State Advocate Bill is ‘shameful’, government is not credible on rule of law – Adrian Delia
Wed, 12 Jun 2019 18:21

State Advocate Bill is ‘shameful’, government is not credible on rule of law – Adrian Delia

Wed, 12 Jun 2019 18:21

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia described the State Advocate Bill as “shameful” and said that the government is not credible in its willingness to retain the principles of rule of law, saying that they have removed constitutional matters from the remit of the President of the Republic and the constitutional reform process.

State Advocate Bill is ‘shameful’, government is not credible on rule of law – Adrian Delia

Delia was last to speak on what was the third day of debate in Parliament on the State Advocate Bill, which separates the powers of the Attorney General and creates a new role called the State Advocate to be the primary consultant of the Government in relation to law and legal opinions.

The Opposition Leader quoted heavily from a paper written by former Faculty of Laws Dean Kevin Aquilina which was published on Wednesday morning and which provided a scathing analysis of the Bill.

"It has conceptual flaws. It is shabbily drafted. It is a parody of the December 2018 Venice Commissions Report. It flies in the face of established constitutional doctrines. It is legislative drafting mediocrity at its best. In sum, it is yet another classic example of how legislation should never be drafted," Aquilina said of the Bill.

Delia quoted Aquilina’s paper, listing the reasons how the Bill went against the recommendations of the Venice Commission report – a report which the government is claiming to have based the Bill on.

He quoted Aquilina as saying that various matters, such as that the Attorney General still retains the role of FIAU chairman and that there are deficiencies in how the official press release and in how the bill itself is written.

Delia quoted the former Law Faculty Dean in his conclusion on the report, wherein Aquilina wrote that "Clearly Cabinet has approved a Bill proposed to it by the Justice Minister which is half-baked and ill-conceived, and has been drafted hastily, shabbily, superficially, and without enough thought and research put into it."

Delia continued to quote Aquilina’s conclusions, which read that "the Government is purposefully dragging its feet to implement the Venice Commission report and, five months after the publication of this report, it has attempted to address only one topic - quite deficiently - of the report," and that "This does not augur well for the respect of the rule of law in Malta. Indeed, there is a constitutional rule of law crisis in Malta."

The Opposition Leader questioned whether the government wanted to persist and remain stubborn in their desire to implement this “shameful” act, or whether they wanted to be the ones to reform Malta to truly reflect the basic principles of the European Union, Council of Europe and European Court of Human Rights – principles on rule of law which Delia quoted at the beginning of his parliamentary intervention.

He said that if the government wanted to bring these reforms through properly, they should take them through the constitutional reform process and enact them into the constitution.

The debate also saw four government MPs share their thoughts on the Bill, with the general consensus being one of praise towards Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and to what, they called, the government’s desire to take courageous and reformist decisions such as the implementation of this bill.

MP Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi said that it was a figment of the Opposition’s imagination that every institution was controlled by a remote control deployed by the Office of the Prime Minister, and that it was lacking in vision.

Zrinzo Azzopardi praised the government for its “courageous decision” in bringing forth such a bill, noting that the selection process proposed works according to the same recommendations that the Venice Commission gave to Hungary in similar circumstances.

Environment Minister Jose Herrera meanwhile attacked the members of the Venice Commission, noting that they come from countries which have judicial systems which do not line up with what the Commission wants Malta to have.

Speaking of the United Kingdom, he said that the role of Attorney General – which is held by Richard Clayton, a member of the Commission - there is much less autonomous than Malta’s, and that yet he had the audacity to criticise the Maltese system. 

Herrera reserved the same level of criticism for Martin Kuijer, another member of the Commission, who, he said, holds various roles such as legal adviser for the country’s justice department, Cabinet, and Justice Minister, while also holding the post of substitute judge.

“Imagine what the reaction would be in Malta if judges had to give their advice to the government – it is incredible that they then criticise how we appoint our judiciary”, Herrera said.

MP Glen Bedingfield meanwhile said that while the Opposition has said that the government has taken control of the institutions, the government has actually had no problem in removing certain powers from its hands. 

He went on to attack the PN for their time in government, saying that in 25 years they had done nothing to rectify the situation and that the courts had become a “family jamboree” under their government.

Bedingfield reserved a small portion of his speech to, curiously, defend the Opposition leader, saying that there were some within his party who unjustly wanted his head on a golden plate simply because they did not agree with him.

Parliamentary Sectetary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue Aaron Farrugia was meanwhile much more measured in his approach, noting that the bill presented is quotes the recommendations of the Venice Commission word-for-word, and praised Justice Minister Owen Bonnici for the number of forward looking reforms that he had implemented in the past years.