The Parliamentary Opposition

The fact that government has been forced by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe to loosen its stranglehold on the Commissioner of Police appointment process is a positive democratic development. It is not as good as it could be, but it is definitely a welcome first step: there is however room for substantial improvement in the process.

In this context the Opposition’s decision to boycott the public hearing process is retrograde.

The Parliamentary Opposition, in any democratic jurisdiction worthy of being so described, is the champion of transparency and accountability. A Parliamentary Opposition demands more opportunities to scrutinise major appointments to public office. Boycotting the first substantial opportunity to scrutinise an appointee to the post of Commissioner of Police is not just a lost opportunity. It risks undermining the democratic requests for more public scrutiny of top appointments to public office.

The PN Parliamentary Opposition is arguing that the existence of the possibility for government to terminate the appointment of the new Police Commissioner within a one-year probationary period is unacceptable as it would keep the new appointee on a leash. The justified preoccupation of the Opposition is that the probationary period could be abused of. This is not unheard of. There is however a solution in seeking to subject the possible dismissal of the Police Commissioner at any stage to a Parliamentary decision as a result of which the Minister for the Interior would be required to set out the case for dismissal and the Police Commissioner himself would be afforded the right to defend himself. This would place any government in an awkward position as it would not seek dismissal unless there is a very valid justification for such a course of action. This would ensure, more than anything else, the integrity of the office of Commissioner of Police.

The Opposition has also sought to subject the appointment of the Commissioner of Police to a two-thirds parliamentary approval, indirectly seeking a veto on the appointment to be considered.

It would have been much better if the debate focused on the real decision taker in the whole matter: that is to say the Public Service Commission (PSC). Originally set up in the 1959 Constitution, the PSC has a role of advising the Prime Minister on appointments to public office and on the removal or disciplinary control of appointees to public office. Section 109 of the Constitution emphasises that when the PSC is appointed by the President of the Republic, he acts on the advice of the Prime Minister who would have consulted with the Leader of the Opposition.

Wouldn’t it be more appropriate if both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are taken out of the equation in such matters? Parliament should seriously consider squeezing them both out of the process not just in the appointment of the PSC but in the case of the appointment of all Constitutional bodies. That is an instant where it would be justifiable in ensuring that all appointments are subject to a two thirds approval threshold in Parliament.

In boycotting the scrutinising process, the Opposition is doing a disservice to the country.

Since 2018 it has been possible for Parliament to scrutinise a number of public sector appointments. Perusal of the proceedings of the Parliamentary Public Appointments Committee indicates the very superficial manner in which consideration of appointments is dealt with. Serious objections raised on the non-suitability of candidates are ignored before the proposed appointment is generally rubber-stamped.

Unfortunately, Parliament is not capable of holding government to account. Having a retrograde Parliamentary Opposition certainly does not help in overturning a rubber-stamping practice!

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 14 June 2020

L-għarbiel ta’ Owen Bonnici : b’toqob kbar

Il-pass li ħabbar Owen Bonnici li l-Gvern ser jitlob il-parir ta’ kumitat parlamentari qabel ma jagħmel numru ta’ ħatriet hu pass il-quddiem. Pass żgħir iva. Imma xorta l-quddiem. Dan ma nistax niċħdu, avolja hu fermi l-bogħod milli wieħed jistenna fid-dinja tal-lum.

Il-liġi proposta għadna ma rajnihiex u għalhekk dawn il-kummenti huma bbażati fuq dak li qal Owen Bonnici. Il-Gvern, qal Owen Bonnici, ser jibqa’ jkollu l-aħħar kelma, imma ser ifittex il-parir ta’ kumitat parlamentari qabel ma jagħmel ħatriet politiċi ta’ ambaxxaturi u ċ-Ċhairpersons ta’ numru ta’ entitajiet pubbliċi. Dan hu tajjeb imma imbagħad, dejjem skond ma qal Owen Bonnici l-iskrutinju li jista’ jsir mill-kumitat parlamentari hu wieħed limitat ħafna. Għax jista’ jsir biss bil-miktub u ser ikun limitat dwar kompetenza professjonali.

Din il-limitazzjoni fil-poteri ta’ skrutinju hi daħq fil-wiċċ u jfisser li fil-prattika l-iskrutinju li jista jsir hu limitat ħafna u ftit li xejn jista’ jservi ħlief fejn ikunu nominati persuni inkompetenti.

L-aħbarijiet ta’ TVM qalulna li l-ħatriet ser jgħaddu mill-għarbiel tal-Parlament. Imma ma qalux li l-għarbiel ta’ Owen għandu toqob kbar, li minnu jgħaddi kważi kollox.

Fil-Manifest Elettorali tal-aħħar elezzjoni (u anke f’dak ta’ qabilha) Alternattiva Demokratika ipproponiet miżura ferm iktar drastika u ċjoe li l-Parlament (jew il-kumitati tiegħu) jiddeċiedi u mhux sempliċiment jagħti parir. U biex jagħmel dan għandu jgħarbel sewwa permezz ta’ skrutinju pubbliku (public hearing) mingħajr limitazzjoni.

U mela mistoqsijiet bil-miktub!

Il-Parlament u l-MEPA

24 ta’ Frar 2010

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Matul il-ġranet li ġejjin fil-Parlament se tibda d-diskus­sjoni dwar ir-riforma tal-MEPA.

Meta teżamina l-proposti li l-Gvern qiegħed jippreżenta biex jemenda l-liġi biex jagħti bidu għar-riforma tal-MEPA ssib li l-iktar affarijiet essenzjali huma neqsin. Dan ta’ bilfors iwassal għal mistoqsija, allura din x’riforma se tkun?

Jien dejjem sostnejt li għalkemm dejjem se jkun hemm x’tirranġa fil-MEPA, il-problema fundamentali mhumiex il-‘policies’ iżda min jinterpretahom. Jiġifieri kemm ikunu kapaċi jaqdu dmirhom il-membri li jinħatru fuq il-Bord u l-Kummissjonijiet tal-MEPA.

Għaġina

Mhux waħdi li smajt l-istejjer dwar x’ġara fil-passat, kemm riċenti kif ukoll imbiegħed. Ħafna minnhom huma pubbliċi. Uħud minnhom huma pruvabbli, oħrajn diffiċli ħafna li ssib il-provi dwarhom għax il-kobba mħabbla sew.

Il-punt dejjem hu jekk min jinħatar huwiex ta’ fibra. Sfortunatament dan mhux dejjem kien il-każ u għalhekk il-MEPA hi fl-istat li hi llum. Għax filwaqt li min inħatar mhux dejjem għaraf jirreżisti għall-pressjoni, sfortunatament kien hemm min inħatar apposta biex iservi ta’ ‘remote control’ għal ħaddieħor. F’dan il-każ il-kwalifika prinċipali tiegħu kienet li kien kapaċi jkun għaġina f’idejn ħadd­ieħor.

Il-funzjoni

X’inhi l-funzjoni tal-MEPA? Fil-fehma tiegħi l-MEPA għandha tkun il-garanti tal-komunità kollha li l-oqsma li għalihom hi responsabbli jitmexxew sew. Sfortunatament bosta drabi l-MEPA dehret kompliċi biex ikun hemm min tgħaddi tiegħu minkejja kollox. Il-messaġġ li ħareġ kien wieħed ċar ħafna, li minkejja l-formalitajiet u r-regoli kollha, id-deċiżjonijiet il-kbar u l-iktar iebsin, diversi drabi kellhom tiċpisa partiġ­ġjana. Jiġifieri iktar minn deċiżjonijiet li dwarhom kien hemm ġustifikazzjoni teknika ambjentali u ta’ ppjanar fl-użu tal-art, fejn kien hemm ġbid lejn il-politika tal-Gvern tal-ġurnata.

Hu dan li r-riforma teħtieġ li tindirizza u dan fil-fatt qiegħed jiġi injorat apposta, bi ħsieb.

Rieda tajba

Il-ħatra tal-membri tal-Bord tal-MEPA hi ta’ importanza fundamentali fl-eżerċizzju kollu li qiegħed isir.

Għax anke jekk nikkonċedi rieda tajba fil-proċess kollu tar-riforma, jekk din ir-rieda tajba tissarrafx jew le, se jiddependi minn bnedmin tad-demm u l-laħam li ma jkunux lesti li jitgħawġu. Kif se jsir dan?

Il-Parlament

Il-Bord tal-MEPA ma jistax jaħtar lilu nnifsu! Alternattiva Demokratika sa minn qabel l-elezzjoni tal-2008, kienet ipproponiet li l-Parlament għandu jkollu rwol ikbar fil-mod kif jintgħażlu n-nies li jmexxu l-MEPA. Il-Parlament għandu jiżviluppa rwol bħal dak tas-Senat Amerikan li jagħrbel u japprova ħatriet ta’ importanza nazzjonali, anke jekk in-nomini jibqgħu jsiru mill-Gvern tal-ġurnata. Naħsbu li l-Gvern m’għandux jaħtar bħala membri tal-Bord tal-MEPA persuni li dwarhom, il-Kumitat Magħżul tal-Parlament dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar ikollu diffikultà.

Id-diffikultà tista’ tkun kemm dwar kompetenza kif ukoll dwar sebgħa dritt.

Għandu jkun possibli li l-Parlament permezz tal-Kumitat Magħżul dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar jgħarbel fil-pubbliku lil dawk li jkunu se jinħatru. Hekk pereżempju jintgħażlu l-Ambax­xaturi kollha li taħtar l-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika, jinnominahom kollha l-President u jikkonfermahom is-Senat permezz ta’ wieħed mill-Kumitati tiegħu. Fl-Istati Uniti dan isir għall-ambaxxaturi kollha, anke għall-membri tal-Kabinett u għal uħud mill-organizzazzjonijiet tal-Istat Federali.

Jekk għandna nikkopjaw għandna nibdew nikkopjaw sistemi li ġew imfasslin apposta biex l-eżerċizzju tal-poter tal-ħatriet ikun imrażżan. Jekk min jaħtar jagħraf li ħatra importanti trid qabel ma sseħħ tgħaddi mill-passatur tal-opinjoni pubblika, jaħsibha darbtejn dwar min iressaq ’il quddiem. B’hekk forsi jkollna nies fit-tmexxija li jkunu aċċettabbli għal firxa iktar wiesa’ mill-popolazzjoni.

Dan hu rwol importanti li fil-fehma tal-Alternattiva Demokratika għandu jkollu l-Parlament ta’ Malta. Hu aktar importanti milli jibqa’ jaħtar żewġ membri minn tiegħu (kif jagħmel sal-lum) bħala membri tal-Bord tal-MEPA.

Naħseb li l-Membru Parlamentari m’għandux jinvolvi ruħu f’deċiżjoni dwar liema permess għandu joħroġ u liema għandu jinżamm. Iktar importanti li l-Membru Parlamentari jara li dawk li jinħatru jkunu kapaċi jimxu sew. Sfortunatament dan s’issa la sar u lanqas m’hemm il-ħsieb li jsir.

Iżda jekk dan isir, ir-riforma tkun tista’ tagħti l-frott. Jekk le, naħseb li se nibqgħu fejn aħna.