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Debono ‘would not have voted against Mifsud Bonnici under current circumstances’

Law Commissioner Franco Debono takes government to task for 'Old Mint Street scandal and unconstitutional magisterial nomination', says 'this is not what people had voted for' 

Tim Diacono
19 February 2016, 9:20pm
Law Commissioner and former Nationalist MP Franco Debono said he would not have voted against Carm Mifsud Bonnici if the no confidence motion against the former home affairs and justice minister were to be held “in the current circumstances”.

Debono told John Bundy on RTK that his rationale “stemmed from the Old Mint Street scandal and, in particular, the recent nomination of a magistrate [Ingrid Zammit Young] that breached the Constitution.”

Mifsud Bonnici was forced to resign as minister in May 2012, after Franco Debono voted with the Labour Opposition in a no confidence motion, that had warned that the minister’s home affairs and justice portfolios were “inundated with endemic problems”.

It said that the prison was rife with drugs, that legal aid was not provided in the civil court, that criminals were running free because police files kept going missing, that nothing was being done to cut court delays, and that the Whistleblower’s Act – now a law – was gathering dust.

Debono said that he doesn’t regret any of his stances taken as an MP and that “time has proven he was right all along”, particularly in his private members’ bill tabled in November 2011 that had called for an entire revamp of the judicial system, including a reform in the judicial appointment system.

“My proposals were resisted and blocked, but were included in a report on judicial reform drafted by [retired judge] Giovanni Bonello,” he said.

Debono voted against the 2013 Budget after then prime minister Lawrence Gonzi refused to remove Austin Gatt from his ministerial post, effectively toppling the Nationalist administration.

Following Labour’s subsequent election to government, Debono was made chairperson of the Law Commission and consultant to the Prime Minister on justice reform, and was appointed coordinator of a convention for constitutional reform. However, he has recently been critical of the Labour government, in particular justice minister Owen Bonnici, following his recent controversial magisterial nominations.  

On RTK, Debono hit out at the Labour government yet again for having so far failed to reform the judicial appointment system and indeed “having nominated a magistrate that breached the Constitution”.

He said he refused to call the Old Mint Street expropriation controversy the “Gaffarena scandal” as the “deal occurred thanks to bad decisions that were taken by people with greater responsibility [than Mark Gaffarena].

“Even though [planning parliamentary secretary Michael Falzon] resigned, this is not what the public had voted for in 2013,” Debono said. “The country must respect itself by telling the truth, because the truth is one of the main elements that makes us what we are and unites us a nation.” 

Tim Diacono is a journalist at MaltaToday