[WATCH] President should have powers to protect nation from government, MP says

David Agius said he would like to see the President have more powers, especially in areas such as control of the army and the police

Nationalist Party deputy leader David Agius
Nationalist Party deputy leader David Agius

Nationalist Party deputy leader David Agius has said that he would like to see the President of the Republic be given more powers, including more control over the army and the police.

“The president should have more powers, especially when it comes to the army and the police,” Agius said on current affairs programme Xtra.

“When it comes to public order, the President should be there to protect the nation so it can feel safeguarded form decisions that could be taken by the executive.”  

Agius was invited on the programme to discuss the appointment of a new president, once Marie-Louise Coliero Preca’s term ends in April, where he echoed PN leader Adrian Delia in calling for the next President to be from within the PN’s ranks. This, he said, would convey a much-needed sense of national unity.

“If we really want national unity and for everyone to be feel represented, and if Joseph Muscat as Prime Minister really wants to unite this country, he should take this decision,” he said.

Earlier this week government sources told MaltaToday that former Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella had accepted to be the next president, however Muscat told journalists earlier on Thursday that the subject hadn’t yet been discussed.  

Asked why the PN hadn't recommend an individual who is politically neutral, Agius said that one needed to be realistic. 

“We know what the country is like. We know that even in a village, some support this band club some support the other, some support England some support Italy. In Malta some people are Labourites and some are Nationalists,” replied Agius.

He said that while there was no legal obligation for the president to come from the Opposition’s side, the arrangement had worked out when former Labour deputy leader George Abela was appointed president by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.

Reacting to the PN's call in brief video comment PL MEP candidate Alex Agius Saliba insisted that party affiliation had nothing to do with whether or not a person was competent. “To have a president from the PN side defeats the whole purpose, whoever is elected should not have any political bias.”

On what the next step would be if, as has been reported, the decision has already been made, Agius stressed that the Opposition was yet to hear from the government on the final decision and would therefore not be making any assumptions. If it was the case, he said the next step would be decided within the PN's parliamentary group.

Turning to the divisions currently plaguing the PN, Agius insisted that the worst had passed and that the party was now looking to concentrate on policy. “Nobody has everyone’s support, not Eddie Fenech Adami, not even Joseph Muscat has everyone behind him. We must now look forward and continue working.”

Asked if the PN’s constant criticism of the government made it appear too negative with the electorate, Agius said it was the Opposition’s role to criticise where it believes there is something wrong. 

“In some instances, we have shown that we can work hand in hand with the government, but on the other hand it is our role to ensure that the government is kept under check,” he said.