PN unveils “unprecedented” bills introducing corruption and mafia association offenses
Tista ‘taqra bil-
The Nationalist Party unveiled twelve bills aimed at fighting corruption and mafia-type crimes.
The bills, which were drafted and unanimously approved by the PN parliamentary group and which will be tabled in the House in the coming days, were launched by opposition leader Bernard Grech on Saturday morning.
At a press conference, Grech explained that the PN parliamentary group was working to come up with legislative tools that would move the country forward.
After Malta was graylisted as a jurisdiction under heightened surveillance and following the conclusion of the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the government failed to take concrete steps to resolving issues that tarnish the country’s reputation, Grech mentioned.
The damning report prepared by the commission of inquiry concluded that the state must take responsibility for the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia by creating a culture of impunity that has infiltrated the country’s institutions.
“The State responsible for the murder of Daphne” – public inquiry
The report states that impunity was “generated at the highest level at the heart of administration in Castile and like an octopus spread to other entities such as regulatory institutions and the police, resulting in the collapse of the rule of law “.
Prime Minister Robert Abela had announced that new laws would be proposed to address the issues highlighted by the inquiry’s findings in September. However, Grech noted that even though everyone is presumed to be a criminal, the real criminals have still not been brought to justice as the government has failed to act on the recommendations and address the issues that led the country to be placed on the FATF so-called gray list.
The bills include proposals for an interim government during the period when parliament is dissolved until a new government is elected. The bill proposes to limit the duties and actions of government in order to prevent the outgoing administration from abusing its power.
One of the bills also deals with the use of private email during his public service, with Grech referring to how disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat used his private email for official communications. .
âCivil servants and government officials are showing that they are using official channels for government communication,â Grech reiterated.
In addition, the Nationalist Party proposes a special investigating judge to focus only on corruption investigations. The magistrate would be empowered by law to open his own investigation without a formal report.
Other bills focus on obstruction of justice, neglect of duty by public officials, unexplained wealth ordinances, creation of a crime for mafia associations and organized criminal groups.
In addition, an extension of up to 72 hours in police custody is offered in special cases, subject to the approval of the examining magistrate.
The opposition is also proposing a declaration in favor of journalism to be enshrined in the Constitution. Grech stressed that it is not enough to speak of the press as the fourth pillar of a democracy, but that journalists and the media should be given the highest protection. In addition, the PN will also present a draft law on strategic lawsuit against public participation better known as SLAPP.
Such damaging costumes chill free speech and healthy debate by targeting those who speak out on matters of public interest. They have a habit of silencing and harassing critics by forcing them to spend money to defend these baseless lawsuits. Plaintiffs in SLAPP lawsuits do not seek justice, but rather use these lawsuits to intimidate those who disagree with them or their activities by draining the financial resources of the defendant.
Malta will not get off the gray list by slogans, billboards, flashy campaigns or by manipulation of the national broadcaster, Grech said.
Opposition not consulted
Responding to questions from the media, Opposition Leader Bernard Grech said that despite offering to work with the government to follow through on the recommendations of the public inquiry report, the opposition had not officially been consulted on the matter.
In a response to a question from The Shift News suggesting the government had chosen a group to work on the recommendations of the public inquiry, Grech said the opposition was not involved.
In a statement, the government said the opposition leader lied when he accused the government of inaction.
Through the Ministry of Information, the government said that the Prime Minister’s Office had consulted several entities, including journalists and academics, as well as international institutions, in order to set up a committee of experts in accordance with to the recommendations of the public inquiry, thus confirming the existence of such a committee.
The government added that it had also consulted on its composition, reiterating that Grech was aware of these consultations.
During these meetings, bills were also introduced, the government said, adding that protecting journalists is a priority. The government is expected to unveil the way forward in the coming days.
The PN reacted to the government’s statement by saying it was confirming that the prime minister had sat on the findings for six months.
Large companies, party funding
Asked why none of the proposals directly targeted the link between political parties and big business, Grech said that as long as he remains at the head of the party, the PN will not be conditioned by big business. He stressed that legitimate businesses should not be demonized, as he asserted that bills on the subject were not excluded.
Further, Grech said that while in this set of bills party funding is not included, the party does not rule out drafting bills on the issue in the future. He explained that important amendments to the electoral law and to public broadcasting were needed.
Reacting to the press conference, the Labor Party claimed the opposition had a “credibility” problem. Following a question about VAT deferrals from opposition MP David Thake, posed by a Labor Party media reporter, the PL said Grech could talk as much as he wanted about good governance but he had no credibility.
“We must not forget the muder of Daphne” – Repubblika
Repubblika welcomed the move, noting that the opposition’s proposals also include a number of proposals that Repubblika put forward before the public inquiry, including those aimed at responding to the reality of Mafia organized crime that has developed.
In a statement, the rule of law NGO said it would study the proposals and make suggestions if it deemed necessary.
On another note, he expressed deep concern that the government seems to have an interest in forgetting about Daphne’s murder and the investigation that took place. “Such efforts are only attempts to kill Daphne again and for the corrupt to continue to rule,” he added.
“We hope that the government will immediately start the process of updating the laws of our country,” Repubblika concluded.