The government has responded to legal challenges against Norma Saliba's appointment as head of the new Centre for the Maltese Language, saying members of the National Council of the Maltese Language should take it up with their president.

Last month, the council gave Culture Minister Owen Bonnici 10 days to withdraw the legal notice to set up a Centre for the Maltese Language together with the appointment of its CEO Saliba.

Through a judicial protest against the minister, the council said the legal notice and the appointment were illegal since it was done without prior consultation.

The council’s protest came days after Mark Amaira - an expert in the Maltese language complained about the "humiliation" of the Maltese language and Saliba’s “illegal” appointment.

Saliba will head a new centre for the language despite not having any qualifications in the language. In its counter-protest the government highlighted Saliba's managerial experience.

She was appointed as the executive director just weeks after she had been edged out of the TVM newsroom following disagreements with Public Broadcasting Services boss Mark Sammut.

The Centre for the Maltese Language will serve as the “administrative, organisational and operational organ of the National Council of the Maltese Language,” according to a legal notice published just before the announcement of the appointment.

The government had categorically denied that no consultations had been carried out before the regulations were published. It said a consultation was carried out directly between permanent secretary Joyce Dimech and council president Olvin Vella.

In two counter-protests dated September 22 - one challenging the council and the other challenging Amaira - the Culture Ministry, the Centre for the Maltese Language and the State Advocate reiterated that Vella had been informed over the phone and in writing about the new centre and Saliba's appointment.

Vella was sent a draft of a press release announcing the launch of the new centre and Saliba's appointment and was asked for his blessing to proceed, the ministry claimed in the counter-protest.

The ministry was willing to wait for the president to convene a council meeting about the matter before going ahead with its announcement.  However, Vella had replied with "yes of course (iva mela)" within 12 minutes. 

In its counter-protest, the ministry also noted that the centre formed part of the council, while the members of the council were public officials, and therefore, tied to a Code of Ethics.

It added that a legal notice allowed for the appointment of Saliba without the need for a public call for the role. Saliba's appointment was legal, it said. 

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