My contribution in the Sunday Times

My contribution in the Sunday Times

The best time for reforms? – Dr Franco Debono – Valletta

The editorial in The Sunday Times of Malta (December 9) entitled ‘Democracy’s candle in the wind’ questions whether “In this scenario, the belated start-up of talks about talks on constitutional reform led by President Colerio Preca are further cause for concern, rather than hope”.

This reminded me of a similar point I had made in Parliament six years ago immediately after I had just formulated and presented in Parliament a holistic constitutional and justice reform –
The point I was trying to convey was that any constitutional re­form without resignations where due was ridiculous and fake, when it was precisely a culture of accountability and consequent resignations that was not only the most pressing and urgent need the country had at the time but also the main scope of any decent constitutional reform. The separation of powers and the rule of law can be crystallised in two maxims – the legal principle of equality before the law and the political principle of accountability.

Since I am not following deve­lopments much, I am not in a position to say whether that speech applies today or not, but it seems The Sunday Times editorial was making much the same point. In the meantime, this is the relevant quote from my Parliament speech of January 25, 2012:
“Mr President, very often in any society everything resolves itself as to who would shoulder responsibility, carry the blame and suffer the punishment. It would be farcical if we say we are embarking on constitutional reforms without seriously initiating the culture of shouldering responsibilities. We cannot go for constitutional re­forms in the situation we are in today where no one shoulders political responsibility.

“How can we go for constitutional reforms? Where are we going? Since when is constitutional reform not mainly about us, about government and about those who wield political power? Or are we going to carry out constitutional reforms as fake and superficial ornamentations?

“It’s useless saying we’re going for constitutional reforms or some committee or anything of the sort. It’s not the paper that is important but actual practice. At times, even in a systematic manner, as I have already explained, in order for one person to avoid the blame, someone else ends up un­justly carrying it in his stead. And when no one from the administration shoulders political res­ponsibility, ordinary citizens end up suffering the consequences so that files are closed and cases declared concluded.

“In this situation one cannot embark on serious and credible constitutional reforms. Constitutional reforms are not about mice or cockroaches but mainly about politicians, about people who wield power, about judges and magistrates, about ministers and about Parliament. What are we talking about here? About some other parallel universe?”

Constitutional reforms are mainly about enhancing accountability. One can enhance accountability without the slightest re­forms but any reforms without accountability are fake and useless.