Maltese citizens with a smooth transport system that also caters to the environment.

“The environment and reducing emissions is one of the primary focuses of the government”, Abela added.

Importance has also been given to sea travel, as can be seen from the Gozo fast ferry service which will commence on 1st June, Abela said.

“We are launching this service and looking forward to seeing this enormous game-changer in action”, he said regarding the Gozo fast ferry.

Pre-1995 rent reforms

The amendment of the pre-1995 rent reforms will ensure that no blind eyes are turned to the sufferings of others, Abela said.

As part of a major reform centred on pre-1995 rents, landlords of properties bound under pre-1995 rents will be able to claim up to 2% of the property's market value in rent. This reform also means that property owners will not have the right to throw out tenants, thus nobody will end up without a roof over their heads.

The Opposition has sent thousands of individuals to court, Abela continued, and it is not in the interest of the Labour party to supply tenants with false hope that they are protected by pre-1995 rent laws.

It is in the best interest of the government that the reforms will protect pensioners and cover any rental increase that the pensioner will incur so that one’s quality of life is safeguarded.

“Everyone has a right to get their share of their property”, Abela said. “They worked for it and need a good compensation.

He said that this coming Monday will see the second reading of the rent reforms begin in parliament, and he hopes that the reading will close and move to the Standard Committee to consider and take a vote on.

3,000 people have approached the housing authority for assistance with their pre-1995 rent issues, to which Abela said that free legal service will be supplied to these individuals to give them peace of mind and ensure that no one ends up without a roof over their heads.

Appointment of new judges

The appointment of four new judges for Malta’s Superior Courts has marked an important difference in the quality of life, Abela said.

The four newly-appointed judges - Magistrate Neville Camilleri, Magistrate Audrey Demicoli, Dr. Christian Falzon Scerri, and Dr. Ian Spiteri Bailey – are all known for their integrity and will serve as a force for good to bring justice to those who deserve it, Abela said.

He said that it is an improvement from the Opposition’s judicial system of selection, which “went into the wall”.

The newly appointed judges will provide more efficiency and ensure that the institutions will do their work when there is criminal activity.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Lastly, Abela urged the general public to follow Covid-protective measures to ensure that positive cases keep decreasing.

While the opening of schools has brought joy to many, the public must not celebrate that they have “won the fight against Covid”, Abela said.

If anything, Abela said that the public must increase their observing of protocols with the easing of more measures –most notably the opening of non-essential shops on the 26th of April.

He urged all Maltese citizens to keep wearing their masks, observing social distance and continue participating in the process of vaccination.

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