PD ques­tions of ap­point­ment of new Ju­di­ciary As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent in­di­cates a hid­den agenda

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - NEWS -

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.

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