Strangers’ gallery closed yet again as PN MPs condemn “anti-democratic” decision

Updated 12:53 PM
Photo Credit – DOI – Clodagh Farrugia O’Neill

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Marion Pace Asciak and Alexis Callus are to write formally to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Anglu Farrugia, demanding that as members of the public, yesterday, they had every right to enter the strangers’ gallery in Parliament.

On Wednesday evening, Speaker Anġlu Farrugia has again denied public access to Parliament’s strangers’ gallery in yesterday’s sitting. This was a decision that was strongly condemned by Nationalist Party MPs. The strongest condemnation came from MP Karol Aquilina, who insisted that the decision was “illegal and anti-democratic,” and that the public had the right to attend.

Activists Marion Pace Asciak and Alexis Callus gave their comments to Newsbook.com.mt.

Alexis Callus said that the decision by the Speaker is worrying.

Speaker Anglu Farrugia insisted that this decision was in line with decisions taken when regular protests took place outside Parliament last month and were intended to prevent incidents.

While government whip Glenn Bedingfield signalled the government’s agreement, opposition whip Robert Cutajar questioned the measure, stating that the Standing Orders governing the function of Parliament did not provide for such a measure. However, Farrugia cited the House of Representatives (Privileges and Powers) Orders to justify his decision, before stating that “we’ve had problems before.”

Cutajar was unconvinced, pointing out that people had to go through screening before entering the Strangers’ Gallery, and that it was not right for Parliament to deny them the right to follow proceedings. The Speaker, at this point, highlighted that sittings can be followed on TV, radio and the internet.

Aquilina then intervened, and in response, Farrugia said that while he had the right to his opinion, he disagreed.

“When you become Speaker, you get to decide how to run the house,” a visibly irritated Farrugia added.

He then strongly insisted that he would entertain no further debate on the matter, though he did provide Cutajar with the opportunity to state that the opposition formally disagreed with the decision.