Minister broke law with ‘illegitimate’ Book Council, former chairman’s judicial protest

Former National Book Council chairman Mark Camilleri files judicial protest alleging education minister and permanent secretary broke law in appointing a new council

Mark Camilleri
Mark Camilleri

Author and former National Book Council chairman Mark Camilleri has filed a judicial protest against the National Book Council and the government, claiming that Education Minister Justyne Caruana and Permanent Secretary Frank Fabri broke the law when they “completely disregarded” a decision taken by members of the National Book Congress when appointing the council.

The court document filed requests that his namesake Mark Camilleri, now the CEO of the National Book Council, resign, together with the rest of the council and begin discussions between stakeholders as stipulated by the law in order to create an interim council and call an election.

During his tenure as President of the National Book Council, Camilleri had presented a draft piece of legislation to Caruana, which had been drafted at the request of the absolute majority of its members.

Camilleri said the draft law had been intended to ensure that the board of the National Book Council remained independent of partisan interference and appointed through free elections – as opposed to the current system in which it is appointed at the absolute discretion of the Education Minister and the Prime Minister.

The judicial protest, signed by lawyers Joseph Mizzi and Timothy Spiteri, alleges that the minister had completely ignored the stakeholders’ requests and instead used its discretion to promote “interests which are purely and exclusively partisan instead of protecting the interests of the relevant stakeholders, which are the authors and publishers.” By doing so, she had betrayed the obligation that the board of the National Book Council be free of partisan interference.

Camilleri also claimed Caruana and Prime Minister Robert Abela had failed to protect the stakeholders’ interests at a national level and had instead chosen to exclusively protect the Labour Party’s interests, arguing that the present board had taken no action to give effect to the recommendation made in this regard by its predecessors and insisting that the recommendation remained valid.

He also said the current National Book Council was illegitimate as it had not been appointed according to the wishes and recommendations made by the stakeholders in May.

The judicial protest formally asked the defendants to desist from further abusive behaviour and warned them that they would be held responsible for damages should they not comply.