[WATCH] New way of appointing police chief exceeds Venice Commission criteria – Byron Camilleri

Home Affairs minister insists government’s proposed new method for appointing police commissioner goes over and above Venice Commission’s requirements

Home Affairs minister Byron Camilleri was a guest on tonight's Xtra
Home Affairs minister Byron Camilleri was a guest on tonight's Xtra

The new method being proposed by the government for appointing a police commissioner goes over and above satisfying the requirements recommended by the Venice Commission, Byron Camilleri said.

The Home Affairs minister said that the alternative method, proposed by the Opposition, of having the agreement of a two-thirds majority in Parliament for the police commissioner’s appointment would not work and only lead to a constitutional problem.

In a wide-ranging discussion on TVM’s Xtra tonight, Camilleri insisted that the government’s proposed method – which will see the next police commissioner being chosen after a public call and the appointment only being finalised after a grilling by MPs - is the most realistic and transparent option.

Camilleri said that this system not only meets, but exceeds the criteria outlined by the Venice Commission, since it does not give the Prime Minister the right to veto any candidate – even though the Venice Commission’s recommendations allow for such a veto.

The minister stressed that the alternative proposal put forward by the Opposition would only result in a deadlock and a constitutional crisis.

“[The Opposition] said that the police commissioner needs to be elected by the agreement of two-thirds of Parliament, but did not offer any mechanism for what should happen if this majority vote is not reached”, Camilleri said.

On the issue of investigating those against whom claims of corruption have been levied, Camilleri said that all allegations made on any individual, irrespective of who they may be, should be followed up and investigated, but added that it is not his prerogative to decide who should be investigated.

“My role as a politician is not to investigate, or to tell the police what they should do. My job is to ensure that the police have all the resources they need to carry out the investigations”, he said.

In this regard, Camilleri noted that reforms within the police force – which he said are already ongoing – are necessary.

He underscored, however, that he was “in the business of reforms not vendetta” when it came to the government’s decision to grant ex-police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar a consultancy role in the public sector.

Asked by presenter Saviour Balzan about the issue of illegal immigration, Camilleri praised the work of the Armed Forces on this front, saying that they were both well-equipped and well-prepared.

He pointed out, however, that “in recent years, Malta has done more than was expected from it” with regard to illegal immigration.

“Malta is insisting that other European countries do their part”, Camilleri stressed, noting that while some countries have helped, more can be done.

“It cannot be the case that we take more in more migrants than we are due. That is the message that we are putting out”, the minister said.

Camilleri, however, clarified that this did not mean abandoning people in need. “We must be very tough with other states, but not with people”.

Konrad Mizzi’s political career is over – Robert Arrigo

PN MP and deputy leader Robert Arrigo, who was a guest on the second part of Xtra, said the €80,000 per year consultancy contract which had been granted to former minister Konrad Mizzi was “repulsive”

Arrigo rubbished claims that the contract was a mistake, noting that legally speaking, there was no mistake, but that it is morally and politically reprehensible for such a consultancy to be given to Mizzi.

PN deputy leader Robert Arrigo was a guest on the second part of the programme
PN deputy leader Robert Arrigo was a guest on the second part of the programme

The deputy leader questioned why Mizzi continues to be granted government contracts and positions, querying whether it is because the former minister “knows too much”.

On Mizzi’s nomination to head Malta’s parliamentary delegation to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe delegation, Arrigo said it was ironic to nominate someone who had been condemned by the EU to work with a European institution like the OSCE.

“As a politician, he is over. He should have gone before, when the Panama Papers scandal first broke out”, Arrigo argued.

Arrigo also turned his guns on Robert Abela, claiming that the Prime Minister had lost much of the goodwill that he initially had with the public.

“There is a large majority that is tired of such events”, Arrigo said, “We had hope in Robert Abela that we would start a fresh page […] but we are reading the same pages from the same book”.

Arrigo questioned whether Abela had any prior knowledge of Mizzi’s contract, considering that the prime minister was Joseph Muscat legal advisor.

“We’re assuming because the information is very scarce, and the answers to our questions are very scare”, he said.

Arrigo added that Tourism Minister, Julia Farrugia Portelli should have acted as soon as she found out about the contract, rather than after it became public knowledge.