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A Second Republic for Malta

PL candidate Robert Abela writes: Changes should be forward looking, providing for the present and future needs of our citizens, and our country

29 May 2017, 1:04pm
Historically, when matters of common interest were in play, agreement between the two major political parties has always been reached
Historically, when matters of common interest were in play, agreement between the two major political parties has always been reached
The Labour Party in its electoral manifesto “L-Aqwa Zmien ta’ Pajjizna” has promised that it will embark on a revision and upgrading of the provisions of our supreme law, through a National Convention, and supplement it by a new Constitution heralding the beginning of a Second Republic for Malta, if elected to power. 

It has to be recalled that major constitutional changes, like the change from monarchy to republic in 1974, and the change in our electoral system to reflect the needs of majority government in 1987, have been mediated through the political parties. 

Since certain amendments to our Constitution require a two-thirds vote on the final reading in Parliament, and considering that we normally have a bipartisan Parliament, this means that agreement has to be reached between the two political parties represented in Parliament. Historically, when matters of common interest were in play, agreement between the two major political parties has always been reached. 

The setting up of a National Convention on Constitutional reform, as promised in the Labour manifesto, guarantees that the required constitutional changes have to be the result of mature thinking and widespread consultation with all interested stakeholders, leading to a high level of consensus. The changes should be forward looking, providing for the present and future needs of our citizens, and our country. 

To my mind, although the amendments have to be approved by Parliament, in some respects by a qualified two-thirds majority, in the end the Constitution should also be ratified by the popular vote mechanism, the referendum. Ratification by the people would emphasise the fundamental principle that the Constitution is there to serve the people, and not the State. 

I endorse what the Today Public Policy Institute recently said: that the political parties need to work in a bipartisan manner towards signing up to a fundamental set of principles on governance and institution building, all of which need to be enshrined in a revised Constitution. 

During the last four years of the Labour administration, important and critical legislation has been enacted to address, for the first time after 25 years of successive lethargic Nationalist administrations, the pertinent question of good governance and accountability. 

Labour passed the Protection of the Whistleblower Act, the law on the Financing of Political Parties, removed prescription on acts of political corruption and strengthened the Judiciary through a new appointments mechanism. The Standards in Public Life is also a breakthrough bill in the political system, built on the fundamental principle of responsibility and intended to lead to greater transparency, accountability and good governance. 

Labour does not want to sit on its laurels and if returned to power, is committing itself to pass legislation to submit to parliamentary scrutiny persons holding office in regulatory entities and ambassadors. 

A substantial Constitutional amendment is also being proposed concerning Parliament and the Executive, consisting in an automatic revision mechanism independent of the political parties, which will be triggered in serious cases concerning a member of Parliament or a person holding public office, who fail in their duties and obligations. 

An Accountability Charter for all public service employees is also being proposed, to ensure a modern, efficient and accountable public service. 

Labour is proposing a clear vision for the future which makes us worthy of the electorate’s trust for the best days yet to come for the good of our country, and our people.   

Robert Abela is a Labour candidate on the sixth district

DealToday
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