Parliament of howls

It’s a funny old world. There are crowned midgets addressed as Your Highness. Obscure cardinals are called Your Eminence. There are aristocrats who can’t add 1+1 and yet carry the title of Count.  And then there’s Anġlu Farrugia, voted Mr Speaker.

And they say the Maltese don’t get satire.

The last legislature showed the need for it. MPs are called Honourable; yet, in 2019, the governing majority threw honour to the wind and voted to express confidence in Joseph Muscat, when it was clear that the then prime minister’s decisions had dishonoured the country.

Between 2020-2022, out of 67 Honourable Members, no fewer than three resigned while disgraced — Muscat, Chris Cardona and Silvio Grixti. Another — Ian Castaldi Paris — was found to have fiddled with his taxes but hung on to his seat to the end.

Looking at the whole term, 2017-2022, shows things were even worse. Another two MPs — no less than Robert Abela, the Prime Minister, and Bernard Grech, the Leader of the Opposition — have reasonable people thinking that they, too, cheated on their taxes. Abela doesn’t even respect his parliamentary duty of being forthcoming in his declaration of income and assets.

Adrian Delia, the other Opposition leader in the last legislature, was accused of having unsavoury links to a London-based prostitution ring and to Yorgen Fenech, even after the latter was discovered to be the owner of the notorious secret company, 17 Black.

All three MPs have denied wrongdoing. With all three, the authorities have not pronounced themselves — not even to clear them. As the 14th legislature began yesterday, the public reputation of parliament continues to suffer.

It’s not just due to them. Justyne Caruana didn’t resign from parliament in disgrace, even though a senior official of parliament, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, found she breached parliamentary ethics. He didn’t even believe her sworn testimony.

Remember, the Commissioner for Standards investigates on parliament’s behalf. In holding ministers to account for abuses of power or breaches of ethics, he stands for the Constitution’s declaration that the Executive answers to parliament. He defends the autonomy of parliament.

Yet, by protecting Caruana, parliament’s majority preferred to undercut its Commissioner, investigating on its own behalf.

The Commissioner was undercut by the Speaker, too. When another MP, Rosianne Cutajar, was found to have breached parliamentary ethics, with the Commissioner finding her testimony unbelievable, parliament’s Standards Committee decided she should receive a stern reprimand.

It was a tame disciplinary action but Farrugia shrank even from that. He merely informed Cutajar of the committee’s decision.

Bad as that was, it wasn’t the most egregious of failures to defend parliament’s autonomy and dignity.

Another Committee, another failure of dignity. When the Parliamentary Affairs Committee hauled Konrad Mizzi in for questioning over the notorious Electrogas deal, Mizzi told the Opposition members of the PAC that they had no right to judge him.

Of course they did. It is a right granted by parliament itself. But Mizzi got away with the challenge to parliament’s authority, without a rebuke from the Speaker.

Yet Farrugia had no qualms getting his lawyer to write to an ordinary citizen, Matthew Caruana Galizia, telling him to shut up and stop demanding that Farrugia resign.

That’s the reputation with which parliament began its 14th term yesterday: as an institution whose Speaker formally tried to bully a citizen that the House represents while shrinking from holding MPs to account.

Farrugia yesterday urged MPs to avoid personal attacks. Perhaps he had in mind the attacks and threats against Simon Busuttil on 9 October 2018, when the then prime minister, Muscat, called him a fraudster, liar, and traitor. On the same occasion, then minister Cardona warned Busuttil that, if more was publicly known about Busuttil, he might need to escape far from Malta’s jurisdiction.

Or perhaps Farrugia had in mind the time when the then backbench MP, Abela, accused Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sons of detesting Malta so much they’d rather not see their mother’s assassination solved. He has since retracted, but not apologised.

That’s a vicious legacy that the 13th legislature left its successor. What signals did Saturday’s opening give? Not good.

When the Opposition leader reminded the Speaker that he has to be impartial, he was accused by the prime minister of negating the decision expressed by March’s general elections. What?

You’d think the general elections decided that only the majority’s views should be expressed. General elections also decide who gets to express the views of the minority.

There can be no doubt that the 123,000 people who voted PN endorsed the critical view of Farrugia that the PN had repeatedly expressed prior to the election. If we had to take Abela seriously, he doesn’t recognise the expression of this view as legitimate. He called it surreal.

What’s surreal is that, taking the kinder view, we have a prime minister who doesn’t know what the roles of Opposition and Speaker are in a parliamentary democracy. The less kind view is that he knows but doesn’t care.

                           
                               
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Francis Said
Francis Said
4 days ago

The fundamental truth is that the majority of the Maltese and Gozitans alike have a new god. Greed and money. That this so called god closes an eye, if not both, to whether this wealth is achieved through corruption and undeservedly is part of the deal. Our mind, heart and soul have been overcome by these two targets in life.
Well it is about time that people of goodwill stand up and say NO. Government is there to administer our Country for the good of all, irrespective of one’s political view.
The ball is firmly in government’s hands. The people in high positions are bound to ensure that the wealth generated is clean and distributed fairly.
It is totally unacceptable that 60,000 people are poor or on the brink of poverty and the few are raking in millions.
We need to highlight and invigorate our forefathers’ solid principles. Principles that have survived nothwithstanding the tribulations they went true.
This is not religion but true charity and solidarity.

James
James
4 days ago

Remember we were promised continuity and continuity is what we’ve got.
5 more years with yet another despot P.M in charge ensuring that the “ untouchables “ will continue to remain so.
5 more years when the favoured few will continue to be appointed to positions, or remain in position,to ensure they can continue to pillage the state coffers with total impunity.
5 more years of continuing to allow the appointed ministers to shower their friends and family with favours paid for by the tax payers on top of the crippling debts they are already saddled with.
5 more years when the very roots of democracy will continue to be eroded.
How depressing!

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
4 days ago

I have the feeling that feeling that the PL and the PN came to some kind of agreement regarding their outstanding tax payments. I hope such agreement will not mean stopping the opposition its criticism to the government ‘s deficit and the rise in national debt.

makjavel
makjavel
4 days ago

The first speech by the youngest member of parliament should tell the PM that he has less than 50% of the support of the registered voters. That Malta has a constitution and and it is not a dictatorship.

viv
viv
4 days ago

Do Bob’s handlers really believe that someone beneath the title ‘prime minister’ will avoid scrutiny indefinitely? Will he be scurrying away from penetrating journalists’ questions every week? Not just regarding his documented associations with the criminal underworld but as public employee – and all the responsabilities tied to it.
He telegraphed a long time ago that his emotions control him, and for this he is a huge liability to many.
As a ‘lawyer’ he is too well aware that it is the questions that do the damage.
How long can he hide behind the PL’s skirts?

Osservatore
Osservatore
3 days ago

Every court has its jester. It therefore gives me great pleasure and welcome to introduce the Maltese parliament’s own ubiquitous jester, the honouroble Anglu Farrugia

joe tedesco
joe tedesco
2 days ago

SPEAKER FARRUGIA IS A DIVISIVE PERSON. HIS CHOICE AS SPEAKER
IS TOTALLY WRONG AND VERY DIVISIVE.

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