Times of Malta
Wednesday, 15th December 2010
NGOs criticise exemption for Church organisations
Six NGOs have criticised the legal exemption being granted to Church organisations that have refused to register with the Voluntary Organisations Commissioner.
BirdLife, Friends of the Earth, the Malta Organic Agriculture Movement, Nature Trust, the Ramblers Association and Żminijietna said the law introduced in 2007 meant that, to benefit from state funding and donations, all organisations had to register. However, several Church organisations chose not to register and were recently said to have been given a ministerial exemption to be allowed to benefit from funds raised by the Malta Community Chest Fund, now declared a state organisation.
The NGOs believe such a situation, whereby legislation is passed through Parliament only for the minister concerned to give blanket exemptions for unknown reasons, had given rise to a possibly dangerous precedent.
It could also “perpetuate the notion that laws are only there for certain sections of the population and that the government will bend over backwards, including disregarding its own laws, in order to benefit other privileged sections that believe themselves to be above the law”.
The organisations expressed solidarity with NGOs Commissioner Kenneth Wain whose job it was to uphold the law yet found “his efforts thwarted by the same government that appointed him”.
The President said last month unregistered Church organisations would still benefit from this year’s annual charity telethon L-Istrina and a government spokesman said this could be done through a ministerial exemption.
The Church, which so far has not explained why it had not yet enrolled, said this had nothing to do with not wanting to report income and expenditure, adding talks about enrolment were nearing conclusion.