Owen Bonnici


Owen Bonnici (born 24 May 1980) is a Maltese politician who was the Minister for Education & Employment from 15 January 2020 to November 2020 and currently serving in the new created portfolio Ministry for Research, Innovation and the Coordination of the Post-COVID-19 Strategy appointed in November 2020.[1][2]


Owen Bonnici

Minister for Education & Employment
In office
15 January 2020  23 November 2020
Prime MinisterRobert Abela
Preceded byEvarist Bartolo
Succeeded byJustyne Caruana
Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government
In office
13 March 2013  13 January 2020
Prime MinisterJoseph Muscat
Preceded byChris Said
Responsible for Justice
Succeeded byEdward Zammit Lewis
Responsible for Justice, Equality & Governance
Ministry for Research, Innovation and the Coordination of the Post-COVID-19 Strategy
Assumed office
23 November 2020
Preceded bynew created portfolio
Personal details
Born (1980-05-24) 24 May 1980 (age 41)
Zejtun, Malta
Political partyPartit Laburista

Following the March 2013 General Elections, he was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary for Justice.[3] After a cabinet reshuffle he was made Minister of Justice, Culture and Local Government in March 2014.[4]

Political life


Bonnici was first elected to Parliament in 2008 at the age of 27 from the third electoral district - a seat vacated by Helena Dalli.[5] The district was made up of the residents of the towns of Fgura, Marsascala and Zejtun. He served as Opposition Spokesperson for Youth and Culture and subsequently for Higher Education, University, Research and Culture and voiced against issues like censorship and advocated for other liberal issues.[6] During his first term, he was actively involved in the Divorce Bill when the Labour Party appointed him to coordinate through the views and suggestions of the elected members of his party and also engage with the opposition party members.[7]During his role as the culture minister, he expanded the existing Culture Pass program that allowed free access to various cultural events in the country and included students at all levels - kindergarten, primary and secondary.[8]He also launched Teatru Malta a new theater project that aimed to create new content for people in the country.[9]

He was again elected in the March 2013 elections. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat appointed him Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Justice and then Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government.[10][11]In 2013, he worked on a bill with Prime minister Muscat that corruption cases against politicians are not time barred and any accused will not be able to invke prescription if a case is in the court.[12]

Bonnici was responsible for a number of initiatives undertaken during the legislature, including the Whistleblowers' Act, Justice Reform and the Individual Investors' Program. When Malta's whistleblower laws were ranked second in European Union, Owen Bnnici had tweeted and Times of Malta reported

It is very easy to speak about the rule of law. It's harder to act and deliver to improve it. That is what we have been doing and will keep doing. This report about #whistleblowerprotection shows that the law we passed in 2013 is one of the best and most robust in the #EU[13]

He said that Malta's drug criminalisation laws were overall guided by common sense. We could have done nothing at all on drugs, but we have decided to take a decision and publish a white paper which is practical and clear, Bonnici Said about it.[14] The law was met by questions and concerns if it will give a message that it was okay to use drugs. To this, Bonnici responded by saying Former judge at the European Court of Human Rights Giovanni Bonello’s appointment as the head of a new drug court showed how serious the legal reform was about helping users while punishing those who lived off the profits of vice.[15]

In 2015, Bonnici replaced the local enforcement system that was known to be maligned and replaced it with a new agency that would eventually become a regulatory authority.[16]

He also launched a Party financing act along with then Law Commissioner Franco Debono for increased transparency and accountability that would reduce abuse by political parties and candidates. Malta Today reported on this

Bonnici described the current situation was a “free-for-all”, adding that the new law would transform the scenario into a more serious one. The act would see political parties, of any size, and prominent party officials obliged to register with the Electoral Commission. Parties can lose their registration if they fail to present a candidate for ten years.[17]

Bonnici also led a draft that would amend the constitution and bring reforms on how judicial appointments are made and more. The reform would create a new commission that would handle judicial appointments of Chief Justice, Attorney General and the President of the Chamber of Advocates and also provide opinions on other judicial appointments.[18]

Prior to his election to Parliament, he served on the Local Council of Marsascala for five years, first as a Councillor and then as Deputy Mayor, and as an elected member of the Labour Executive Council (2004-2008).[19] In 2004, he also contested for European parliament elections as a Labour Party Candidate. [20]

Owen Bonnici presented a draft in September 2016 that allowed people who were undergoing police interrogation to have a lawyer of their preference. This was done followed by a European Union Directive.[21]

Owen Bonnici's initiative that reduced the litigation period over disputed properties by multiple heirs was opposed by another Member of Parliament like Carm Misfud Bonnici.[22]

Bonnici also represented the residents' lobby group for an appeal against the Marsascala recycling plant. This appeal was initially turned down, but later, Justice Camilleri decided that the appeal should be heard again before the new laws related to Malta Environment and Planning Authority are set.[23]

Family


Bonnici has a daughter Ema.[10]

Controversy


On 30 January, 2020, the Constitutional Court of Malta ruled[24] that Minister of Justice Bonnici had breached the human rights of protesters for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia by repeatedly and vexatiously ordering the clearing of the makeshift memorial at the foot of the Great Siege Monument throughout 2018 and 2019. The Constitutional Court stated that Bonnici's orders amounted to a "systematic" censorship that led to an "absurd" and "divisive" situation[25][26] that breached blogger and activist Emmanuel Delia and others' freedom of expression.[25] Bonnici defended himself by saying that there were a number of reasons behind such clearings, for example because of monument restorations coincidentally carried during the same time frame[27] and to reduce damages such as wax spillage on the monument.[28] Bonnici's order to clear the memorial was condemned by the Council of Europe, the United Nations and the OSCE.[26]

The Court ordered damages for the plaintiff.[citation needed]

References


  1. Urpani, David Grech (28 November 2020). "Becoming Miriam Dalli: How A Young Safi Woman Went From Journalist, To MEP, To Malta's New 'Eco-Warrior' Minister". Lovin Malta. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  2. "Portfolio". www.gov.mt. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  3. New Government Cabinet Appointed, Malta Today, Wednesday 13 March 2013
  4. "Cabinet reshuffle: 10 changes to fill 4 vacancies - The Malta Independent". www.independent.com.mt. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  5. "404 error - The Malta Independent". www.independent.com.mt. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
  6. "Stuck in a moment | Owen Bonnici". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  7. "A dummy's guide to the divorce Bill changes". Times of Malta. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  8. "Students can now attend free cultural activities with their Culture Pass". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  9. "Teatru Malta launched". Times of Malta. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  10. "MALTA Minister of Education and Employment" (PDF). bilaterales.bmbwf.gv.
  11. "bonnici owen". Parliament of Malta. 6 July 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  12. "The new Cabinet". Times of Malta. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  13. "Malta's whistleblower laws rank second in the EU - NGO report". Times of Malta. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  14. "Drug decriminalization law guided by 'common sense' - Bonnici". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  15. "Giovanni Bonello heads new drug court". Times of Malta. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  16. "New agency to replace local enforcement system". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  17. "[WATCH] New party financing law introduces capping of donations, publication of names". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  18. "Owen Bonnici announces judicial appointments commission". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  19. "Jiddispjacina. Il-paġna li qed tipprova tfittex ma teżistix". localgovernment.gov.mt (in Maltese). Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  20. "Campaign website". Times of Malta. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  21. "Right to be given for lawyer assistance during Police interrogation - TVM News". TVM English. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  22. "Forcing property heirs into sale 'a new form of expropriation' – MP". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  23. "Judge orders appeal to be heard again". Times of Malta. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
  24. "Delia vs Dr Bonnici". Courts of Justice.
  25. "Justice Minister's orders to clear protest memorial 'a breach of freedom of expression'". The Shift News. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  26. "Malta must establish accountability for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia". COE. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  27. "Works on Great Siege Monument cost €1,600;". Independent. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  28. "Owen Bonnici highlights spillage while Repubblika say minister's 'gang' to blame". Time of Malta. Retrieved 30 January 2020.