Fabian Demicoli

Compelled to Act The Valletta Chemimart Case.

GRTU felt compelled to act and intervene in the case instituted by Chemimart against the Superintendent of Public Health. Whilst GRTU understands, Mr. Fava's position, it cannot understand however, his insistence in trampling on the rights at law of his fellow pharmacy owners in Valletta, as well as his companions in other organisations, by asking for a relocation, even temporary of his pharmacy to Republic street. Chemimart knew that such a relocation is illegal and ultra vires.

 

GRTU reacted in support of the other four pharmacies because what Chemimart was asking the courts to is to break the law and the recently agreed to Pharmacy Licence Regulations. In this case, Chemimart opted to shoot first without trying to resolve the issue amicably. It can be revealed that GRTU had been trying to find a solution acceptable to all before Chemimart jumped the gun and went to court. But no solutions can be found where the law will be bent or broken, or when GRTU's very principles would have suffered. The law is clear. It states that a Pharmacy may relocate its premises up to 50 metres away from its present location. If that 50 metre rule is exceeded, then the pharmacy cannot relocate to premises less than 300 metres form the site of an existing pharmacy or premises on which there is an application for a pharmacy. The law does not speak of temporary relocations. Besides this, Chemimart knew all along that their lease in Freedom Square had expired some time ago, and it was only due to Government's good graces that it was given, along with the other shop owners in Freedom Square, alternative premises and / or compensation.

The case did go to court. GRTU was also there, and now that the case has been concluded, GRTU has appealed, along with others, from this very dangerous ruling. In effect, the court, disregarding its own case law, firstly decreed that the other four pharmacies that would have been adversely affected by Chemimart's request do not have an interest in the case. Surprisingly enough, we were astounded to learn that the Attorney General's office actually opposed GRTU's lawyers request to be party in this case. Secondly, we were even more astounded to hear the testimony of the Superintendent of Public health, who decreed that there was some fear that the GRTU would order some stoppage of the POYC. GRTU makes it clear that it never threatened anyone in this way, and as such this statement was gratuitous and speculative.  At this very moment in time, GRTU is actively involved in working towards further rollout of the POYC scheme with Government. This is in libe with GRTU's oft stated social responsibility as a constituted body in partnership with Government and the Chamber of Pharmacists.

The court actually granted  Chemimart's request for a temporary relocation on the basis of Article 72c of the Medicines Act 2003, which is a punitive article dealing with the  Suspension or revocation of pharmacy licences. This article has had the chewing gum treatment and has been twisted and turned round by the courts in order to justify the granting of the temporary relocation.

GRTU cannot but conclude that the Superintendent of Public Health, aided by the AG's office, who is also invested with the responsibilities of Licensing Authority by virtue of the Medicines Act, failed to uphold the application of the Laws and regulations on the licensing of pharmacies thrice. He should have not entertained the idea of a relocation and just issued a peremptory refusal. Secondly, he should have put up a vigorous defence of the law, and not surprisingly oppose the entry of parties who have rights according to the same law he was supposed to uphold. Thirdly and here is his greatest failing, he should have appealed as GRTU, the four Pharmacy owners and the Kamra tal-Ispizjara did, from the court's ruling.

This is his duty as repository and guardian of the law, and  he has failed miserably in that duty. The repercussions of this dereliction of duty are profound, because without realising it, the Superintendent of Public health has opened a Pandora's box by emasculating not just his Authority, but the Authority of every Licencing body in the land. Henceforth, the Courts have been given leave to break the very same laws they are bound to safeguard by giving them interpretations they were never meant to have.

 It is truly, a sad day for Malta when one individual, in tis case Chemimart, for purely commercial and speculative reasons, suborns the whole process of the law like this. It is even sadder when the Courts sanction it.

It is even sadder to note that the Chamber Of Commerce supported this filibustering of the law, to the detriment of two of its members who have been affected by this ruling, one of who sits on the same Chamber council as Mr. Fava. Is there no shame anymore?

But the really sad thing is that Chemimart did not have the, for want of a better word, the  "irgulija", to ask their peers and colleagues,pharmacy owners all for their help and understanding. Mr. Fava of Chemimart  has long tried to represent the interests of pharmacy owners by rivalling the excellent work done by GRTU and the Chamber of Pharmacsts. Now we have the proof of this particular pudding. Mr. Fava has tried to deal a blow to all that pharmacy owners have fought for and aspired to in defence of their livelihood.

This ruling does not affect just the Valletta Pharmacies, but all the Pharmacies in Malta and Gozo. GRTU has sworn to defend their rights, and that's why on Monday the 19th it will be again in court defending their rights.

In a nutshell…unbelievable. But true. What a sorry state this country has sunk to.

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