The Malta Independent 3 February 2023, Friday
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Abela says proposed anti-deadlock mechanism is identical to the one proposed by the PN in 2017

Sabrina Zammit Monday, 9 January 2023, 19:46 Last update: about 24 days ago

The anti-deadlock mechanism being proposed for the appointment of a new Standards Commissioner is a copy of the one the PN had proposed in its 2017 electoral manifesto, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Monday.

Abela was speaking in Parliament on the first day of debates on the proposed amendment to the Standards in Public Life Act to introduce this mechanism, as the government and opposition continue to be in an impasse over who should be appointed to the post.

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Abela said that the government was not going to let the PN “drive the government” but it was going to act in the best interest of the nation by introducing this anti-deadlock mechanism.

The “anti-deadlock mechanism” has been proposed by Prime Minister Robert Abela and was prompted by the disagreement over the appointment of retired Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi to the post of Standards Commissioner to succeed George Hyzler, who left the post a year early to take up a role with the European Court of Auditors.

“The principles we believe in are to strengthen the reputation of the country and to resist financial crimes… there was a lot of work in this regard which needed to be done,” Abela said.

Abela ran though how a mere eight weeks into his premiership, his government was accosted with the Covid-19 pandemic. However, he said, despite the difficulties this caused in implementing the Moneyval and Venice Commission recommendations, “we managed to do it.”

Abela said that the government had divested a number of powers away from itself, including the total discretion it had to choose the police commissioner.  He said that this has changed so that a public call is launched, and applicants pass through the scrutiny of the public service commission.

However PN boycotted this reform at that time “because it was either their way or no way,” Abela said.

He said that even when it came to the nominating a new Chief Justice back in 2020, when the two-thirds majority mechanism was still not in place, the government managed to come to an agreement and use it because “this is how much we believed in its concept.”

Abela said that where the Venice Commission report requires a two-thirds majority, it always insisted that an anti-deadlock mechanism should be in place so that “we never experience issues like not having a Commissioner for Standards.”

He said that the PN had agreed on the requirement for a two-thirds majority, but did not agree on how it should be solved in the case that there is an impasse.

“This meant that the Venice Commission reform which required a two-thirds majority because it had to amend the constitution and therefore needed the Opposition’s approval was not going to pass.” 

Abela said that although the Standards for Public Life Act has been in place since 2017, the anti-deadlock mechanism was not implemented.

Had it been implemented it could have avoided similar situation as this for other positions which require an absolute majority such as the Ombudsman, Auditor General, and President of the Republic.

He said that this amendment looks towards the future as it is not serving the PL government as the PN would also use it if it is in power in the future.

“This is an amendment which will serve for the future and there might be a time that the positions are switched,” he said.

Commenting on Joe Azzopardi’s nominee for Commissioner for Standards in Public Life Abela said that “with the test of obligations one will be able to judge whether this choice was correct or not.”

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