In a letter to President George Vella, Repubblika today reacted to remarks made Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis who dismissed criticism by the Venice Commission that the government introduce constitutional laws without consultation saying the government looked at social media.

Repubblika referred to Edward Zammit Lewis’s remarks after President George Vella recently published his proposals on a constitutional convention to discuss other changes to the constitution.

The NGO said Minister Zammit Lewis’ remarks “confirm that the government appears intent to push through the Constitutional changes it wishes and leave out the ones that may restrain their unbridled wielding of power, without regard to civil society and hiding from the glare of independent media scrutiny.”

Repubblika said that Malta’s weak Constitution and the abuse of the excessive powers of the executive, have generated the atmosphere of institutional paralysis and legal impunity that permitted “this clique that brought shame on our countryto run riot with our country’s dignity and the rights of its citizens. The words between quotes came from a speech President George Vella gave last December. Repubblika said that “in at least one case, a citizen’s and a journalist’s right to her life and the right of the rest of us to read the information about our government that Daphne Caruana Galizia would have published had she been allowed to write it.”

“It is your duty to ensure the present exercise for reform is not conducted by ‘this clique’ in its own interest,” Repubblika told President Vella. “If all they are going to do is ‘look at social media’, our Republic will continue to be their playing field.”

Repubblika said they are appalled that ministers consider the perusal of ‘social media’ as in any way amounting to adequate public engagement. “We are appalled that ministers consider discussions they do not participate in between third parties as sufficient guidance for their own actions. We are appalled that ministers would refer to a “requirement of a structured dialogue with all stakeholders and civil society in the legislative process” in the same context where they explain that what they mean by ‘structured dialogue’ is a superficial and unaccountable glance at social media.”

The NGO renewed their call “for a rules-based reform process that clearly establishes a methodology for stakeholder consultation before parliament exercises its legislative powers on constitutional matters. It is simply unacceptable and undemocratic to allow ministers to make their own judgement of what constitutes consultation even when the Venice Commission describes ministers’ conduct as ‘denying citizen’s democratic entitlement to have a say in the shaping of the constitutional order’.”

A copy of Repubblika’s letter to President Vella can be downloaded here.

Letter to President George Vella.

Attached: Constitutional Reform Procedure Memo March 2019