Repubblika renews its call for effective consultation on revisions to the whistleblower protection law before Parliament proceeds to adopt more laws that serve no purpose beyond extending the impunity of corrupt ministers.
Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis has indicated he will be moving in Parliament amendments to the Protection of the Whistleblower Act just weeks before the expiry of the deadline set by the EU Directive imposing these changes.
Last January, Edward Zammit Lewis promised the changes to the law would be implemented this year after Repubblika inquired on the government’s intentions. When he promised legislative changes, Repubblika publicly asked the government to publish a bill with the changes as soon as possible so that the public could be consulted on the amendments proposed.
Public consultation and engagement with civil society should be a normal part of the legislative process although it has now become a rarity in Malta. Even though Repubblika specifically asked for public consultation more than 10 months ago, the government has not yet published draft amendments 6 weeks before the changes must become law or Malta would be in breach of the European directive.
This behaviour confirms again that the government considers legislation to protect whistleblowers as only necessary to comply with EU legislation whilst ensuring the law is impractical as a meaningful tool to fight corruption.
Although Malta has had a whistleblower protection law since 2013, the existing legislation has never proved to be a viable means to fight corruption. The law was only applied once, in the case against the husband of former minister Giovanna Debono. The case collapsed when it became clear to the court that it had been an act of political vindictiveness made up of trumped-up charges and backed by “evidence” solicited from a “whistleblower” bribed by the authorities with direct orders. The state’s witness was ultimately not believed by the courts.
On the other hand, applicants for whistleblower status were denied protection by the state out of concern that their evidence could lead to the prosecution of people in political power. Two potential whistleblowers who have been denied protection are now facing prosecution in the Maltese courts in cases where former prime minister Joseph Muscat has intervened as parte civile.
The government is avoiding consultation because it will likely again propose legislation that retains their control on the decision on who is protected to potentially give evidence against them. The last thing ministers want in our laws are measures that give practical protection to anyone who might expose them for corruption or other crimes.