When, on a rare occasion, a public entity shows some spine and acts in the public good, Labour does its utmost to destroy it, underhandedly, of course. While repeating the mantra that institutions work and we should all shut up and let them work, Labour seeks to discredit the Office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life when the latter found that Carmelo Abela was wrong to allocate public funds for an advert which was more about himself than about giving valuable information to the public.

The charge against the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life and his office was led by Glenn Bedingfield, first using a speech in parliament, then posting on Facebook and participating in One programmes, not to say that Abela committed a mistake and will make amends but to say how bad, awful and ugly this monstruous office and the commissioner is. He was assisted by Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis.

It reminded me of the character of that blog from Castille: discredit anyone by throwing as much mud as possible. After all, some people are bound to believe what you say.

Until only a few days ago, Labour was boasting of all the steps it took as the saviour of the rule of law, including setting up this office. Then comes a report about one of their own and they are renegading on their own work. They seem to have only just realised that having an office for public standards means MPs will be called out if they behave unethically. Or,  maybe, they have only just realised that not everyone is their puppet.

The law expects the Speaker to exercise a determining vote should there be a tie in the members’ votes- Therese Comodini Cachia

Labour’s approach, coupled with the Speaker’s decision to abstain from voting, has spelt out the stagnation of that very system created to weed out abuse of power and unethical behaviour from public office. At the committee’s meeting when the decision to adopt the commissioner’s report and to ask Abela to do at least what common sense dictates, not only did the Labour MPs hold true to their deceitful politics but the Speaker decided to abstain on his casting vote.

The law expects the Speaker to exercise a determining vote should there be a tie in the members’ votes. This is not a privilege one can dismiss. It is an obligation one must execute. Parliamentary convention expected that vote to be cast in line with established principles.

First that, where possible, this vote is cast to continue discussion; secondly, if no further discussion is possible then decisions should be taken by a majority and, thirdly, that a casting vote on an amendment to a bill should leave a bill in its existing form. The third principle may more aptly apply to bills.

The Speaker’s casting vote was one of abstention. Abstention means “I decide not to vote on this issue”. That abstention does not really make any sense when one considers the parliamentary conventions with which it was meant to abide. The vote is to be cast to continue discussion, meaning, I guess, that we can call the report back for further discussion so that one group can convince the other to come on board.

I can’t see this happening. I won’t vote against the people’s interest and I can’t see the Labour MPs voting against Abela. Besides, the Speaker seemed to have acted in a way that, for him, the discussion was closed. So, is this the way democracy in our parliament closes off such a debate? With the Speaker’s vote facilitating the possibility of any MP to dishonour the very basic rules which he or she is expected to abide by?

Had the Speaker realised that no further discussion was possible, then his vote should have allowed a situation whereby the decision was taken by a majority.

A majority would have required his vote and he clearly decided he didn’t want anyone to know whether, in the end, he was in favour or against, except that he was partly in favour but still abstained.

This is a serious situation as this fraudulent manner of doing politics,  combined with a casting vote that is neither here nor there, has brought the committee to a stage of stagnation. A stagnation which the opposition declared at the meeting is unacceptable. I do not want to be an accomplice to a procedure which allows for the manipulation of the very essence of the basic role of that committee. The role of that committee is to ensure that people are not robbed in broad daylight by members of cabinet and that all MPs act respectfully and ethically.

You may have several examples of MPs whom you have thought acted disrespectfully or unethically but isn’t that exactly why you’d want this committee to do its job?

The agreed procedure currently in force regulating this committee cannot work where there is no goodwill from all parties holding a vote to exercise that vote in the peoples’ best interest.

Where some of those committee members consider the peoples’ best interest to be that of allowing MPs to run away with public funds and unethical behaviour unscathed, then,  clearly, it is time to withdraw one’s agreement to that procedure and to advocate for a procedure that works irrespective of whether good faith exists.

This does not require a change in the law. It requires the adoption of an attitude which places the interest of the public above that of politicians. It requires one to know their obligations and responsibilities and fulfill them.

Therese Comodini Cachia, PN spokesperson on human rights, good governance and rule of law

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