Malta, uproar over PM’s remarks on the judiciary
VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela is under fire following his remarks on the judiciary, with the Opposition and the Law Student’s Association accusing him of undermining the autonomy of the judiciary. Meanwhile a leading judge harshly criticised the government for failing to provide the necessary resources for the judiciary to function effectively and deliver justice within a reasonable time.
The Prime Minister’s remarks were made in a statement when he rejected the Opposition’s request for a public inquiry into the death of a 20-year-old man in a building collapse accident that happened on December, 4 and instead the Prime Minister urged the inquiring magistrate to conclude the process “without further delay”.
The Nationalist Opposition and the Law Students’ Association condemned the Prime Minister’s statement. The Opposition described the statement as “irresponsible, unjustifiable and solely to offload the political responsibility” for the death. The Law Students’ Association said the Prime Minister’s remarks weaken the autonomy of the Maltese judiciary and noted that while a criminal inquiries are aimed to conserve traces of a possible offense, a public inquiry is aimed at identifying potential administrative failures, and therefore not related and do not impact or prejudice one another.
The Association for the Judiciary and members of the judiciary have no right to reply and cannot comment on matters relating to issues that are still before the courts. However, a leading judge took the opportunity to make his voice heard when he was delivering a judgment over what he described as “shameful” the delay in a case instituted by a Maltese firm owed almost 100,000 by a bankrupt Italian catering company, International Catering SRL. The Maltese courts took five years to appoint the debtor’s appeal for hearing.
The leading judge also criticised the government for failing to provide the resources necessary for the judiciary to function effectively and deliver justice within a reasonable time. He added the number of sitting judges and magistrates remained much lower than that in any other European state and staff numbers were constantly dropping because of the meager salaries offered to those working in court.
Both the Opposition and the Law Students’ Association echoed the criticism with the Opposition insisting that the Prime Minister should instead have assured the judiciary that they would be given the human and financial resources necessary to carry out their work effectively and within a reasonable timeline.
Some magistrates are burdened with more than 160 inquiries, in addition to all the other cases assigned to them.
– photo Department of Information Malta –