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Changes to law on appointment of Standards Commissioner disrespectful to democracy – Grech

The Nationalist party considers the changes being proposed by the government on the way the Commissioner for Standards is appointed to be anti-democratic and irresponsible as their only scope is to break the institution, Opposition Leader Bernard Grech said Monday.

Speaking in Parliament, Grech explained how the PN agreed on the appointment of former judge Joseph Zammit McKeon as the new Ombudsman but not with the nomination of former Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi as the new commissioner for public standards.

But the Prime Minister continues to be stubborn and arrogant, he said

Grech said that another classic example of an arrogant government was the dismissal of Mariella Dimech from the authority that regulates the use of Cannabis.

She was dismissed “less than a year after the government hastily introduced a law without a strong regulatory framework on the use of cannabis… today we see that the Government has failed,” he said.

He explained how before the law was introduced, the opposition together with another 53 organisations and experts in the social sector told the government that it was wrong in expediting the process of legalising cannabis for recreational use before the regulatory system was established.

“This is because this Authority does not have the legal framework to carry out what it was established for and is therefore detrimental to our society. As Mariella Dimech herself said, the strategy was not in the right direction.”

He added that it is useless to change the CEO unless the problem is addressed from its roots.

Grech said that even in this case, the government should listen to what society wants and to “stop being arrogant”. He urged the government to straighten the regulatory framework so that laws are truly effective.

On amendments which are to legalise abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, the Opposition Leader said that the Prime Minister acted in a partisan manner he had challenged the opposition to support the amendment on this type of termination of pregnancy.

The Prime Minister should be ashamed that while the amendment has been ready for a while it has not been published, and yet wanted to opposition to agree on an amendment which has not yet seen the light of day, Grech said.

This is condemnable and insulting to the basic elements of democracy, Grech said. Such a sensitive and delicate issue should not be used as a political football.

Turning to the Speaker’s ruling on Minister Aaron Bonnici’s absence from the chamber when PQs on his ministry were being asked, Grech said that this was not even reported on the national station.

He said that Farrugia was wrong to avoid parliament’s scrutiny on matters pertaining to his portfolio. The people are worried about scandals that his ministry is involved in, such as the Marsa flyover project, and answers should be given. Minister Farrugia has not spoken up yet to justify his absence, Grech said.

The Opposition Leader also criticized Culture Minister Owen Bonnici who had remained silent in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal in the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. Victims of abuse are being ignored by the government, Grech said.

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