Court rejects request to declare AFM officer's complaint over 2013's double promotions time-barred

The defendants, Colonels Pierre Vassallo, Mark Said, Jeffrey Curmi and Mark Mallia, are denying suggestions that their promotions had been accelerated

Promotion was not a right - defendants
Promotion was not a right - defendants

A court has turned down a request to declare a lawsuit over the promotion of four army officers to the rank of Colonel just two weeks after they were promoted to Lieutenant Colonel as time-barred..

Earlier today, Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti issued a decree in the case filed by Lt Col Andrew Mallia, who is claiming that in 2013 Colonels Pierre Vassallo, Mark Said, Jeffrey Curmi and Mark Mallia had been promoted to the rank of colonel just two weeks after being promoted to lieutenant colonel.

The news of the four officers' lightning promotion, amongst them current AFM commander Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi, had made headlines, particularly because they had taken place just a few months after the current Labour government came to power.

The AFM's Commanding Officer at the time had declared that he had not recommended accelerated promotion and it was the minister of the time, Manwel Mallia, who had taken the relevant decisions.

A lawsuit was then filed by Lt Colonel Mallia, who claimed that the appointments had breached his rights. Lt Col Mallia had previously petitioned the President of Malta for redress, but had taken the matter to court after his complaint was dismissed.

In a court application filed in March, Lt. Col Mallia argued that, having been a Lieutenant Colonel for three years at the time, he had seniority over them and that the officers could not possibly be more qualified than him. The officer argued that the favourable treatment of the four offers constituted discrimination.

He asked the court to declare that his rights were breached and to ensure that the situation was rectified. He also asked the court to award him damages.

The defendants had counter-argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to decide the case because internal AFM affairs did not fall within the remit of the court. They submitted that the case was time-barred, under the applicable law. Lt Col Mallia should have filed his case not later than six months after the alleged irregularity, which took place in September 2013, but the court application had been filed in March 2016.

They pointed out that the plaintiff had not specified in what manner he had allegedly been discriminated against. The officers argued that all Lt Colonels had an equal chance of promotion and that there was no minimum time one had to serve in the rank to qualify for another promotion.

Promotion was not a right, the defendants had argued, adding that their promotion had been just and legal. They categorically denied any suggestions that their promotion had been accelerated. 

In a decree issued earlier today, Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti, rejected the request filed by the minister and Brigadier Curmi to declare the case time barred. The promotions had been confirmed and the AFM Commander at the time had not objected to the President's decision, said the judge.

The case will continue.


A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the case had been decided. The error is regretted.