A good PN move

This PN move will probably not help it to attract new voters in time for the next election, but it will still create a much more positive depiction of the PN in all level minded citizens

Opposition leader Bernard Grech
Opposition leader Bernard Grech

Last Monday the PN in Opposition made a very positive and interesting move. It officially proposed a raft of twelve laws aimed to combat corruption and abuse of power.

The draft Bill, tabled by Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech, was presented to the House on Monday evening and comprises 12 other Bills that include amendments to Malta’s Constitution, the Criminal Code, the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure, and the Media and Defamation Act.

The move is positive because it is a transition from the PN complaining and condemning the Labour administrations of Joseph Muscat and Robert Abela for their incredible shortcomings into actually proposing laws to avoid a recurrence of many abusive situations. Many of the proposals would implement the recommendations made by the inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia – proposals that were already gathering dust on some shelf in Castille.

These proposals cannot be dismissed easily. Robert Abela could hardly mock them and had to accept that these proposals could not be thrown into the political waste-paper basket as often happens in Malta with proposals made by the party in Opposition.

While dismissing the claim that the government had sat on the findings of the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis reacted by saying that government will analyse the set of 12 bills tabled by the PN in Parliament.

The government then announced the setting-up of a committee responsible for the implementation of the recommendations proposed by the public inquiry board that investigated the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The Opposition said it was not consulted on the composition of this committee. However, I still consider it a positive reaction from a procrastinating government being pushed by the Opposition to take steps that it had most probably postponed until after the elections later this year.

Amongst other things, the PN is proposing to embed freedom of the media in the Constitution. This proposal follows the recommendation made by the board of the public inquiry to consider amending the Constitution so that “…free journalism is recognised as one of the pillars of a democratic society and that the State has the obligation to guarantee it and protect it”.

The board of the public inquiry had specifically noted that” “It is necessary to create a specific crime that persons in a public position would be subject to criminal proceedings if they try hindering the police, the prosecutors, the investigators and/or other officials like the Auditor General, the Ombudsman or the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life from conducting such investigations.”

According to other proposals, the abuse of public office not just for personal benefit or that of others but also in waste of public money will be punishable by one to five years in prison

The PN is also proposing that anyone who is part of a mafia-style association involving three or more persons, which involves secrecy and intimidation, will be punishable by up to 15 years in prison, which can increase to 20 years in cases where the organization is armed.

The proposed law bans the use of private email and electronic communication by public officials on matters, which result in private gain, will be punishable by a prison sentence. Another precludes government from awarding tenders, issuing permits, publishing legal notices and dishing promotions during the electoral campaign, an abuse that has become rampant over the years.

The proposed law also criminalises the abuse of public office both in cases where the officer seeks to obtain “unjust monetary advantage” for themselves or others but also when they “abuse of the trust” placed upon them by negligence in a way, which involves loss to the public.

Moreover public officers, including civil servants, will be in breach of the law whenever they fail to abstain whenever they have a conflict of interest involving both themselves and relatives.

The PN proposals include other new criminal provisions like failure to declare a conflict of interest and maliciously obtaining monetary advantage; promising witnesses and court experts rewards with the intent of derailing justice; failure to perform official duties, which have a bearing on public security and order, and corrupt practices committed by ministers, persons of trust and local councilors.

The changes being proposed would also lead to the creation of a special inquiring magistrate against corruption who would have wide-ranging powers at their disposal as well as the creation of unexplained wealth orders.

These proposals mean that many abuses carried out under Joseph Muscat’s premiership will become clearly illegal.

In this way the PN is looking towards a future where abuse and corruption are less likely to happen – a clear reply to those who are willing to vote again for the Labour Party with the excuse that corruption always happens, whoever is in government.

This PN move will probably not help it to attract new voters in time for the next election, but it will still create a much more positive depiction of the PN in all level minded citizens.

Hello Oliver... good-bye

Speaking in Parliament recently, Oliver Scicluna – who was appointed MP without ever contesting the election – said that Malta’s electoral system is in need of an overhaul.

Scicluna insisted that the way MPs are elected is not always of benefit to the country since a candidate’s focus ends up being on chasing votes.

I cannot but agree more with him. The current system has become a blight of our democracy. In fact, in my opinion the amount of time and money spent by candidates of the same party competing with each other is a national scandal.

Clientelism is practised by both political parties but Labour seems to take it to an incredible extreme.

Scicluna has no experience of contesting an election and it seems that he took it upon himself not to try to obtain votes by giving unmerited favours or gifts. He has no guarantee that the candidates of his own party will do likewise.

Indeed, I am sure that they will do exactly the opposite.

In this way, Oliver Scicluna’s political career is doomed to failure.

The system has to be changed for all.

One MP courageous enough to fight the system in the current circumstances cannot but be naive.