Government U-turn on rule allowing minister to keep new citizens’ names secret

Updated 04:49 PM

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The government is revoking a new rule which would have empowered the minister responsible for citizenship to withhold the publication of the names of new Maltese citizens – including passport-buyers – for “security reasons” in the wake of heavy criticism.

In a statement issued by the Parliamentary Secretariat for Citizenship, the government said that controversial clause was being made to avoid casting doubt over a process which, it said, had greatly increased transparency on the granting of citizenship.

It said that the clause had originally been intended for “very extraordinary” circumstances which were not necessarily linked to citizenship schemes, and insisted that all changes were being introduced “in the spirit of good governance.”

Secrecy will remain – PN

In its reaction, however, the Nationalist Party said that the government only made its U-turn after being caught trying to increase secrecy.

The party’s spokesperson on citizenship Karol Aquilina also highlighted that in spite of the U-turn, the citizenship programme remained shrouded in secrecy since the name of those who purchase citizenship is not distinguished from those who are granted citizenship through naturalisation or as a result of Maltese descent.

Aquilina said that if the government truly wished to embrace transparency, it would back the PN’s proposal to publish the names of those acquiring citizenship by investment separately, and to publish the names of new citizens once every three months – as had been the case until 2013 – instead of once a year.

Moreover, the Opposition had called for the publication of the names of those who sought citizenship by investment as soon as they apply.