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Second Maltese NGO Files Judicial Protest Against Voluntary Organisations Commissioner

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A second voluntary organisation has filed a judicial protest against the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations over his insistence that it amend its statute or face delisting. 

The unnamed organisation was one of five that have been asked to make changes to their statue, according to the Commissioner, who added however that he was hoping “to reach a compromise within the limits of the law”. 

The information was provided to Lovin Malta in replies to a number of questions sent over the past days, including about the number of voluntary organisations that had received letters similar to that received by Repubblika. 

The Commissioner originally told Lovin Malta that 139 organisations had been asked to amend their statutes in 2020, with a further 61 being sent out in 2021. 

But it turns out that only five of these organisations were in fact already enrolled as voluntary organisations, including two that have filed a judicial protest. 

Following the publication of this article, the Commissioner’s office clarified that “with regards to the second judicial protest, this is an appeal before the Administrative Tribunal”.

“The Commissioner would also like to clarify that, according to Chapter 492 any VO that does not agree with any decision taken by the Commissioner, has the right to file an appeal before the Administrative Tribunal and not resort to any other action,” a spokesperson said.

A total of 29 voluntary organisations were delisted by the Commissioner’s office last year.

The Commissioner this morning sent out a press release insisting that he had never “threatened or accused” Repubblika and published the original letter sent to Repubblika by his office in order to prove it. 

The letter had already been made public by Repubblika almost two weeks ago.  

“As one can see, the letter is backed by specific excerpts of the law which need to be addressed by Repubblika. The Commissioner has absolutely no interest in stifling Repubblika, hence encourages (sic) Repubblika to conform with the law,” read this morning’s statement. 

It added that should Repubblika be delisted, this would not mean that the organisation would cease to exist – though it would significantly impact its operations, by, for example, making fundraising by the group an illegal act

The laws referred to by the Commissioner are the Second Schedule of the Civil Code, which refers to private foundations, as well as the provisions in the Voluntary Organisations Act that preclude political parties from enrolling as voluntary organisations. 

According to the law, “an organisation shall not be considered to be a voluntary organisation if it is a political party, has political purposes or is controlled by, related or affiliated to a political party”.

But the same law goes on to say that “nothing in this article shall hinder an organisation with political purposes from establishing an organisation which is not a political organisation as defined in this act”.

Having a political purpose is defined by the same law as “promoting the interests of a political party or a political candidate”.

Lovin Malta has requested that the Commissioner provide it with any legal advice he has and which he is basing his interpretation of political affiliation on however this has as yet not been provided. 

As to how he had arrived at the conclusion that opinion pieces published by Repubblika members amounted to political, the Commissioner said that “this was deduced from media monitoring set up to respect the requirements of Moneyval”.  

He also clarified that the timeframe given to voluntary organisations to regulate themselves was three months, adding however that this could be “extended for good reasons”. 

The Commissioner again reiterated his hope of reaching a “resolution around a table” with Repubblika.

The voluntary organisation has however insisted that the Commissioner withdraws without reservation his “baseless” charges against it. 

What do you make of the Commissioner’s latest statement?

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