[WATCH] Police commissioner will be chosen after public call

Prime Minister Robert Abela announces new procedure to appoint police commissioner, which he says is in line with recommendations presented by the Venice Commission

Prime Minister Robert Abela (centre), flanked by Byron Camilleri (left) and Edward Zammit Lewis
Prime Minister Robert Abela (centre), flanked by Byron Camilleri (left) and Edward Zammit Lewis

Updated 7:49 pm 

The next police commissioner will be chosen after a public call and the appointment will only be finalised after a grilling by MPs, government is proposing.

The new method was approved by Cabinet on Tuesday and according to Prime Minister Robert Abela is in line with recommendations made by the Venice Commission.

The public call will be issued by the Public Service Commission, a constitutional body, and all those interested in the job can apply. The criteria for applying have yet to be determined.

Abela said the Commission will then whittle down the candidates to two.

The Prime Minister will then choose the police chief from the two final candidates.

However, before appointing the person, the chosen individual will have to be scrutinised by Parliament’s public appointments committee.

“This process will increase the scrutiny carried out by independent organisations,” Abela said during a press briefing in which he was flanked by Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri and Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis.

Asked why he would not adopt the two-thirds majority proposal made by the Nationalist Party, Abela said the suggestion was not in line with recommendations made by the Venice Commission.

READ ALSO: PN proposes draft law to appoint police commissioner by two-thirds parliamentary vote

“The Venice Commission had proposed ‘public competition’ for this role, and we feel that a two-thirds majority vote was not in line with such a recommendation,” Abela said. 

The Prime Minister said that he wants a “serious” police commissioner, who is left to independently carry out his work. 

Asked if any time frames had been set, Abela said the process to change the law will be carried out in the swiftest manner possible so the country can get a new police commissioner. 

Former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar came under fire from civil society groups campaigning for good governance over the police’s handling of serious allegations involving people in power.

Cutajar was appointed police commissioner in 2016 after the resignation of Michael Cassar. He was the fourth police commissioner appointed by the Labour government since coming to power in 2013.

Cutajar resigned soon after Abela was sworn-in as prime minister last week.

Opposition reacts

The Nationalist Party has said that Robert Abela’s statements confirm that like his predecessor, Joseph Muscat, he wants to pick the next police commissioner alone.

“The PM proposed a process in which the scrutiny will be carried out by a commission and a committee in which he has a majority, effectively giving him full control of the final say,” the PN said.

The opposition said that the PM has not yet fully understood the urgency of having a police corps that enjoys the trust of the people, while not understanding that such trust can only be garnered by having a commissioner which enjoys wide-spread consensus.

“The PM has chosen to damage the country’s reputation,” a statement read.

The Opposition also urged the government to discuss the proposed draft law presented to parliament on Monday.

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

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