Watch: Criticism of Malta’s rule of law ‘blown out of proportion’ – President
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Watch: Criticism of Malta’s rule of law ‘blown out of proportion’ – President

Says he is open to removing Catholicism reference from constitution

Criticism of Malta’s rule of law and claims that Malta's democracy was under threat were unfair and blown out of proportion, the President has said.

Asked on Times Talk whether he felt such criticism was justified, George Vella replied: “I wouldn’t say it’s rubbish, but it’s not fair – it’s out of proportion considering the many changes that took place when I was also part of Cabinet.”

Dr Vella said he had actually urged the government to study the considerations of the Council of Europe’s rule of law experts, known as the Venice Commission.

Read: Government will implement Venice Commission recommendations - Muscat

The commission recommended strategic changes to Malta’s Constitution intended to buttress the system of checks and balances. It also recommended that the President should be given popular legitimacy by being elected by a qualified majority in Parliament.

'Too many powers in the hands of one person'

Forty days into his term, Dr Vella said he was always objected to concentrating powers in the hands of one person.

“We need to see where we have failed or done better. I’m still not happy with a president who just has executive functions.”

The President described himself as conservative in nature but also “quite a liberal”, pointing out he had no problem endorsing the liberal laws passed by the Labour government when he served as minister.

But he said he draws the line at abortion and euthanasia and would choose to resign if faced with such laws.

When asked, he said he was open to suggestions that Catholicism should be removed from the Constitution as Malta’s official religion.

“I’m open for discussions and will be receptive to solid arguments for and against. I’m not the president of Catholic Malta only but also the many Maltese professing Islam, Jewish faith and others.”

Dr Vella made it clear he intended to keep an eye on foreign affairs and maintained his criticism of Israel. 

In an interview last year he had described the continued occupation of Gaza and Palestinians by Israel as a case of “ethnic suppression… if not ethnic cleansing.”

Asked if he still subscribed to this point of view, he upped the ante: "I do. It' seems worse now even though the decision by Israel to open the crossings for open periods is positive... Having two million people enclosed in an area the size of Malta (Gaza strip) and making their lives miserable and there are another three to four million Palestinians in the occupied territories being threatened with annihilation..."

 

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