Oliver Scicluna, who on Monday was sworn in as a Member of Parliament, believes "there is nothing wrong" with his co-option into the House of Representatives.
Speaking to Times of Malta soon after he resigned from his role of Commissioner for the Rights of Persons with Disability, he said that similarly to women, people with a disability too struggled with representation in parliament.
Scicluna replaces Gavin Gulia, who resigned from parliament minutes after being sworn in as MP. Last Friday, the Labour Party confirmed that Scicluna will be co-opted into Parliament and that it was Prime Minister Robert Abela who put his name before the party’s parliamentary group.
Reacting to Gulia's resignation last Wednesday, the PN had said that the prime minister was interested only in his own and the Labour Party's interests. It said Abela had ridiculed parliament.
On Monday Scicluna said he saw nothing wrong with being co-opted, adding that co-option did not go against the law.
“I respect everyone’s opinions, however, we have seen a number of individuals co-opted into parliament in the past. I see nothing wrong with my appointment.”
He added that as a person with a disability, he recognised the barriers people with disabilities faced to join parliament.
“We often discuss ensuring women are represented in parliament and the barriers that women face, and we must also discuss the barriers that people with a disability face in joining politics.”
He pointed out that only a small number of people with disability were elected as MPs.
“How many people in parliament have a disability? Currently, there is PN MP Kevin Cutajar, and before there was Lino Spiteri.
"Throughout all these years there were just those two MPs with a disability, and we have barely had any candidates with a disability.”
Scicluna added that if parliament was to be more inclusive, things needed to change.
“Parliament needs to change so that we can move forward and see more people with disabilities coming forward with different ideas.”
'Will work with MPs from both sides'
Following his swearing-in, Scicluna pledged to work with MPs from both sides of the house.
“As you know, I have served as Commissioner for the Rights of Persons with Disability for some years. I feel that as commissioner I fulfilled my duty with regards to people with disabilities and their families without looking at creed nor colour,” he said.
“I promise to fulfil my duty to this house in the same way. I want to serve every person in Malta and Gozo and I want to work with every MP on every side of this house.”
Scicluna announced his resignation from the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability on Facebook.
“I would like to thank all the staff of the Commission who have worked hard with me in the recent years to be of service to people with disabilities and their families,” he wrote.
“As a person with a disability, I will definitely - not maybe - have this sector on my agenda, and as I have done in recent years, I will continue to fulfil my duties fairly.
It is now up to Minister for Inclusion and Social Wellbeing, Julia Farrugia Portelli, and Prime Minister Robert Abela, to decide who will replace him as commissioner, Scicluna told Times of Malta.
Scicluna said he was not involved in the process.