Updated | Repubblika distorting the truth, President George Vella says

No love lost between President George Vella and Repubblika as a statement released by the Office of the President implied the NGO had very little credibility when it said it had received no acknowledgement from him on its submissions on constitutional reform

President George Vella
President George Vella

President George Vella's office has come out berating Repubblika's comments on the proposed constitutional reform and claimed that the NGO was distorting the facts.

"Repubblika are entitled to their opinions. However, they have no right to distort facts to mislead," the President's office said in a statement on Friday.

The NGO said yesterday that the President's role in leading constitutional reforms exceeded the limit of his powers. “In spite of his undoubted good intentions, such participation amounts to exceeding the limits of his powers and responsibilities within the Constitutional bounds that define his role today.

"That is hardly an encouraging start to a process that is supposed to redefine those limits," Repubblika said.  

Last week, Vella launched a public consultation process in which he asked members of the public and civil society to submit their feedback on how the constitution should be changed.

"In various media reports published yesterday, it was stated that when Repubblika submitted their submission on the process of Constitutional Reform, no sort of acknowledgement was given by President George Vella," the President's statement read.

The statement insisted that Vella had received a packet letter containing documents from the NGO dealing with the reform. On that same day, Vella, not yet a President acknowledged the receipt of those documents and said that since he had not yet taken office, he was not in a position to discuss the matter.

Vella claimed that the NGO's President Mario Pace Asciak thanked him for his 'prompt response' and said that the group was looking forward to meeting with him.

"So much for credibility," the statement read, adding that the President was still willing to meet with any civil society representatives once a formal request is made.

President’s statement appalling on so many counts – Repubblika

Reacting to the president’s statement, Repubblika accused the President of getting his facts wrong.

The NGO said that it had indeed sent a letter to Vella on the 15 March, and was informed that he would discuss their proposals with them after he took office.

However, it said that the group’s president Marion Pace Asciak had subsequently personally delivered a letter to the president to “remind him” of the NGO’s submissions and asking him to meet to discuss them.

“The President should check the written log at the at reception desk of his office, where Marion Pace Asciak, who personally delivered our letter, was made to sign for having visited the President’s office,” Repubblika said.

In the letter, the group said that it had understood Vella’s request to discuss the matter after he was sworn in as president, and that it was now the ideal moment for the meeting to take place.

It added that Repubblika was “concerned” by the government “proceeding with constitutional amendments regarding fundamental aspects of the rule of law, without there having been any consultation with civil society”.  

Repubblika said in its latest statement that it was assuming that the president had not been informed of this by his staff “and today he did not set out to lie”.

It reiterated that its submissions and requests to meet weren’t being acknowledged.

“Instead we have today’s statement by the President which should, by any standard, be beneath the dignity of the highest office of the land,” Repubblika said.

The President’s statement, it said, was “undignified”, because it distorted the facts, it “patronises” the NGO with an “arrogant statement” and because it did not specify what the President intends to do with Repubblika’s opinions.

“In persisting in not addressing these fundamental issues, we are saddened to realise he indeed intends to do nothing of the sort,” the NGO said.

It accused the presidency of being “captured by the partisan and personal interests of the members of government, and hostile to any attempt by civil society to act independently of partisan interests and to challenge the wielding of power in our country”.

Letter never brought to President's attention 

In a subsequent statement, the President said that “the letter delivered on the 10th June by a representative of Repubblika was never brought to his attention”.

He reiterated his willingness to meet any civil society representatives, and will be “meeting representatives of Repubblika once a mutually agreeable time and date are set”. \

More in National