A bipartisan committee set up under the auspices of the President of Malta in 2018 to steer a much-needed reform of Malta’s constitution has failed to meet for the past nine months and members still don’t know when the initiative will restart.
The Shift is informed that President George Vella hasn’t given committee members any indication of when the committee’s work is to proceed, raising concerns that the much-hyped reform process has lost its momentum.
Sources close to the committee, which only includes representatives of the two main political parties, told The Shift that the last meeting was held in November 2020, almost a year ago.
“Although at first President George Vella looked very keen about this much-needed reform, something has happened along the way as he apparently lost interest,” the sources claimed.
“Most probably, he was given instructions by the Prime Minister to put this process on the back burner and leave discussions for after the upcoming general elections,” the sources said.
Asked to state when the next meeting of the Constitutional Reform Committee is to be held, a spokesman for President George Vella avoided replying. Instead, he insisted that President Vella still considers the reform as one of his priorities.
While confirming that the committee has not convened for months, the President’s spokesman blamed the Covid pandemic for this lull, even though he conceded that most of the meetings held so far were anyway held virtually. The spokesman didn’t explain why the online medium wasn’t used to hold further meetings since last year.
“The constitutional reform process has been, and remains, a top priority for the current Presidency,” President Vella’s spokesman said, adding that after publishing feedback from a public consultation process (in February 2020), the President is now trying to “identify the right person to be nominated to organise the Constitutional Convention.”
However, he clarified that, “the convention can only be convened once the Covid-19 restrictions on the number of persons that can meet together in a hall make it possible.”
The spokesman said it will be the Convention which will make and send its report to Parliament for the necessary constitutional changes to be implemented.
A never-ending story
There’s been debate over the need for an overhaul of the almost 60-year-old constitution for years, with little or no concrete progress, bar the odd piecemeal change forced by crisis or circumstance.
The committee that was intended to spearhead the reform was set up during the Presidency of Marie Louise Coleiro Preca.
Disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat had appointed former PN rebel MP Franco Debono to lead the Convention, which has seen no progress either.
At the end of her term, in 2019, Coleiro Preca lobbied to continue presiding over the committee and lead the process after she left the Presidency. However, this attempt was blocked by then-incoming President George Vella.