Former Secretary-General of the Nationalist Party, Rosette Thake, has penned a formal complaint to Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia together with former PN Deputy Mayor Alexis Callus and Repubblika member Marion Pace Asciak, after the three were denied access to the Strangers’ Gallery on Wednesday while protests were going on outside.
The three penned the complaint as they felt that they were “treated as threats to representatives of the population, and there was no reason to have judged them that way,” according to the letter.
Thake, Callus and Asciak went to parliament in order to follow the proceedings from the Gallery. However, due to a ruling by Farrugia, they were not allowed in, despite going through the normal security procedures, Thake said in a Facebook post shortly after the incident.
Access was prevented due to civil society’s protests outside parliament, according to a report by Net News.
The same report said that Farrugia took this decision so the “safety of the parliamentary members is guaranteed” and because “whenever there was a protest outside, people who attempted to enter the Gallery caused trouble”.
The letter said that Farrugia’s second reason was incorrect and never occurred. They added that they had no intention of posing any threat.
This is the moment formerly senior @PNmalta figures Rosette Thake, Alexis Callus & @repubblikaMT member Marion Pace Axiak were denied access to Parliament during ongoing protests.
A formal complaint has been lodged to Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia.https://t.co/JvOajueUGy pic.twitter.com/PgzmabsJAD
— Marc Tilley (@TilleyMarc) January 31, 2020
“Therefore, we feel that it is not decent or just to disallow our entrance to the Strangers’ Gallery,” Thake, Callus and Pace Asciak wrote. “We understand and accept that those who behave badly within the gallery have to be asked to leave, but we didn’t even get the chance to enter and follow the discussion”.
They went on to call Farrugia’s decision “anti-democratic” as it deprived citizens of access to parliament “without any reasonable basis”.
The Speaker is allowed to order the withdrawal of strangers from any part of the Chamber, according to the law. However, it does not state anything about preventing people from entering the gallery based on what may or may not happen.
The letter concludes with a request to Farrugia to correct his statement and ensure that he would not stop people entering the gallery without any valid reason.
In her post on Wednesday, Thake said that she would be taking this matter “as far as necessary, on behalf of all Maltese citizens”.
That same day, hundreds of people gathered outside Parliament in an anti-corruption protest. The protest was organised in reaction to a number of decisions taken by Prime Minister Robert Abela on appointments given to those who were forced to resign for their role in corruption and its cover-up under the previous administration.
It is not the first time that Farrugia has made the Strangers’ Gallery inaccessible to the public. During protests last December, only the media was allowed to follow the proceedings from the gallery. Civil society NGO Repubblika had lodged a complaint with MEPs on a fact-finding mission, following the incident.