The Malta Independent 3 February 2023, Friday
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‘Proposed anti-deadlock mechanism shows that Robert Abela is worse than Joseph Muscat’ – PN MP

Marc Galdes Tuesday, 10 January 2023, 19:08 Last update: about 22 days ago

Nationalist MP Mark Anthony Sammut said that Prime Minister Robert Abela is worse than disgraced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat due to the government's proposed anti-deadlock mechanism to appoint a new Standards Commissioner.

The government has proposed an amendment to the Standards in Public Life Act to introduce an anti-deadlock mechanism for the post of Standards Commissioner. This was prompted by the disagreement over the proposed appointment of retired Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi to succeed George Hyzler in the role, after the latter left the post a year early to take up a post with the European Court of Auditors.

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The newly proposed mechanism lays down that the Standards Commissioner should be nominated with the support of both sides of the house, but in the event that the required two-thirds majority is not reached, then the appointment is made via a simple majority.

"Another nail in the coffin of democracy," Sammut called this bill.

He pointed out that even Muscat understood that in order to "look good" this role needed to be created to improve the standards in politics.

However, Sammut said that Abela is worse than Muscat, as he is proposing that the Standards Commissioner is chosen by a simple majority.

He said that the government was lying and that it was not true that there was an agreement between the opposition and the government. He added the nominees were never even discussed with the leader of the Opposition in private.

In parliament on Monday, Abela said that the current proposed anti-deadlock mechanism for the appointment of a new Standards Commissioner is a copy of the same one mentioned in the PN's 2017 electoral manifesto.

Sammut replied to this and said that Abela has falsely quoted the PN manifesto of 2017 as a way to justify this proposal.

Sammut said the role of the Standards Commissioner was never mentioned in the 2017 electoral manifesto as being one to benefit from a proposed anti-deadlock mechanism. He said that this proposal only referred to top public posts: The Civil Service, the Commissioner of Police, the Commander of the Armed Forces, the Governor of the Central Bank, the Chief Statistician at the National Statistics Office and the members of constitutional bodies such as the Broadcasting Authority, the Public Service Commission and the Employment Commission.

He said that at the time this was a "step in the right direction" as these positions were chosen by the government, and therefore with an anti-deadlock mechanism the proposed persons to fill the role would be under more scrutiny.

He appealed to members within the PL to vote against this reform from passing if they believe in democracy.

During the parliamentary session, a quorum was requested but the Speaker of the House of Representatives had no choice but to temporarily suspend the session as only three government MPs were present.

"The government's arrogance - with only three government MPs present in the plenary during the discussion of the government's own draft law - is unacceptable," the PN said in a statement.
The PN appealed to Abela and his government to "start taking the country's highest institutions seriously". 

The PL's defence of former Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi

During the sitting, Culture and Heritage Minister Owen Bonnici quoted independent media houses praising Joseph Azzopardi in 2018 when he was appointed to the role of Chief Justice.

He quoted the Times of Malta which called him "very honest" and The Malta Independent which said that he is "accepted by both sides".

He could not understand why the Opposition would not want the ex-Chief Justice to carry the independent role of the Standards Commissioner.

Both Bonnici and PL MP Edward Zammit Lewis mentioned how Azzopardi entered the court of appeal and became a judge in February 2013, whilst the PN were still in government.

"Political hypocrisy," Zammit Lewis called this.

They also both mentioned two instances while Azzopardi was the Chief Justice where he made two decisions in favour of the PN.

Zammit Lewis said that people should trust Azzopardi and not trust the PN.

Bonnici said that it seems like the PN will only accept a "Nationalist with the flag" as Standards Commissioner.

Bonnici also mentioned how the Venice Commission recommended that the anti-deadlock mechanism should be used in situations where a role cannot be chosen.


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