The Malta Independent 22 September 2021, Wednesday

Speaker, Clerk of the House describe Repubblika judicial protest as ‘unfounded’, ‘baseless’

Tuesday, 3 August 2021, 18:09 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Speaker and Clerk of the House have hit back at the NGO Repubblika, describing a protest they had filed for not being allowed into Parliament last week as “unfounded” and “baseless.”

In a counter-protest filed on Tuesday, the Speaker and Clerk said that they were justified in not allowing people to enter the Strangers’ Gallery and refuted allegations that they were scheming to bar the public from following proceedings.

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The counter-protest was responding to a judicial protest filed by Repubblika activists after they were refused entry to Parliament to follow the sitting which discussed the report of the public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

In the protest, the complainants argued that the Covid-19 pandemic was being used as a “weak excuse” to block citizens from observing the debates.

However, the Speaker and Clerk pointed out that attendance in Parliament is up to the discretion of MPs themselves, and that there is no scheme by either of them to bar public access to the Strangers’ Gallery, so much so that both of these people were instrumental for Parliament to start being transmitted live and in its entirety on television and radio.

The protestors argued that much of the pandemic restrictions on the country had been lifted and that the country was far ahead in its vaccination programme, meaning that there was no reason for parliament to remain shuttered for visitors as well.

To this, the Speaker argued that the pandemic is still present and that Parliament has every right to take any measure it deems fit so to safeguard the health of MPs.

The Speaker said that he was bound by the unanimous decision of 5 October, 2020, to close off public access to the gallery except for journalists, he said, arguing that this decision was still binding as it had not been revoked by the Parliamentary Affairs committee.

The decision was in fact confirmed again on 30 July 2021 – the day of the sitting in question.

The Speaker also noted that as per Permanent Order 165, no extraneous person is admissible by right and that the Speaker was hence in line with House regulations.

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