[WATCH] Government will support PN reforms ‘if measures make sense’, but Opposition wants clear commitment

Updated | Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis says aspects of the proposed reforms put forward by the PN require discussion but does not rule out government support, but the Opposition wants government to send a clear message on whether it will support the 12 Bills

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis
Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis

Updated at 4:13pm with Nationalist Party statement

Government will support the Nationalist Party’s legislative proposals on corruption and rule of law if they make sense in Malta’s legal and political context, Edward Zammit Lewis said.

The Justice Minister was reacting on Tuesday to a raft of proposals put forward by the Opposition that include the creation of specific inquiring magistrates focussed on corruption.

“I found support from the Nationalist Party in July 2020 for the reforms we put forward. We disagreed in some areas, but on important aspects I found certain support. Certainly, for government, if the proposals make sense there will be support from our side,” Zammit Lewis said. 

The PN unveiled a package of 12 legislative Bills last Saturday to fight corruption and mafia-style crimes. The package includes the creation of a special inquiring magistrate to focus solely on corruption by public officers and the introduction of a new crime for public officers who abuse office.

“In principle, I agree with special anti-corruption magistrates. But we need to look at the current situation. Our magistrates work well as is, and while there isn’t a specific magistrate on corruption we have magistrates that tackle such cases well,” Zammit Lewis said. 

However, the minister insisted that there are some flaws in the Bill that must be addressed and discussed before government can offer its support.

He also quipped that the Bill should have included the misappropriation of VAT funds, a remark directed at Nationalist MP David Thake due to outstanding VAT payments owed by his companies.

Zammit Lewis reiterated that the Prime Minister will soon be announcing key reforms in relation to the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry.

“The Prime Minister carried out stakeholder engagement, and spent months speaking to the media. We will carry out the reforms we need to carry out,” he said.

The public inquiry concluded that the Maltese State has to bear responsibility for Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, while putting forward several recommendations on rule of law and press freedom.

Recently, the Malta Chamber called on parliament to work collaboratively and put forward the required legislative changes needed to address government shortcomings highlighted in the inquiry.

PN wants clearer commitment

After Zammit Lewis's comments, the Nationalist Party called on government to send a clear message on whether it will support the 12 Bills presented by the Opposition.

"The PN stresses that it intends to work together with government to get Malta out of the greylist for the collective benefit of businesses, employers, employees, students and honest hard workers," it said in a statement. 

The party added that Zammit Lewis's stance was non-committal despite six months passing since the public inquiry was concluded.

"If the government is serious about working together for the good of the country, it will work with the Opposition to approve these Bills by the end of January," the PN stated.