A public call issued last Friday for the post of police commissioner is “illegal” as the four-year term listed in the criteria is not established by law, an Opposition MP has claimed.

Good Governance Shadow Minister Karol Aquilina levelled this accusation in parliament during a debate on an amendment to the Police Act. This minor amendment regulates appeals by members of the force against disciplinary decisions handed down by the Police Complaints Board.

In his address Aquilina insisted that the call, which was published by the Public Service Commission was supposed to be line with the recent reform in the mechanism to appoint the police commissioner.

However, he claimed this call was not in line with the Police Act. He backed his claim on the fact that the law did not establish any timeframe and consequently the new commissioner should be appointed for an indefinite period. Aquilina noted that a five-year period which had been established a few years ago had been removed during the recent reform.

The shadow minister claimed that the introduction of the four-year period in the call, together with the condition that the successful candidate would have a one-year probation period, was testament to government’s “interference” in the PSC.

Should the new commissioner investigate former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his former aide Keith Schembri and the hospitals concession agreement, Abela would have every right to fire him after the first year on the strength of the probation clause, he said

“It is clear government’s intention in the appointment of the police commission is to have absolute control. It is its obsession,” he said.

“Had I been Robert Abela I would be ashamed to say the government has made the mechanism more open to scrutiny,” Aquilina added.

Aquilina said the only criteria which the PSC could include in the call were the qualifications and level of experience required.

The MP echoed the call made by other Opposition colleagues that the government was still in time to seek an agreement whereby the police commissioner would be appointed with a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

He criticised the recently introduced mechanism, saying the selection process would involve the PSC and a parliamentary committee on public appointments, where government held a majority.

The bottom line is that whoever will be elected commissioner under this mechanism will still be under the absolute control of the prime minister, contrary to what had been requested by the group of Council of Europe experts on the rule of law (Venice Commission), Aquilina said.

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