Members of the bi-partisan Constitutional Reform Committee, tasked in 2018 to come up with concrete proposals to amend the island’s 60-year-old Constitution, have disputed President George Vella’s version of events regarding the lack of progress made.
Last week, in his Republic Day speech before the end of his five-year term in April, Vella admitted that no progress had been made in his mission.
He said he was prevented from continuing the process of convening a convention because, “despite all my best efforts, there was no willingness to agree on who should lead this convention”.
The President’s claims were forcefully refuted by committee members nominated by the two parties in parliament, who told The Shift that they felt “bewildered by the President’s declarations”.
Dismissing the President’s claims, one of the members told The Shift that “it is useless for the President to try to shift the blame onto others. He lost all interest in the process when Robert Abela became prime minister. He rarely convened the committee and cancelled other meetings on many occasions,” a sitting committee member from the Nationalist Party said.
A member representing the Labour Party confirmed that Vella “had no real appetite for this task and did not show much energy to kick-start the process after the pandemic.”
The last meeting of this committee, which was supposed to deliver a raft of Constitutional amendments, was held more than a year ago, in November 2022.
The Committee members who spoke to The Shift on condition of anonymity also dismissed Vella’s claims of “disagreements” regarding the convention chair.
“We never even discussed the topic, let alone disagreed, as Vella stated,” the Labour representative said.
“All he did was ask for names, which we put forward as asked. The president never convened a meeting to even discuss the names put forward,” the other member confirmed.
In 2021, The Shift had already reported problems on the Constitutional Reform Committee as progress was slow.
At the time, Vella said the reason for not holding regular meetings was the pandemic, even though most of the committee sessions were being held online.
Established in 2018 under the auspices of President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, the committee had gathered significant pace and was meeting regularly until her term came to an end in April 2019.
Towards the end of her term, the former president lobbied to continue presiding over the committee and lead the process to bring it to an end, but Vella objected and blocked her initiative.
The only significant progress achieved during the Vella Presidency was a three-month public consultation process calling for suggestions by the public and constituted bodies.
Its results were published in February 2020, but no progress has been registered since then.