Busuttil says Justice minister ‘bluffing on justice reform’

PN leader Simon Busuttil says the opposition had managed to achieve in three days what the government failed to do in three years

PN leader Simon Busuttil
PN leader Simon Busuttil

Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil has said that Justice minister Owen Bonnici has been bluffing about the justice reform all along.

Speaking in a radio interview on Radio 101, Busuttil said that the PN’s filing of a private member’s bill to amend the Constitution and establish a judicial services appointment authority, was a reaction to the government’s failure.

Busuttil stressed that the PN had managed to do in three days what the government had failed to do in three years. He further expressed his hope that a thorough discussion of the draft takes place to respond to the “urgent necessity of the changes.”

“The Justice minister has been bluffing about these reforms, and the proof is in the fact that he has continued to nominate inappropriate people for the post,” Busuttil said in a dig at the recent nomination of two lawyers to the judiciary.

One of them, Employment Commissioner Ingrid Zammit Young, withdrew her nomination after the Commission for the Administration of Justice warned of a possible impediment in that people aren't eligible as magistrates until three years after the termination of public office. The other nomination is Speaker's daughter Caroline Farrugia Frendo, 33, who has controversially not even completed a full seven years' legal practice as requested by the Constitution.

Stressing that both the individuals chosen, had not been selected on a basis of merit, Busuttil said that the nominations also demonstrated the government’s “ignorance and incompetence” in its opposition to the constitution, whether this was intentional or not.

The PN has proposed that the authority, appointed by the President of Malta, recommends the appointments of the Chief Justice, judges, magistrates and small claims tribunal adjudicators.

Reacting to the motion, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said he was taking the PN’s proposals “with a pinch of salt,” but that he would reform the system of appointing judges before the next election.

Busuttil added that the least the government could do was to stop any further appointments until the reform successfully took place.

During the interview, Busuttil reiterated the PN’s cries for an investigation into whether businessman Marco Gaffarena had bribed somebody in order to convince the government to expropriate half a Valletta house from him in a €3.5 million deal, and he further questioned whether the police have started investigating Castille over the ties between Gaffarena and the Office of the Prime Minister.

Busuttil noted that the police had declared ithat when they went to the Lands Department after the damning NAO report was issued, they did not go to investigate but to collect the files so that they would not be lost. He urged the Commissioner to investigate all involved in the scandal including Castille.

“The people are expecting this and the Commissioner has the responsibility to be there for everyone,” he said.

During the interview, Busuttil also made reference to the nomination of energy minister Konrad Mizzi for the post of deputy leader of the Labour Party, and said that Muscat had effectively “hijacked” the labour party, in making sure that “nobody else contested the election”.

“The party no longer has the values it originally stood for at heart,” he said, stressing that the PN had now become the party that represents everyone in the country, no matter their political creed.

During the interview, Busuttil said that the government’s incompetence had also been demonstrated in the loss of €11 million of funds from the coast road project, the “fiasco” that constituted public transport in the country and the construction of the gas powered power station.

In an interview published on today’s edition of MaltaToday on Sunday, Transport minister Joe Mizzi said he will be tabling the contract signed with Spanish company Autobuses de Leon, more than a year after signing the deal with the new public transport operator, Malta Public Transport that was awarded a contract to run the public transport service near end 2014.

The opposition has long been calling for the publication of the contract, with the government promising to publish it in “due time.”

Busuttil criticised the fact that subsidies were now reaching three times the amount Arriva received, and he further stressed that although public transport had been left in a “less than favourable condition” from the previous administration, “nobody ever expected the situation to get worse, but it had.”

Referring to the loss of €11 million of EU funds lost in the coast road project, Busuttil rubbished the justification that the funds had been redirected to other projects and stressed that the public had had to foot the bill for the losses anyway.

Busuttil further questioned the necessity of having a gas-powered power station, given that its reason for creation was to obtain cheaper and cleaner energy for the country. Pointing out that international crude oil prices were at an all-time low, Busuttil explained that energy bills should already have dropped significantly, and he criticised the government’s claims that prices had remained the same to keep “stability”, calling such claims laughable.

In a press conference yesterday, shadow energy minister Marthese Portelli said that although the market price of [crude] oil is at its lowest ever level, at some $25 a barrel, fuel prices in Malta had remained amongst the most expensive in Europe.

“The fact that the government is giving this explanation as a justification for the high prices, is a display of arrogance and it is an insult to the public’s intelligence,” Busuttil said.

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