Historians divide government, opposition

Government and opposition divided over academics who should write parliamentary history for exhibition at new Parliament


The two major political parties are often at loggerheads over policies and laws, however this evening the perennial antagonism reached new heights as the two sides could not come to an agreement over who should be engaged by a publishing house which is in the process of setting up an exhibition on parliamentary and Constitutional history.

While government is proposing political scientist Godfrey Pirotta and legal historian Ray Mangion, the opposition wants historian Henry Frendo to at least have a part in the exhibition and related publications.

During this evening’s House Business Committee, Speaker Anglu Farrugia found himself caught between MPs from both sides of the House who were sponsoring their favoured academics.

While Labour MP Deborah Schembri underlined Mangion’s suitability for the job, explaining that the professor was an expert in both law and history, opposition whip pointed out that Frendo had already carried similar jobs in the past.

The publication was commissioned by Bank of Valletta who are sponsoring an exhibition on Malta’s parliamentary and Constitutional history, which will be set up at the new Parliament building in Valletta in the coming months.

In an attempt to reach a compromise, PN deputy leader Mario de Marco argued that all academics being proposed were more than capable of making a good job and proposed that all of them could be involved.

Pouncing on de Marco’s proposal, the Speaker said he would write to Network Publications and inform them that the decision was up to them and stressed that the committee would be scrutinising the publication at all stages.

The committee also discussed other matters, with the two sides again disagreeing over two Constitutional amendments proposed by the opposition, with government whip Carmelo Abela arguing that these amendments should be put on hold until a Constitutional convention in convened.

Insisting that Constitutional amendments “should not be discussed and approved sporadically,” Abela said that the government favoured a wholesome process which would come in the form of a Constitutional convention.

However, de Marco called on Abela to take the matter back to government’s parliamentary group to reconsider its stand. Insisting that cross-party consensus existed over the minor changes being proposed by opposition MPs, the PN deputy leader said “we urge government to reconsider its position especially since there is no date set for the Constitutional convention.”

The two opposition motions propose the introduction of safeguards against discrimination over any form of disability and the introduction of digital rights.

The committee also discussed whether former MPs should be granted the right to officially maintain the Honorable title, with both sides agreeing that once the Speaker compiles a brief report on practices used abroad, the decision should be taken by the executive since MPs had a vested interest in the matter.

The Speaker of the House also sought the committee’s approval to renew the security services provided by the Armed Forces of Malta once Parliament moves to the new premises after the summer recess.

Explaining that the alternative would be to engage a private company, the committee unanimously agreed to confirm the AFM as the sole provider of security services.

Farrugia also informed the committee that all four candidates who were shortlisted for the research analyst post had turned down the offer. He said that while a new call will be published later this month, Parliament was looking at engaging University graduates on a temporary basis before engaging a full-time researcher.