Repubblika files judicial protest against Speaker after being denied access to parliament

Repubblika files judicial protest after being denied access to the Strangers’ Gallery at Parliament, saying the pandemic was a 'weak excuse' to deny citizens their right to observe debates

Repubblika was denied entry to the Strangers’ Gallery at Parliament (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Repubblika was denied entry to the Strangers’ Gallery at Parliament (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Civil society NGO Repubblika has filed a judicial protest in anticipation of being denied access to the Strangers’ Gallery at Parliament this morning.

The judicial protest, filed against Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia and Clerk of the House Raymond Scicluna and signed by lawyers Paul Borg Olivier and Eve Borg Costanzi, argues that the pandemic was a “weak excuse” to deny citizens their right to observe the debates and legislative process in person.

They had sent a request to the Clerk of the House, asking for 30 tickets to the Strangers’ Gallery for today’s session, but this had been denied. This was a serious abuse of the discretion granted to the Speaker and Clerk to limit uncontrolled access to the Gallery and was not the first time that this had happened during debates on matters of public interest, they said.

Not only was the refusal unreasonable, but was part of a pattern by the Speaker and the Clerk, claimed Repubblika.

It was argued that the pandemic-related restrictions were imposed at a time of a national health emergency which has since been rescinded, along with many other restrictions on ports, bars, shops and restaurants.

The end result of closing the public gallery was the exclusion of the citizenry from a space created with the intention of allowing them to follow debates that concerned them.

The debate was a matter of great national interest, argued the organisation, pointing to the conclusions of the Public Inquiry, which called for a beginning to the national healing process after the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Republika added that the authorities had not seen the need for barricades and other measures to protect the health of MPs in recent days when large, dense crowds of unvaccinated people queued up outside Parliament to receive their vaccine.

The protest argues that this amounted to a breach of the fundamental human right to expression and holds the defendants liable for any subsequent court action filed in relation to this.

READ MORE: Manuel Delia: ‘Inquiry conclusions signal another chapter in our fight for justice’