Watch: Fearne promises a conference with all stakeholders on good governance

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Deputy Prime Minister and Partit Laburista leader hopeful Chris Fearne stressed the importance of bringing the country’s reputation back on its feet if elected. Referring to President George Vella’s speech on the occasion of Republic Day, Fearne admitted that the leadership contest is happening as a result of what happened over the past weeks. He explained that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced his resignation in the context of the events which happened over the past few weeks.

Fearne made governance as his first priority among ten points saying that the current situation requires that a new Prime Minister immediately addresses the issues raised on good governance and the rule of law. Fearne explained that a conference on rule of law will be convened after a new Prime Minister is elected, and which will include all stakeholders. These include the government and the opposition, the political parties stressing that there is a difference between the political parties and the government and opposition group recognised in parliament, civil society groups and representatives of various institutions. He explained that this conference will not be limited to a day but will go on as necessary.

Among the points to be addressed during the rule of law conference, Fearne included the appointment of the Police Commissioner requiring two-thirds of the House, the appointment of the State Advocate and Public Prosecutor also requiring two-thirds approval, the judiciary appointments, the financing of political parties and the salaries and working conditions of MPs. ‘This conference will lay the foundations of the constitutional reforms required,’ Fearne said.

During a press conference at St James Cavalier, Fearne launched his campaign on Saturday morning. He outlined ten points on which he will be campaigning during Partit Laburista’s leadership campaign. Speaking about the economic success, Fearne said that that if elected, that while he would like to see the government building on the economic success of the past years, he would ensure that there is more transparency when contracts are awarded, adding that opportunities should be equally available for all. ‘While it is important to work with businesses, we cannot be led by them,’ he stated.

Planning is also on Fearne’s priority list, he observed that while in the past villages and towns included open spaces such as squares and public gardens, this was not considered important in recent times. He explained that the government would work with local council to improve planning in towns and villages.

Monique Agius

‘Our social soul’

Fearne stressed on the importance of showing one’s Socialist values. He spoke about workers who are employed by contractors and who do not enjoy the same conditions as government employees. He stressed that within the healthcare system alone, there are some 2,200 employees who are sub-contracted and do not enjoy the same benefits as their fellow government employees. According to their estimates, ensuring that these employees have the same minimum wage, overtime, allowances, and possibility of increments equal to government employees would cost €6,300,000 per year. He added that the funds to improve conditions of sub-contracted employees can be found.

‘Our place in Europe’

Addressing the political turmoil, Fearne stressed the importance of boosting Malta’s reputation which has suffered greatly over the past few weeks. Fearne highlighted the need to engage European institutions such as the European Parliament and the European Commission, as well as GRECO, Moneyval, and the Council of Europe. Fearne recognised the need to work with all of Malta’s MEPs to improve the country’s reputation, adding that the role of civil society and other stakeholders is vital in this exercise.

Migration and foreign workers

While recognising the importance of foreign workers, Fearne stressed the importance of having adequate infrastructure to support the influx of workers. He noted that transport, sewage, electricity, among others need to be improved. Speaking about irregular migration, Fearne said that while Malta has to show empathy with those escaping hardship, the country cannot be left alone dealing with Europe’s problem.

Housing, transport, quality of life

Among the ten pledges, one finds housing, transport and quality of life. The leader hopeful said that the issue of social housing has been left without a solution for many years and if elected Prime Minister he will be addressing this structural issue to ensure that it is solved. Speaking about transport, Fearne said that the tunnel between the two islands will go ahead as planned. He spoke as well of the importance to ensure clean transport and a mass transportation system which is more efficient.

‘Money is important, but money alone does not guarantee a good quality of life,’ Fearne told the media gathered at St James Cavalier. He added that the country needs to be transformed into one where one enjoys living in and bringing up their children.

Partit Laburista

Speaking about the party, Fearne said that Partit Laburista should not be regarded only as an electoral machine. He added that the party needs to participate as a party in the drafting of policies. He also made a distinction between the party and the government, saying that while he understood that Partit Laburista was elected in government, it should not be intertwined with the executive branch or the government.