The Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations (CVO) has responded to allegations by civil society group Repubblika, that he was acting on behalf of the government to strike the voluntary organisation off the register, by insisting that he has always acted “autonomously and independently”.
In a statement this evening, the Commissioner also “invited” Repubblika to “discuss together any anomalies” in its statute in order for it to be in compliance with the law, adding that other organisations had taken similar recommendations he had made to them seriously.
However, speaking during one of Repubblika’s Facebook broadcasts this evening, president Robert Aquilina insisted that there was nothing to discuss.
“While one can never close the door to discussions, in this case there is a basic thing the Commissioner must do. He needs to go back to the drawing board and reverse the grave error he has made,” Aquilina said. “There isn’t anything to discuss. If I haven’t killed or trafficked drugs, the commissioner of police can’t call me up after having accused me publicly, and then ask me to meet and discuss things.”
Last week the civil society group announced that it had received a letter from the CVO threatening the group with delisting, over what were described as breaches of the Voluntary Organisations Act – the law which governs voluntary organisations.
The Commissioner cited irregularities in the organisation’s finances, as well as the group’s “political affiliation” as reasons for his communication, which Repubblika has described as an attempt at silencing it.
According to the Commissioner, the fact that some of Repubblika’s members have published opinion pieces in the local press that are of a political nature, in and of itself proves that the NGO is politically-affiliated.
Repubblika has since filed a judicial protest, calling on the Commissioner to withdraw his “unconstitutional threat”.
“The Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations would like to clarify that in his role he has always acted autonomously and independently without any political interference, including but not limited to the Office of the Prime Minister,” read the CVO’s statement.
It noted that the Commissioner was the primary regulator of the voluntary sector and had a separate legal personality under the provisions of the law.
Furthermore, it pointed out that the Commissioner had in recent weeks met with a number of voluntary organisations which were in breach of the law and emphasised “the importance of addressing and changing anomalies found in their respective statutes”.
Most organisations, the Commissioner added, had “taken the Commissioner’s suggestions seriously” and had changed their statutes as a result.
“In view of this, the Commissioner would like to re-confirm that he acted in an equal and unbiased manner with other Voluntary Organisations who were not complying with the Law, in accordance with the powers given to him under article 7 of the Act.”
What do you make of the Commissioner’s statement?