Former European Commissioner and constitutional lawyer Tonio Borg believes some changes to the Constitution are needed but there is no need to rip the Constitution apart and draft a new one. “I feel that those who speak about the Second Republic want to leave their mark,” Borg remarked. Drafting a new constitution, would amount to claiming that “past governments have operated within a system has collapsed’ thereby condemning post-1964 administrations.
Borg was interviewed by Newsbook.com.mt on his new publication, as well as the constitutional reform. A public consultation process started in summer, in which the public was urged to submit proposals to the Constitutional Reform Committee.
Asked to elaborate on the changes needed to be made to the Constitution, Borg explained that the Prime Minister should have fewer powers when appointing members of the judiciary to the bench. He added that in certain cases where the Constitution provides for the Prime Minister to take advice from someone else, one cannot sue the Prime Minister for not taking such advice as it is not enforceable in a court of law. Provisions such as these are conventions, which means that they are rules of political practice not enforceable in a court of law. Borg explained that it does not make sense that one cannot take the Prime Minister to the court to see if he acted on the advice he received.
Another example cited by Borg is that of the juridical interest. Speaking about abortion as an example, he said that if abortion were to be made legal in Malta, the Archbishop would not be able to initiate a lawsuit because he does not have a juridical interest in the case, but a moral or religious interest. Borg remarked that one should be able to challenge a law which they think breaches human rights.
“When a law is enacted which breaches the Constitution, any person in Malta should be able to challenge it,” Borg remarked, adding that then it is up to the Court to decide whether the person is right or otherwise.
Speaking about the Constitutional Reform Committee, Borg noted that both President Emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and President George Vella had promised a broad consultation process.
“Ultimately the parties shall vote on the constitutional amendments in parliament,” Borg remarked.
Asked whether the President should be involved in the process, since the Office is regulated by the same Constitution, Borg stated that it would be a good thing if the President was involved. He explained that it would give the committee a certain authority.
“The President has already said that he would abstain on commenting on any amendments concerning the Office of the President,” Borg highlighted, adding that however the process is still in its very initial stages.
Asked whether there is enough awareness on the Constitution among the general public for them to be able to contribute effectively, Borg said that he wished there was more awareness. He added that the Constitution is not important only to lawyers, but to everyone else. He stated that more needs to be done in schools so that children are made aware of the Constitution and remarked that more awareness should be raised on the Constitution involving other stakeholders such as the local councils, where a script could be prepared which would explain the basic principles of the Constitution.
“Shouldn’t we teach the basics of our Constitution to foreigners naturalised as Maltese?” Borg asked, saying that a similar mechanism is used in America before one may become a citizen.
Video: Miguela Xuereb