PD questions of appointment of new Judiciary Association president indicates a hidden agenda
Partit Demokratiku yesterday questioned whether the appointment of a new Judiciary Association president indicates a hidden agenda.
After the general election of 2013, the newly elected Prime Minister saw fit to change the procedure by which the judiciary is elected, the party noted, adding that the judiciary is still appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, who is not obliged to consult anyone.
PD complained that there is a vetting board prior to the PM’s appointment, but “no autonomous Board or Committee that actually chooses the judiciary – just the Prime Minister. The actual appointment of those in charge of justice is decided by one person”.
Since this change, PD said, there have been a number of appointments, some controversial, such as the swearing in of Speaker Anglu Farrugia’s daughter, Dr Caroline Farrugia Frendo, as a magistrate just after the constitutional requirement of seven years’ practice as a lawyer.
Madam Justice Consuelo Herrera, the Environment Minister’s sister, PD noted, was another appointment which raised eyebrows. Her first nomination had been turned down, and she was sworn in only after she was nominated a second time.
Partit Demokratiku also recalled that Magistrate Anthony Vella, sworn in as judge at the same ceremony, had until then been the magistrate leading the inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“We now learn that Mr Justice Toni Abela has been elected president of the Association of Judges and Magistrates of Malta.
“Before being raised to the judgeship, Toni Abela was Deputy Leader of the PL for Party Affairs, (besides being a consultant to the Prime Minister with a post in the Cabinet) had been given an emphatic thumbs-down in 2016 by the European Parliament to serve in the European Court of Auditors.
“The Vice President of the same Association is Magistrate Joanne Vella Cuschieri, well known in PL circles as an unsuccessful PL general election contestant.”
While Partit Demokratiku said it does not doubt the integrity of the Judiciary per se, “this is deemed to be yet another worrying move, with known PL stalwarts being moved stealthily into position which continues to undermine the impartiality of the pillars of democracy in our country”.
PD asked whether this means that the composition of the present judiciary is one that, politically, leans towards the government. “Has the Prime Minister, in five years, managed to tip the delicate balance in his favour?
PD pledged “to fight on unabated for the impartiality of democracy’s pillars on all fronts”.
It was announced yesterday morning that Mr Justice Toni Abela has been elected President of the Association of Judges and Magistrates of Malta; Magistrate Joanne Vella Cuschieri as Vice President; Magistrate Francesco Depasquale as Secretary General.
Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera has been appointed Treasurer and Madam Justice Lorraine Schembri Orland was appointed International Secretary.
The new committee, which will serve until 2020, was elected during the association’s annual general meeting.