Government blocks democracy even as it commits to defending it

Insisting that “outsiders” did not have an automatic right to enter the House of Representatives, Speaker Anglu Farrugia today denied citizens access to the Strangers’ Gallery to follow the parliamentary debate on the public inquiry’s findings despite a judicial protest filed on Thursday evening.

In their judicial protest, NGO Repubblika said it had requested 30 seats to follow the debate in parliament but it was denied on account of COVID measures. This, the organisation said, was an unjust abuse of the discretion given to the Speaker and the Clerk of the House to limit access. The organisation also pointed out this was not the first time that access had been denied.

In parliament, the Speaker pointed out that the measures were a result of a decision taken in October that had not yet been revoked. The Opposition insisted it had no issue with allowing access to citizens in the Strangers Gallery, and noted that people have been allowed in since for debates on other matters. But the government disagreed.

“There’s no agreement,” the Speaker said, shutting down the discussion.

Repubblika pointed out in its judicial letter that the country had relaxed restrictions related to COVID, and while committing to observe all related measures, insisted the decision to deny their members access was “unreasonable”.

In its judicial protest, the organisation referred to the fundamental right to freedom of expression in Article 41 of the Constitution and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the right to assembly in Article 42 of the Constitution and Article 11 in the European Convention on Human Rights.

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