2 days to persuade opposition to back crucial reforms – Zammit Lewis

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis expressed his hope that the opposition would ultimately vote in favour of constitutional reforms he had presented when they come to their crucial final vote this Wednesday, though indications so far suggest otherwise.

Earlier on Monday afternoon, the Consideration of Bills Committee failed to find a compromise over three constitutional amendments, which concern the appointment of the President, the appointment of members of the judiciary and the potential removal from office of members of the judiciary. Votes on the clauses contested by the opposition – which have not been amended – will take place on Tuesday’s plenary sitting, on the eve of the vote.

A two-thirds parliamentary majority is required for constitutional amendments to be approved in their third and final reading, and on Sunday, Prime Minister Robert Abela insisted that the opposition would not be forgiven if they did not approve the reforms.

But Zammit Lewis opted for a more conciliatory approach, inviting the opposition to play a part in what he described as the third most significant constitutional reforms the country ever implemented. The other two cited by Zammit Lewis were the 1974 amendments which transformed Malta into a republic, and the 1987 amendments which ensured that the party that received the most votes would end up forming a government.

However, the minister was speaking during debate on another of the series of reforms he is presented – there are 10 bills in all, though not all of them require constitutional amendments – and yet again, the opposition signalled its intention to vote against them.

The bill – which also amends the Constitution – seeks to introduce judicial review of various decisions taken by the Attorney General, including the decision not to prosecute and on the office’s discretion to decide whether a case should be prosecuted in the Court of Magistrates or in a Superior Court, where the punishment applicable would be higher

Though once more, opposition MPs expressed their agreement that such reforms were necessary, Nationalist MPs Carm Mifsud Bonnici and Jason Azzopardi argued that the bill did not do enough to keep the Attorney General in check.

Both MPs also insisted that the Attorney General should be appointed through a two-thirds parliamentary majority, with Azzopardi highlighting the controversial track record of incumbent Peter Grech.