GUEST POST: MPs lose their parliamentary immunity at YOUR peril

Published: May 18, 2017 at 12:48pm

This guest post has been written by a Maltese who has been living in the UK for many years.

The Prime Minister has made the lifting of parliamentary immunity an electoral pledge – and what a cheap, self-serving, dishonest gimmick it is.

He makes it sound as though parliamentary immunity is the privilege of the few, there to protect members of parliament. But parliamentary immunity is there to protect the interests of the electors who members of parliament represent. It is a protective shield for the greater good.

Let’s give just the one topical example. If parliament had not been so prematurely dissolved in the expectation of a general election, the Opposition leader would have been able to place all the information he has, and any copies of Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports that may be in his possession, on the table of the House without facing police action for colluding in their “illegal” acquisition, dissemination or publication.

This is probably one reason why Muscat wants to remove parliamentary immunity.

Parliamentary immunity protects members of parliament only when they give information, table documents or make claims and revelations in parliament itself. It does not protect them outside parliament.

The origin, purpose and effect of parliamentary immunity is to allow MPs to represent their constituents without fear of prosecution. It is the very earliest manifestation of what is now known as whistleblowing. An aggrieved constituent fearful of pursuit, judicial or worse, by a powerful government could, and so far can, see his or her MP who could bring the constituent’s grievance into the public eye, in parliament, without fear of legal sanction.

To whom will this aggrieved constituent now turn if his or her MP has an eye not to the constituent’s interest, but to his or her own legal position? Gone will be the safety net. The MP will remain silent and the aggrieved citizen will continue to be downtrodden.

It is YOUR rights as a citizen of Malta, and the perceived privileges of members of parliament, which are being threatened by Muscat’s plan to remove parliamentary immunity. How dishonestly classist it is of Muscat to turn parliamentary privilege into a populist anti-establishment debate, as though it is there to protect the elected rather than those who elect them.

Ask yourself this: how many times has Muscat, in his political life before now, spoken out against parliamentary immunity? And why has the plan entered his agenda now? It’s because he wants to protect himself and his henchmen from the publication of FIAU reports in the only forum where they can be made public without the police moving in: in parliament.

There are already sanctions for the abuse of parliamentary immunity, so his contention that it should be removed completely is fatuous. Those sanctions are political: members of parliament who speak recklessly and untruthfully under immunity and who are found out by others in Parliament or by the free press, face the political consequences. 

For heaven’s sake, fellow Maltese: open your eyes and recognise Muscat’s electoral pledge for what it is – the attempt of criminals to save themselves, and yet another promise to emasculate what protects us from naked power.

Make sure you use your vote wisely, for the good of the nation and for those who come after us, who will have to clean up the mess we leave behind if we don’t act responsibly on 3rd June.