AG law a parody and smokescreen for more government control - Simon Busuttil

Europe will send the Attorney General Bill back, finding it unacceptable, PN MP Simon Busuttil warns

Nationalist MP Simon Busuttil
Nationalist MP Simon Busuttil

The law seeking to separate the Attorney General’s dual roles will actually be making the situation worse, since the Prime Minister will now not only control the AG, but also the new office of State Attorney, PN MP Simon Busuttil said.

The former Nationalist Party leader said the proposed Constitutional amendments were “a parody, an absurdity and a smokescreen to provide more control for the government.”

Busuttil was speaking in Parliament, as the House continues debating the proposed Bill which will be splitting the AG’s prosecutorial and legal advisory roles in two, creating a new position of State Attorney to take on the function of being a lawyer to the state.

On Monday, PN MP Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici had indicated that the Opposition would be voting against the law, which he said had ignored the suggestion of establishing the requirement of a two-thirds majority in Parliament for the AG’s appointment.

Busuttil today stressed that the Bill was “doing the opposite of what the Venice Commission recommended”, warning that Europe had been noticing the government’s attempt at trickery, and that it would eventually be asking for the law to be changed.

“I believe this Bill will come back to Parliament after Europe says it is unacceptable and will have to be changed. Mark my words,” Busuttil said.

“The problem is already serious - we have a Prime Minister who already controls almost all Malta’s institutions. With this Bill, we will be adding another institution which he will control, the State Attorney. So it is not a step forward, but a step backwards.”

Busuttil went on to insist that the government was “acting in bad faith”, and that it had only brought the Bill forward because it had found itself with its back against the wall after the criticism levied against Malta’s institutional system.

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He also said that the “so-called security of tenure” for the persons appointed to the AG and State Attorney positions, as provided for in the proposals, was simply a way of appointing “a puppet” to remain in that post “forever”.

“The acid test for independence is whether the person appointed as prosecutor [the new AG] will be ready to charge a corrupt minister in court,” he said, "...It is clear that the present AG was not able to do this.”

Law is superficial, masking ugly reality - Jason Azzopardi

Fellow Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi lambasted the Bill, saying it was mediocre, written very shabbily, and went diametrically opposed to established constitutional doctrine.

“This law is a chimera. It gives you the impression of being something good, but when you dig deeper, you find a very ugly reality,” Azzopardi said, “We’re not even remaining as we were. We are taking a step back.”

Amongst his various arguments against the proposed law, Azzopardi said the Bill was “turning the Venice Commission’s report on its head”, and that the government had failed to address the leit motif of the report.

The Bill, he emphasised, was failing to address the Commission’s criticism that the AG was the chair of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.

Moreover, he added that instead of taking heed of the Commission’s warnings that the AG had absolute and unfettered discretion in deciding on whether to start or discontinue criminal proceedings, the Bill sought to increase the AG’s power.

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