'Hands off referenda,' NGOs tell hunting lobby who petitioned President to abolish abrogative ballot

The hunting lobby wrote to the President of Malta demanding amendments to the Referenda Act to stop citizens from invoking referenda for the sake of protecting the legal rights of minority groups

BirdLife Malta says that FKNK's demand is undemocratic and that Malta needs to safeguard citizens' participation in the legislative process
BirdLife Malta says that FKNK's demand is undemocratic and that Malta needs to safeguard citizens' participation in the legislative process

Twelve civil society NGOs joined BirdLife Malta in slamming the hunting lobby's call on the President to abolish the citizens' right to demand an abrogative referendum. 

The NGOs said that such a demand is "undemocratic" and that the right to demand a referendum should not be hindered in any form, while the hunting lobby argued that the citizen's right to invoke a referendum should be abolished for the sake of "protecting the legal rights of minority groups."

"The proposal by the hunting lobby to prevent the calling of an abrogative referendum in Malta and to curtail the power of voters to demand a referendum is undemocratic and impinges negatively on citizens’ rights in a democratic society," BirdLife said in a statement.

In the past days, the Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK) announced it has written to the President of Malta, demanding amendments to the Referenda Act as part of an ongoing public consultation about the reform of the Constitution.

The right should be abolished for the sake of "protecting the legal rights, interests, practices, traditions and privileges of minority groups", the FKNK wrote. 

The lobby referred to a June 2014 petition signed by 104,000 people and presented to Parliament then.

"The issue here is not solely about a small section of society that enjoys killing and trapping birds but it is also about the rest of society that is having their natural resources abused of. Our country needs to safeguard the democratic right of citizens to participate in diverse ways in the legislative process. Limiting one of the few avenues for citizen participation would be an affront to democracy, regardless of the particular issue at hand," BirdLife responded.

In view of this disagreement, 13 NGOs called on the President, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Minister to keep the country's democratic mechanisms intact "to ensure that Malta's legislation is not in any way tampered with to appease this undemocratic request."

The 12 NGOs endorsing this BirdLife Malta reaction are Din l-Art Ħelwa, Nature Trust Malta-FEE, Moviment Graffitti, Friends of the Earth Malta, Futur Ambjent Wieħed, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA), Isles of the Left, Ramblers’ Association of Malta, The Archaeological Society Malta, Wirt Għawdex, Aditus Foundation, and Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM).

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