[WATCH] PM doubles down on PN anti-corruption bills: ‘electoral gimmick’

Prime Minister Robert Abela says Opposition made a ‘cardinal mistake’ when mixing 12 legal amendments into one

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

Prime Minister Robert Abela has labelled the Nationalist Party’s set of anti-corruption laws a ‘political gimmick’.

“When we have aspects of the proposed law intended to scare businesses, with the false premise of fighting corruption, I can’t be in favour of these laws,” he said.

On Monday, in a mere formality, government did not oppose the omnibus Bill, and the debate at second reading stage is expected to start on Thursday.

The package of 11 Bills is aimed at fighting corruption and mafia-style crimes. A proposal for the creation of a special inquiring magistrate to focus solely on corruption, was hived off into a separate Bill after objections by government that it contained “aspects of a money bill”.

The 11 Bills include proposals limiting government’s duties and actions during an election campaign; the creation of a crime of procuring political influence, obstruction of justice, and omission of duty by public officers; unexplained wealth orders; creation of a crime for mafia association and organised crime; as well as a Bill to include a declaration in favour of journalism, to be enshrined in the Maltese Constitution.

Speaking to the media outside Castille on Wednesday evening, the PM said he would be participating in Thursday’s debate, and would be explaining government’s reforms and legislative changes.

Abela insisted government is in the process of implementing the recommendations made in by the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry board, and is consulting with stakeholders and international experts.

“The amendments have been drafted, and passed on to the committee of experts,” the PM said. “Comments from the committee are expected within two months.’

Abela said that while there are certain aspects of the Bill he agrees with, he found issue with others. “To say that Malta is a mafia state, to legally label our country as mafia state, that I cannot agree with.”

The PM also said that the PN mixing 12 legal amendments into one, “while rushing them through parliament in one sitting” was a “cardinal mistake”.

“At the end of the day its who has the credentials on this sector, and who leads by example. It’s useless to then have Jason Azzopardi, the man behind these Bills, who in every episode of his life both while in government, and in opposition, led by a bad example.”