[WATCH] Grech: ‘Arrogant’ PM wants anti-democratic law for standards czar appointment

Nationalist leader Bernard Grech says Prime Minister Robert Abela has shown he is not willing to discuss a number of issues in order to get his way

Nationalist leader Bernard Grech
Nationalist leader Bernard Grech

Prime Minister Robert Abela wants to enact an “ant-democratic law” in order to get who he wants into the Standards Commissioner role, Opposition leader Bernard Grech said on Sunday.

“He is an arrogant Prime Minister (PM) who has repeatedly shown that he does not want to consult,” Grech said in an interview on party television station NET TV.

Two days before Christmas, an anti-deadlock mechanism proposal which allows the standards commissioner to be appointed by parliament through a simple majority vote if the nomination fails to garner a two-thirds majority in two previous voting rounds was presented for the First Reading.

The government will require only a simple majority in the House to change the law appointing the Standards Commissioner, a parliamentary officer set up in 2018 to investigate claims of ethical breaches by MPs and persons of trust.

The post has been vacant since the end of September when George Hyzler resigned at the end of his maximum term, to take up his post at the European Court of Auditors.

The legal text states that a two-thirds majority is required in the first vote. If the majority is not achieved, a second vote is taken seven days later. This will also require a two-thirds majority. If no consensus is reached, a third and final vote will be taken seven days later and only a simple majority will be required at that point.

The Bill also states that new nominations can be introduced before the second and third votes.

READ ALSO: Editorial | Deadlocked by political bickering

Grech said the party has presented a number of names, “even people who hail from a Labour background”, but government does not want to listen.

“We believe in dialogue, and not in the easy way out. Robert Abela wants to change the rules so he can choose who he wants, so he imposes on parliament a person which does not enjoy the majority’s trust,” he said.

He also made reference to a number of articles and editorials on today’s newspapers, saying there is a wide consensus that what government is proposing “is not right”.

“We will remain vigilant when we return to parliament on Monday,” Grech said.

Legal amendment to abortion law

With parliament resuming on Monday after Christmas recess, a legal amendment which parliament will be discussing at committee stage will be on the introduction of a new clause in the Criminal Code, which allows doctors to terminate a pregnancy if a woman’s life is at stake or her health is in grave jeopardy. Abortion under any other circumstance will remain illegal.

The Bill has passed the Second Reading stage in parliament and will now be debated at committee stage where amendments can be introduced.

The Opposition is opposed to the Bill, insisting that the inclusion of the health aspect will open the door to abortion on demand.

Grech said that from every perspective one looks at the legislative amendment, “it can be interpreted as the introduction of abortion into the country.”

“Robert Abela does not want to admit it, but that is what they will be doing. If he wants to introduce abortion without a mandate, he should just say it,” Grech said.

He also called on Labour MPs who do not agree with the amendment to make their voice heard. “Just like what we are doing, they should step up and make their opinions heard.”

The PN leader also stressed the party’s position is clear. “We do not play around with our values. We are in favour of live from conception till death.”

Out of stock medicines

Speaking on the issue of out-of-stock medicines, Grech said the PN continues to expose the Labour government’s lies.

In a press conference earlier this week, Fearne played down concerns, saying the issue is not a local or budgetary one.

“Out of the 2,000 or so medicines that government imports for free distribution through the Pharmacy of Your Choice scheme, only singular items have been out of stock and only for a few days,” Fearne said on Wednesday. “This is a worldwide issue since this is the first winter after COVID restrictions were lifted and more people developed flu symptoms at a time when suppliers are still adjusting to the higher demand.”

The PN leader refuted government claims, saying Labour is not keeping up with its promises of not having any out-of-stock medicines.

“We need to expose this government, and you have a responsibility in helping us,” he told viewers.