07 May Riforma Kostituzzjonali (3) – the Times, 16 March 2012 – Quest for a Healthy Democracy
Quest for a healthy democracy – The Times, Friday, March 16, 2012
I consider the editorial entitled Rights And Duties In A Healthy Democracy (March 13) as an exception to usually balanced leaders. The title should read Rights And Duties In A Weak Democracy because practically everyone in this country, including The Times, agrees that our democracy urgently needs to be strengthened. A weak democracy risks degenerating into an oligarchy. I have claimed various times that myself and others are victims of a wrong political system.
In fact, I have campaigned for political, constitutional and justice reforms, which compare to and complement the great reforms piloted by Eddie Fenech Adami in the late 1980s and 1990s leading to a modern state based on liberty, fraternity, meritocracy and accountability. Democracy is a dynamic system and it needs constant upgrading.
We must consider a smaller Parliament of full-time MPs, a more relevant Presidency as guardian of our Constitution appointed by a two-thirds majority instead of by a simple resolution.
We must also consider a holistic consolidation of all our laws, amendments to, if not a new, Constitution, and reform of the electoral laws. There is need to enact a law on political parties and party finance, a stronger and more autonomous Parliament, with updated Standing Orders, better standing committees and communicating facilities, leading to a more accountable Administration including the promulgation of a new code of administrative law that the country has never had.
We must ensure full respect of fundamental human rights in all their aspects and, at the same time, strong institutions to ensure public order through extensive reforms in the law courts, the judiciary and the prisons, revisiting the Attorney General’s role in our system and his wide discretionary powers. We need to further improve the police corps and have major reforms in the broadcasting and press laws.
All this must be complemented by a less polarised and new political culture. Only then can we speak of rights and duties in a healthy democracy.
Thus, I was the one to tell the Nationalist Party that the people were complaining. I was the one to tell them to take GonziPN back to the people’s PN.
I was right all along and, yet, others who failed are still enjoying their comfortable positions while I had to sacrifice a political career and have police security behind my door. Is this limelight or great sacrifice? Why? Because I genuinely believe that politics means being of service to the people while others stick to power at all costs.
Notwithstanding the result of the no confidence vote, the Prime Minister admitted serious mistakes and now we just had the local council election results. It is incredible that there has not even been a single resignation.
It is this lack of accountability, this complete absence of the culture of resignations, the perception of corruption index and lack of meritocracy that are harmful and eroding the people’s respect for the political class. Not my legitimate, reasonable, proportionate and effective stand to push for reforms, which have received wide support from the people at large.
With regard to parliamentary votes, there are no votes before Parliament. One should direct one’s questions about this to either the Prime Minister or to House Business Committee chairman, Carm Mifsud Bonnici.
As to my future in politics, I have repeatedly said I will either contest on behalf of the PN or not run at all. I come from Għaxaq, a Labour stronghold, and I have always contested with the PN. When I wasn’t elected, because of political heavyweights in district, I never complained but just worked harder.
I repeat: I will never have anything to do with the Labour Party.
Recent surveys in the press show that I not only enjoy substantial following within the PN but also a surprising percentage of Nationalist supporters indicated me as a future PN leader. I placed third after Simon Busuttil and Mario de Marco.
I mention this only to show that certain arguments in the editorial are completely arbitrary and not supported by facts.
I am ready to work with both Dr Busuttil and Dr de Marco, whom I consider friends and colleagues.
Moreover, the local elections results show clearly that while constituents in my district had a golden opportunity to express disapproval at my stand they did the complete opposite and instead disapproved of those who circulated a petition against me, the party and the government.
The local council elections result could mean I represent the sentiment of thousands of disgruntled PN supporters and floating voters nationwide.
Surely, sacrificing a political career and having police security behind your door, not to mention the insults and threats I received, does not qualify as seeking the limelight. It means that I really think that politics is a service to others and the circumstances mentioned above indicate the people appreciate it.
In reality, it is I who is trying to appease them and giving them the opportunity to remedy and not the other way round. I had resigned from the party last year. However, the resignation was not accepted.
I am doing my utmost to give them time to remedy mistakes they admitted. But the country and the reforms cannot wait.
What have brought the government to its knees are the wrong Cabinet decisions over the past four years, which the Prime Minister himself has acknowledged and which must be remedied.
I have brought the government to its senses because it has now accepted my suggestion to take GonziPN back to the people’s PN.
Once the reforms I have been campaigning for, and which even The Times has commented upon on various occasions, are implemented then and only then can we speak of a healthy democracy.
Dr Debono is a Nationalist member of Parliament.