Police force to have CEO, opposition demands explanations on removal of commissioner

New acting police commissioner appointed to reform force’s administration, opposition asks why his predeccessor was removed 

Acting polce commissioner Ray Zammit
Acting polce commissioner Ray Zammit

Acting police commissioner Ray Zammit’s has been tasked to reform the force’s administrative structure, home affairs minister Manuel Mallia said.

Addressing parliament this evening, the minister explained that the government opted to appoint an acting commissioner because it “presents an opportunity to continue the reorganisation process.”

Last week, Ray Zammit was appointed acting Commissioner of Police while his predecessor Peter Paul Zammit was posted in an administrative role to coordinate national security during forthcoming international events.

In his ministerial statement, Mallia added that government was looking at reforming the force’s administrative structure, including the appointment of a Chief Executive and giving the force’s top brass a three year definite contract instead of the indefinite appointments given under the current system.

“Government believes that the time has come for the force’s top officials to be given a three-year definite contract when they receive a promotion, to ensure that the person is ideal for the role. Simultaneously, they would also be able to prove themselves.”

The minister explained that government envisaged a new structure, which would see the  creation of a new role similar to a chief executive officer, who would overlook the day-to-day running of the police, the financial aspect and other administrative changes. The CEO, Mallia explained would be answerable to the police commissioner.

This would allow the commissioner to focus on criminal investigations, maintaining law and order, recruitment and training, opening new police stations and public relations, Mallia said. 

In his reply, opposition leader Simon Busuttil said “the minister has not replied two pertinent questions which everyone is asking; why has Peter Paul Zammit been removed and why has Ray Zammit been appointed as acting commissioner?”

He added that the opposition would be supporting and backing the new commissioner, as long as no errors are committed, “which as we have seen over the past year have undermined the force’s credibility.”

“The minister has told us that Ray Zammit has been appointed as acting commissioner to introduce a new system where high officials are given three-year contracts. However he has not replied to the question. Why has Zammit only been appointed in an acting role? Will he serve for three years as acting commissioner?” Busuttil asked.

Busuttil added that the most important question which remained unanswered was that on the removal of Peter Paul Zammit. “Has Zammit’s removal anything to do with the revelation that he failed to reply to three separate requests by OLAF on John Dalli?”

He also asked whether Zammit’s successor would cooperate with the EU’s anti-fraud office. In reference to OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler’s claim that the former EU commissioner John Dalli warned him that he would be arrested if he sat foot on Malta, Busuttil said “Since when does John Dalli who is the Prime Minister’s consultant, have the power to issue such warnings? Is it true that Kessler would have been arrested? Will current EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso also be arrested if he comes to Malta?”

In reply to the opposition’s questions, Mallia said the time was ripe to change the way top officials in the police force and the armed forces are appointed.

He added that Peter Paul Zammit “was not removed” but was given a new appointment within the Office of the Prime Minister. Mallia said that Zammit was currently negotiating terms over his new role as national security coordinator with the OPM.

Moreover he denied that Zammit was removed because of his failure to reply to OLAF’s requests for information, insisting that it was “coincidence” and talks over the changes in the police’s administration commenced weeks before.

Mallia pointed out that he was never aware of the requests and only got to know about them when Kessler published a letter he sent to the Speaker. He added that he never interfered in the police's operations and it was up to the force to decide what actions were necessary in the John Dalli case.