Busuttil insists Speaker's daughter should not be made magistrate

PN leader pledges to revamp judiciary appointment system if elected, dismisses comparisons with previous PN governments as 'ridiculous'

Simon Busuttil (Photo:Ray Attard)
Simon Busuttil (Photo:Ray Attard)

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has warned that the government's nomination of Caroline Farrugia Frendo - daughter of Speaker Anglu Farrugia - as magistrate is both unconstitutional and a blatant form of nepotism.

Busuttil told a press conference that Farrugia Frendo hasn't yet acquired theminimum seven years legal experience that the Constitution requires for new magistrates. Moreover, he argued that she was "clearly" nominated because of her familial relationships and that "nepotism is a form of corruption".

"The government had an enormous pool of lawyers from which it could have chosen a magistrate," he said. "Any prime minister who is ready to violate our constitution, simply to handpick the magistrates they desire, isn’t fit to lead the country."

Farrugia, 33, was nominated as magistrate earlier this week, just shy of seven years since she had taken her oath as lawyer. Indeed, the President is expected to swear her in as magistrate after 23 February, meaning that she would have just about met the constitutional requirement.

Busuttil adopted a coy stance when asked whether he will welcome Farrugia Frendo’s nomination once she meets the seven-year requirement.

“We will cross that bridge when we get to it, and you can ask me that same question when or if that time comes,” he said. “What’s important is that the government had nominated her as magistrate when she was still an invalid candidate.”

Busuttil reiterated his pledge that a future PN government would reform judicial appointments as has been recommended by retired judge Giovanni Bonello.

“I intend to turn the wheels of government around from a race to the bottom to a race to the top,” he said.

Farrugia Frendo was nominated as magistrate alongside Ingrid Zammit Young, who has since turned down the appointment in light of a warning by the Commission for the Administration of Justice that her nomination was unconstitutional.

Zammit Young was until recently chairperson of the Employment Commission, and the CAJ cited the Constitution as stating that people aren’t eligible as magistrates until three years after their termination of public office.

Busuttil said that the CAJ was a “condemnation” to the government and insisted that “political responsibility” must be shouldered.

“The government has blatantly attempted to violate our Constitution, and it cannot just shrug this off and go about its business as usual,” he said.

‘Drawing a line between the future and the past’

When questioned, Busuttil dismissed as "ridiculous" comparisons with the nomination of former MFSA deputy-general Andre Camilleri as judge in 2002.

Back then, Camilleri had turned down prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami’s nomination after the CAJ had warned that he did not have the necessary experience in court to serve as a judge.

However, Busuttil insisted that he wanted to draw a line between his own plans for judicial appointments and those carried out under the current and previous governments.

“Things could have been done differently in the past, but I do not want to associate myself with past Nationalist governments,” he said. “People want a change from the current race to the bottom, and I promise to carry out judicial appointments differently."

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