PD proposes 'rule-of-law' control system in Constitution
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PD proposes 'rule-of-law' control system in Constitution

It would constrain abuses of power and ensure equal treatment and public interest

Democratic Party leader Godfrey Farrugia.

Democratic Party leader Godfrey Farrugia.

A “rule-of-law control system” must be introduced in the Constitution, the Democratic Party has proposed.

“Such a system would constrain abuses of power, ensure equal treatment of citizens and ensure public interest,” the party says in one of its 12 key proposals for constitutional reform.

Presenting the PD’s proposals to President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca last week, party leader Godfrey Farrugia said that the drafting of the new Constitution should be left to experts in the field, both local and foreign.

The PD’s other proposals are:

Parliament’s ability to override the Constitution must end. The power of the Constitutional Court to annul unconstitutional laws must be installed;

The independence of the judiciary needs to be strengthened. International best practices must be in place to eliminate structural weaknesses and conflict of interests;

The media (fourth estate) must be pluralistic and completely free of political parties. The true independence of the Broadcasting Authority and the Freedom of Information need redress. A media Ombudsman needs to be set up;

An independent anti-corruption body must be set up. This would also be able to investigate criminality within the police force or the AG’s office itself;

An independent anti-corruption body must be set up

All Constitutional bodies (such as the Broadcasting Authority, Commission Against Corruption, Employment Commission, Public Service Commission) must be above politics and truly independent. They lack safeguards with regard to their personal, functional, institutional, financial and legal independence. These bodies are also subject to highly insufficient public accountability provisions (which are necessary for bodies that are independent, and hence removed from direct democratic control). Moreover, they should not be led by boards whose majority is appointed by the Prime Minister as this eliminates the necessary checks and balances;

There is a need for an independent non-politically appointed civil service and police force. There should be political direction but not complete takeover;

The Attorney General’s roles as a prosecutor and legal adviser to the government must end with the creation of a Prosecutor’s Office;

Parliament’s role must be strengthened both in the House as a multi-party system and also by extending proportional representation in a general election. Members should also have a full-time status;

A healthy environment is a basic right for each citizen. The executive will be held responsible to safeguard, improve and sustain the environment for present and future generations. The natural environment is to be granted the status of a citizen;

The President of Malta should be appointed by a two-thirds parliamentary majority. The role of the President should be to check on (not exercise) executive power. This should be limited to one estate: the executive. The President should have an Advisory Council to State. The Office of the President must prepare an annual public report on the quality of democracy in the country and make recommendations;

In the interest of uniting the country one needs to bear in mind that there are a lot of systemic issues which need addressing such as the Whistleblower Act, the Financing of Political Parties Act, the Ombudsman Act and the Auditor General Act.

Read: Better checks and balances needed to ensure rule of law - Venice Commission

The PD said that the Steering Committee for Constitutional Reform must not be one that is seen as a ‘backroom deal’ behind everybody’s back and it was important not to leave out the media, judges, lawyers, the Chamber of Advocates, NGOs, pressure groups, trade unions and citizens from this whole process of reform.

It said it did not agree with the government’s decision to ask the Steering Committee – “a committee of political representatives with no clear terms of reference and with no basis at law” – to debate the report in secret.

The Steering Committee, it said, was simply “a gathering of representatives of the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party”, adding that it was “not a committee with broad enough representation to ensure comprehensive debate”.  

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