Franco Debono angles for PN return despite disagreeing with police commissioner proposal

Franco Debono says that had he been a PN MP he would propose a different appointment method for police commissioner but would still toe the party line

Former PN MP Franco Debono
Former PN MP Franco Debono

Franco Debono disagrees with the Nationalist Party’s proposed method to appoint the police commissioner but in a cryptic message angles for a return back to the party.

The former PN MP argued in a blogpost that a prime minister who does not enjoy the moral authority to appoint a police chief should not be prime minister in the first place.

He continued that the PN’s proposal to have the police commissioner appointed after a two-thirds majority vote in parliament could leave the country in constitutional deadlock if both sides of the House disagree.

The PN has presented a draft law calling for the appointment of the police commissioner through a two-thirds parliamentary mechanism without suggesting a fall-back option.

Debono said any prime minister should make a good choice of commissioner based on competence and integrity, “not because his hands are tied”.

What would happen if the Opposition refuses to approve the appointment, he asked. This would leave Malta without a police commissioner for months, if not years.

Instead, Debono, a long-standing criminal lawyer, proposed a two-step system whereby if the first parliamentary vote does not achieve a two-thirds majority, the issue would be decided with a second round of voting with an absolute majority. This would avoid deadlock, he argued.

But Debono also highlighted the risk of appointing the police commissioner through agreement between the government and the Opposition. “He would be practically untouchable and would worsen the situation as the Opposition, that had approved his appointment would be reluctant to criticise its own choice,” he added.

In his blogpost published on Tuesday, Debono said the Opposition should be consulted with a view to obtaining as wide a consensus as possible on the nomination but the candidate should have to pass a grilling before the parliamentary committee on public appointments. This would create a “just balance between everyone’s interests,” he wrote.

Debono said he had no doubt as to the good intentions of the Opposition in proposing the two-thirds mechanism, also applauding the PN for being proactive.

“The Opposition is reacting to the enormous catastrophe precipitated by Joseph Muscat and this proposal should be understood in this context,” Debono said.

PN olive branch

But offering an olive branch to the party he had voted out of government in 2012, Debono said that had he been a PN MP today, he would have made his proposals internally. However, he crucially added: “But if the party took another position, I would obviously follow that decision.”

Debono has been practising law for the past 20 years and has been a vocal proponent of justice reform for almost a decade, beginning during his tenure as an MP during the Gonzi administration.

Elected to parliament in 2008, Debono went on to topple the PN administration when he voted against the budget in December 2012 after repeated disagreements with his own government.

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