Robert Abela told journalists he saw no need for change in the Speaker’s office and will be retaining Anġlu Farrugia for a record third term.
Here are a few things that are wrong with that statement, leaving aside for a moment the fact that Anġlu Farrugia’s first two terms have demonstrated a propensity to provoke unintended hilarity but no evidence of any awareness of what the job he’s hogged for so long should really be about.
Only in this neo-colonial country is the job of the Speaker in the gift of the prime minister. In theory, MPs choose the president of their chamber to represent them, rule fairly on procedural disputes between them, lead them in asserting the right and authority with or over other institutions, particularly the government, the executive branch. In practice, the prime minister is choosing the man least likely to rule against him or his party however obvious it may be that he or his party are in the wrong.
The Speaker of this country’s Parliament is being handpicked for his demonstrated and uncompromising determination to side with the government against the Parliament he presides. This Malta Today report recalls the absurdly timid letter Anġlu Farrugia sent to Rosianne Cutajar after the Committee on Standards in Public Life found her in breach of ethics. It shows that for Anġlu Farrugia, no matter the evidence, no matter what they are forced to admit, a Labour MP can do no wrong.
He will either protect that MP (as he did with Carmelo Abela), or neutralise the consequences of their action (as he did with Rosianne Cutajar). Or he’ll exempt them from even being called to account for their actions (as he did with Joseph Muscat).
I add to that those metal barriers around Parliament that have perverted that building’s architect’s intention to lift Parliament to hover over a public square as a symbol of democracy and placed instead metal barriers around the perimeter of the building as a symbol of Parliament’s detachment from people and their lives.
Instead of opening Parliament to the public, he has blocked access to the Strangers’ Gallery. Instead of engaging with the community, he refuses to meet civil society even if it’s to discuss ways of enhancing Parliament’s role in the workings of our democracy.
Robert Abela praised Anġlu Farrugia for securing “greater autonomy” for Parliament. He’s referring to the Speaker’s increased discretion when spending money without giving account of his decisions to the Finance Ministry. The irony is that in the same paragraph where Robert Abela speaks of a greater autonomy for Parliament, he pronounces his decision to impose his choice of Speaker on the rest of Parliament without evidence that he’s consulted any of its Members about their wishes.
Hear the drums, Hannibal comes.