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From freshman to Cabinet slayer

Debono’s quest through Parliament in the past five years

Franco Debono was elected to Parliament for the first time in 2008 on the fifth district as the government’s youngest MP, unseating former minister and PN stalwart Louis Galea.

In December 2009 the criminal lawyer did not turn up in Parliament when two votes on opposition amendments were taken.

He wanted to protest what he felt was the Justice and Home Affairs Ministry’s procrastination in activating a law granting arrested people the right to consult their lawyer. The minister signed in the law two months later.

As part of administrative changes to quell backbench dissent in 2010, the Prime Minister appointed a number of MPs to parliamentary assistant with Dr Debono being assigned to the Office of the Prime Minister.

After being tasked by the Prime Minister to draw up legislation on political party financing – another of Dr Debono’s pet subjects – the MP felt he had been let down last year when his proposals were redrafted by the government’s legal services division under the Justice Ministry’s portfolio.

A summer of discontent on the newly-launched bus service saw Dr Debono abstain on a motion of no confidence in the Transport Minister moved by the Opposition.

However, in a convoluted tale of twists and turns, two days later the MP voted with his party on a vote of confidence in the government and later presented a private members’ motion listing a number of reforms he would like to see happen in justice and home affairs.

This course of action was followed by an Opposition motion calling on Parliament to censure Justice and Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici.

Both motions are still pending.

But 2011 ended with a bang when Dr Debono said the Prime Minister had promised him that the Justice and Home Affairs portfolios would be split by the end of the year – a move the MP had been clamouring for.

The Cabinet reshuffle happened in January but splitting the portfolios did not quell the MP, who withdrew his support to the government.

But in spite of his harsh criticism of the Prime Minister, when an Opposition motion of no confidence in the government came to a head at the end of January, Dr Debono abstained. After nearly four months of the government postponing votes in Parliament, Dr Debono insisted this week he wanted the private members’ Bills on Justice and Home Affairs – both his and those put forward by the Opposition – to be discussed and concluded before a crucial money vote.

He also called for the resignation of Richard Cachia Caruana, Malta’s permanent representative to the EU.

The Opposition later tabled a motion calling for Mr Cachia Caruana’s resignation over his dealings on Malta’s access to Nato documents after 2004.

The Prime Minister has slated the money Bill for May 9, ignoring the MP’s exhortations, but Dr Debono has signalled he will support an adjournment motion put forward by the opposition to force the government’s hand in debating the motions.

In what he describes as his fight for democratic reform, Dr Debono’s quest continues.

Will he manage to slay the Home Affairs Minister? Will his actions bring down a government before its time?

The answers will come out in due course.

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