27 July 2005

The Web

Constitutional entrenchment of requisition repeal, unnecessary – Harry Vassallo

James Debono
The government’s proposal to entrench the repeal of requisition orders in the constitution received a lukewarm reception from the Malta Labour Party and Alternattiva Demokratika which is currently spearheading a campaign to repeal rent laws regulating properties rented before 1995.
Reacting to reports that cabinet is in favour of entrenching the repeal of the requisition order on private property in the constitution, AD chairperson Harry Vassallo described the measure as “unnecessary”.
AD was one of the first to speak out on the injustice of requisition orders and is currently campaigning to collect signatures to call for a referendum to repeal rent laws, including the infamous requisition orders.
While reiterating the Green Party’s stand against the injustice of requisition orders, Vassallo warned that such an entrenchment could deprive the state of a power which should only be used at times of emergency.
“It would make no sense to require a two-thirds majority in parliament to requisition properties if Malta is hit by a natural calamity like an earthquake.”
According to Vassallo the entrenchment proposal is symptomatic of the lack of political maturity of the political class.
“Instead of trusting in each other’s political convictions not to commit the abuses of the past, we are relying on the constitution to bind each other from abusing.”
In fact requisition orders where introduced in Malta to meet the housing shortage in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The law was abused in subsequent years when private properties were requisitioned to meet the demands for social housing and even to make way for three Labour party political clubs.

The present Santa Venera Labour club was requisitioned back in the early 1970s. The MLP stormed into this place after it was left vacant by an old man who went to live with his own family.
But the government’s fears that the MLP might consider reintroducing the requisition order seem to be unjustified. MLP Deputy Leader Charles Mangion reiterated his party’s stand against requisitioning properties.
“Requisition made sense in the aftermath of the Second World War. Subsequent developments have rendered this instrument superfluous. In fact requisition orders were repealed in 1995 and all parties agreed with this change.”
Charles Mangion said that the MLP is not yet in a position to declare itself on the proposed constitutional entrenchment. “We are waiting for a more detailed proposal from the government. We will take a position on the basis of a concrete proposal.”
During last Monday's Cabinet Meeting, the Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity presented a comprehensive paper analysing the five complex legislations related to the regulation of rent in Malta.
In addition, the paper identified the gaps in information required for an informed decision by Cabinet in relation to rent regulation in Malta. The cabinet directed Minister Cristina to report back by October 2005 regarding the points discussed. The cabinet has also requested a social and economic impact assessment on the various options available, which impact assessments will be carried out immediately after the November population census is completed.
But the government’s announced timetable for rent reform will not deter AD’s campaign for rent reform.
“At this slow pace, we are expecting the government to be in a position to take legislative action on the very eve of the next general elections, something which seems unlikely.”
During TV programme Int X’Tahseb in June, AD Chairperson had set the end of July as a deadline for the collection of signatures. Asked whether AD is anywhere close to collecting the 30,000 signatures required to call a referendum, Vassallo explained that AD will be sending a pamphlet explaining its position to all Maltese households in the coming weeks.
“This will significantly boost our signature collection campaign,” Vassallo said.



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