Gambetti lill-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali

Il-Ministru tal-Ġustizzja Edward Zammit Lewis, kien ewforiku dwar il-bidliet kostituzzjonali li ftehmu dwarhom il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Gvern Laburista. “Ftehim storiku” qal.

Ikun opportun li ninnutaw li dan il-ftehim bejn Gvern u Opposizzjoni sar bil-bibien magħluqin. Għal darb’oħra ma kienx hemm konsultazzjoni pubblika. Il-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali, presentement fil-limbu, ngħatat gambetta oħra.  Kif ġie emfasizzat iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa minn Pieter Omtzigt, rapporteur Olandiż tal-Kunsill tal-Ewropa dwar  Malta u s-saltna tad-dritt, il-bidliet ta’ din ix-xorta għandhom isiru bis-serjeta.

Filwaqt li l-partiti fil-Parlament kontinwament jitkellmu favur il-ħtieġa tal-konvenzjoni kostituzzjonali, b’għemilhom jimminawha kontinwament.  Tal-PLPN jidher li jemmnu li għandhom xi dritt divin li jiddettaw it-tibdil meħtieġ għall-kostituzzjoni. B’għemilhom kontinwament jagħtu l-ġemb lill-konsultazzjoni pubblika.  Il-Kostituzzjoni, imma, mhiex tagħhom biss, iżda hi tagħna lkoll. Il-Parlament għaldaqstant m’għandu l-ebda dritt li jimponi riformi kostituzzjonali mingħajr konsultazzjoni pubblika adegwata.

Il-qbil li, fil-futur, il-President tar-Repubblika jkun elett b’appoġġ li ma jkunx inqas minn żewġ terzi tal-Membri tal-Parlament hu pass il-quddiem mis-sitwazzjoni attwali. Imma jikkuntrasta ma’ proposta ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika li ilha li ġiet ippreżentata lill-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali  li biha l-Kunsilli Lokali, flimkien mal-Membri Parlamentari jkunu involuti direttament fil-ħatra tal-Kap tal-Istat.  Meta l-PLPN iddeċidew dwar din il-proposta kif ukoll dwar emendi oħra, bejniethom, bil-bibien magħluqin, kienu għal darb’oħra qed jagħtu bis-sieq lill-konsultazzjoni pubblika.  Il-ħatra tal-Kap tal-Istat m’għandhiex tibqa’ l-prerogativa tal-Parlament: ir-rapprezentanza demokratika fil-lokalitajiet ukoll għandha tkun involuta attivament f’din l-għażla.

Apparti li hemm bżonn mod aħjar milli għandna illum kif nagħżlu l-Kap tal-Istat wasal iż-żmien li nikkunsidraw jekk il-President tar-Repubblika għandux ikollu l-possibilità  li jirrifjuta li jiffirma liġi jekk ikun tal-fehma li din tmur kontra l-Kostituzzjoni. Anke dwar dan Alternattiva Demokratika ipproponiet lill-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali li l-President għandu jkollu din ir-responsabbiltà li meta liġi jqisha li tmur kontra l-Kostituzzjoni jibgħatha lura lill-Parlament biex dan jikkunsidraha mill-ġdid.  Permezz tal-ġurament tal-ħatra l-President tar-Repubblika jwiegħed li jħares il-Kostituzzjoni, iżda mbagħad ma jingħata l-ebda għodda kostituzzjonali biex ikun jista’ jwettaq dan l-obbligu. L-awtorità morali tal-Kap tal-Istat mhiex biżżejjed biex jissavagwardja l-Kostituzzjoni meta l-Parlament ikun jidhrilu li jista’ jiġi jaqa’ u jqum minn kollox u minn kulħadd.

Mezzi oħra tal-media presentement qed jiffukaw fuq ir-rwol tal-istazzjonijiet tat-televiżjoni u r-radju tal-partiti politiċi. Anke dwar dan, repetutament, Alternattiva Demokratika emfasizzajna li f’demorkazija moderna dan ma jagħmilx sens, għalkemm dejjem irridu nżommu quddiem għajnejna ċ-ċirkustanzi li minħabba fihom il-partit laburista u l-partit nazzjonalista għandhom dawn il-mezzi.  Alternattiva Demokratika ipproponiet lill-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali li l-istazzjonijiet tal-partiti politiċi għandhom jingħalqu u dan f’kuntest ta’ riforma mill-qiegħ tax-xandir fil-pajjiż. Il-PLPN għandhom kull interess li dibattitu bħal dan jostakolawh għax inkella jispiċċaw jitilfu l-kontroll li għandhom fuq ix-Xandir.

Il-proposti pendenti quddiem il-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali huma bosta.

Bi qbil bejn il-PLPN, il-President tar-Repubblika intalab li jikkoordina l-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali. Dan qed isir bl-assistenza ta’ kumitat magħmul minn rappresentanti tal-PLPN, tlieta minn kull naħa. Dan ilu għaddej is-snin, sa minn qabel ma nħatar il-President tar-Repubblika attwali.  S’issa, imma, jekk sar xi progress m’aħniex infurmati bih! Għax jidher li s-segretezza, sfortunatament, invadiet il-Palazz Presidenzjali ukoll.

Flok ma joqgħodu jilgħabu bil-Kostituzzjoni kull tant żmien, ikun ferm aħjar jekk induruha dawra sew flimkien u dan wara konsultazzjonI pubblika. Ir-riformi li jinħmew wara l-bibien magħluqin, il-metodu operattiv preferut tal-PLPN mhuwiex aċċettabbli.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 9 t’Awwissu 2020

Undermining the Constitutional Convention

Edward Zammit Lewis, Justice Minister, has been euphoric on the constitutional changes agreed between the Labour government and the Nationalist Party. He describes it as a historic agreement.

It is however pertinent to point out that the agreed changes have been arrived at between Government and the Opposition behind closed doors. Once more public consultation has been discarded. The Constitutional Convention, currently in limbo, has been once more undermined. As emphasised earlier this week by Pieter Omtzigt, Dutch rapporteur of the Council of Europe on Malta and the rule of law: paper reforms are not enough.

In contrast to their public statements on the need for a constitutional convention, the parliamentary parties are continuously doing their utmost to undermine it. They seem to believe that they have some divine right to dictate the required improvements to the constitution. In so doing they continuously short-circuit public consultation. The Constitution belongs to all of us. Parliament has no right to impose constitutional changes without adequate public consultation.

The agreement relative to the election of future Heads of State by a two-thirds parliamentary majority, for example, while being an improvement on the present state of affairs, contrasts sharply with a Green proposal submitted to the Constitutional Convention, which proposal would require that local councils should be directly involved together with members of parliament in the process to elect a Head of State.

By deciding on the change behind closed doors the PNPL in Parliament have effectively short-circuited the public debate on this proposal. The election of the Head of State should not remain the prerogative of Parliament. Democratic representatives at a local level should be actively involved in this selection too.

In addition to improving the method of selection of the Head of State it is about time that we consider whether the incumbent should have the authority to refuse to sign legislation approved by Parliament which, in his/her opinion, is anti-Constitutional.

Greens have proposed to the Constitutional Convention that the Head of State should have the authority to send back to Parliament, for its reconsideration, any legislation which he/she considers to be in conflict with the Constitution. The Head of State, in terms of the constitutional oath of office, is bound to defend the constitution yet no constitutional tool is provided in order that this defence can be carried out. The Head of State’s moral authority is not enough to defend the Constitution whenever Parliament feels that it should ignore its provisions.

Other sections of the media are currently highlighting the role of political TV and radio stations. Maltese Greens have time and again drawn attention to the fact that the political media is a misfit in a modern democracy. Even in this respect a Green submission to the Constitutional Convention advocates the dismantling of the political stations within the framework of a radical broadcasting reform. PNPL have an interest in procrastinating a debate which could lead to their being cut down to size and losing control of the broadcasting waves.

Where do we go from here? The proposals pending at the secretariat of the Constitutional Convention are many.

As a result of a PNPL agreement, the President of the Republic has been appointed to lead the Constitutional Convention. The Head of State is presumably coordinating the input received with the assistance of a committee made up of PLPN representatives. This exercise has been going on for ages, since well before the current President was appointed.  Whatever progress has been possibly achieved is not known as everything, so far, is being done behind closed doors. Unnecessary secrecy has also invaded and taken control of the Presidential Palace!

It is about time that instead of having piecemeal adjustments to the Constitution, this is given a complete overhaul after adequate public consultation.  Paper reform behind closed doors, the preferred method of operation of the PNPL is definitely not acceptable.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 9 August 2020

Żomm ‘il-bogħod mill-investigazzjoni

Il-familja Caruana Galizia għandha raġun li tinsisti illi l-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat jeħtieg li jżomm ‘il-bogħod mill-investigazzjoni kriminali dwar l-assassinju ta’ Daphne.

Il-kummentarju kontinwu tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat dwar l-investigazzjoni kriminali għandha tinkwetana ilkoll.

Matul din il-ġimgħa huwa għamel numru ta’ dikjarazzjonijiet inkwetanti li jindikaw bl-iktar mod ċar illi kien qed ikun infurmat b’mod immedjat dwar dak li jkun għaddej waqt l-interrogazzjonijiet.

Dan hu aġir abbużiv u jista’ jkollu konsegwenzi gravi, inkluż t-tħarbit tal-investigazzjoni nnifisha.

Ġejna nfurmati minn Joseph Muscat li l-informazzjoni li wasslet għall-arrest ta’ Yorgen Fenech ma ġietx mill-intermedjarju imma li l-Pulizija kienu ilhom li waslu għaliha. Infurmana ukoll li l-intermedjarju għadu ma svelax biżżejjed informazzjoni. Biżżejjed jiġifieri, biex din l-informazzjoni tkun tista’ twassal ħalli l-investigazzjoni tkun konkluża u dawk kollha responsabbli għall-ippjanar u l-esekuzzjoni tal-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia jkun possibli li kollha kemm huma jieħdu dak li ħaqqhom.

Iktar kmieni, huwa u jwieġeb mistoqsija ta’ ġurnalista, Joseph Muscat żvela li “s’issa”, l-ebda politiku ma kien identifikat bħala “persuna li hi ta’ interess” għall-investigazzjoni kriminali. Din bla dubju żelqitlu. Probabbilment hu nkwetat li din il-possibilità tista’ titfaċċa iktar tard meta l-investigazzjoni tkun żviluppat ftit ieħor. Jittama li dan ma jseħħx. Imma l-movimenti tiegħu (body language) iwasslu messaġġ iktar qawwi minn kliemu dwar din il-possibilità.

Muscat qal li jaf ferm iktar minn dak li qal sa issa, imma li qagħad lura għal dawn l-aħħar 24 xahar. Għamel sforz kbir mid-dehra, probabbilment għax hekk kien jaqbillu.

Min hu inkarigat mill-interrogazzjonijiet fil-Kwartieri Ġenerali tal-Pulizija: il-Kummissarju Lawrence Cutajar jew il-Kummissarju Joseph Muscat?

Diversi mezzi tal-aħbarijiet qed jiżvelaw biċċiet ta’ informazzjoni li qed jindikaw illi l-intermedjarju huwa s-sors potenzjali ta’ minjiera ta’ informazzjoni addizzionali ta’ importanza kbira li tista’ tissiġilla l-każ. Dan jidher li ftit ser iħalli possibiltajiet lil min ikun jixtieq jilgħab.

Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, il-Pulizija issa ma tantx baqagħalhom skużi biex jimxu bil-mod. Għax kif tista’ tispjega dak li qed jgħid il-Prim Ministru li qabel ma tfaċċa l-intermedjarju l-kaz kien diġa ċar għall-investigaturi meta huwa issa, wara dan iż-żmien kollu li bdew jiċċaqalqu ftit biex joqorbu lejn konklużjoni tal-kaz?

Dan il-punt jagħmlu ukoll Pieter Omtzigt, ir-rapporteur tal-Kunsill tal-Ewropa dwar l-assassinju ta’ Daphne li ġie ikkwotat jgħid li “Għaliex ix-xhieda tal-intermedjarju l-ewwel tiġġustifika l-proklama imbagħad il-Prim Ministru jgħid li din ma kienitx meħtieġa biex ikun arrestat Fenech?” Din l-osservazzjoni ta’ Omtzigt hi konklużjoni loġika u inevitabbli li tasal għaliha wara li tgħarbel dak li qal il-Prim Ministru li appunta lilu innifsu bħala l-kelliem għall-investigaturi.

Il-Prim Ministru għandu l-obbligu li jassigura illi l-investigazzjoni tkun imħarsa u mhux imfixkla. F’dan il-mument, bħala riżultat tal-interventi pubbliċi tiegħu dwar l-investigazzjoni, huwa l-ikbar theddida biex l-investigazzjoni tkun imfixkla f’xogħolha.

Dan kollu jwassal għal mistoqsija waħda: lil min qed jipprova iħares?

Hu possibli li qed iħares l-interessi tiegħu stess, jekk mhux ukoll ta’ dawk ta’ madwaru li wħud minnhom jidhru inkwetati sew. F’investigazzjoni normali u bla tfixkil dawk kollha li Daphne kitbet dwarhom huma l-ewwel suspettati li jeħtieg li jkun investigati.

Għalhekk, sur Prim Ministru, żomm il-bogħod mill-investigazzjoni.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 24 ta’ Novembru 2019

 

Hands off the investigation

The Caruana-Galizia family is right to  insist that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat should keep his distance from the criminal investigation into the assassination of Daphne.

We should be very worried about Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s running commentary on this investigation. This week he made a number of worrying declarations which clearly indicate that he is being informed in real time regarding the proceedings in the police interrogation rooms. This is downright abusive and could have very serious consequences, including the derailing of the investigation.

We were informed by Joseph Muscat that the information that led to the arrest of Yorgen Fenech did not come from the middleman. He further informed us that the middleman has not yet revealed enough information – enough, that is, to conclude the investigation and arraign all those responsible for master-minding and carrying out the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Earlier, in answer to a journalist’s question, he had revealed that “so far” no political person has been identified as a “person of interest” to the criminal investigation. Is this a Freudian slip? Most probably he is worried about the distinct possibility that such an identification could materialise later – when the investigation has matured sufficiently -and he is keeping his fingers crossed. His body language says much more than the words he uttered.

Muscat said that he knows much more, but that he has been keeping back from revealing everything for the past 24 months. Apparently, he has made quite an effort to keep his mouth shut – most probably because it suited him.

Who is in charge in the interrogation rooms at the Floriana Police Headquarters? Why has the Commissioner of Police relinquished his lead of the Police Corps? Is it Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar or is it Commissioner Joseph Muscat who is in charge of the Police and in particular its criminal investigation on Daphne’s assassination?

Various media outlets are revealing titbits of information which seem to indicate that the identification of the middleman as a potential source of additional information of considerable importance seems to have placed the police authorities in a very tight corner. As a result, the Police have no option but to now proceed at a very fast pace. How could one otherwise explain the Prime Minister’s emphasising that the Police authorities already had a solid case before the advent of the middleman?

This is a point also made by Pieter Omtzigt, the Council of Europe rapporteur for the Daphne assassination, who was quoted as saying: “Why was (the middleman’s) evidence worth a pardon one day, only for the PM to then say it was not needed for Fenech’s arrest?” This Omtzigt quote is the logical conclusion to which one inevitably arrives after digesting the Prime Minister’s interventions as the self-appointed spokesman for the police investigators! The Prime Minister has a duty to ensure that the investigation is not derailed, but at this point in time – as a result of his public interventions regarding the investigation – he is the greatest threat to this happening. This leads to one simple question: whom is he trying to shield?

He could be shielding even himself, if not the obvious ones close to him. In any normal unfettered police investigation, all those about whom Daphne wrote would be suspects from the outset.

Hands off the investigation.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 24 November 2019