The Malta Institute of Management (MIM) calls upon the Government to rethink the Interpretation (Amendment) Bill, which is pending before the House of Representatives. This Bill does not only go against the Constitution of Malta, but also against the European Convention of Human Rights. The Bill will not only impact the interests and operations of the Institute’s members, but also the rights of the business community in general and the private citizen. MIM members have already been subject to various injustices in view of certain unconstitutional legislation amongst others those giving power to entities amongst others the FIAU in issuing fines without the right of appeal.
One of the principles of natural justice is the right to a fair hearing (“audi alteram partem”). This requires an independent and impartial tribunal as guaranteed by the Constitution. The amendments to the Interpretation Act deny this very right. It gives a public authority the right to decide on a criminal offence in spite of that act has been committed in respect of that same authority. This means that it is acting as both prosecutor and judge. The amendment does not refer to a mere parking ticket amounting to a few euros (and even in that case the alleged transgressor is afforded a hearing before a tribunal), but could cover penalties amounting to hundreds of thousands of euro, as in the case of the Malta Financial Services Authority, for example, that can be imposed without due process of law.
The reasons being given for these amendments is to strengthen the enforcement of sanctions imposed by an authority and to expedite proceedings but there is lack of consideration on the amount of injustices that this could result into particularly when such power is given to authorities when time and time again have been accused of injustices and unfairness.
In any case, this is no reason for a breach of the Constitution. This is a way of bypassing the constitution, which requires a two thirds majority of all members of parliament to be amended in this respect. It may also seek a solution to the delays experienced by our Courts which could be addressed through other means, including among others, the promotion of mediation and other alternative dispute resolution procedures.
It has to be said that a direct effect of these amendments could be the eroding of confidence in Malta’s attraction for foreign investment.
MIM trusts that through consultation even with the Venice Commission the Government will withdraw the said bill.