Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Anton Refalo resorted to insults in the House of Representatives on Monday by inviting Opposition MP Julie Zahra to his house to “sing” and, while she was there, take a look at the Victorian-era stone marker the Gozitan minister illicitly has in his home.
Moreover, Refalo flatly refused to answer supplementary questions from Opposition MP Mark Anthony Sammut about whether he has been placed under criminal investigation for having the ‘stolen’ piece of national heritage as poolside decor.
In a supplementary parliamentary question, Zahra asked Refalo, “Since the minister holds our national heritage so close to his heart, so much so that he has a stone marker next to his pool, maybe I could come and see it since it’s not open to the public. Could he explain why it is in his possession?”
“It was taken from a public place and put into a private residence. When will it be returned by the minister for all the people of Malta and Gozo to enjoy?”
The Shift revealed in February that the minister was holding a protected early 19th-century stone marker after social media posts by his children revealed the artefact placed in the garden of his private residence.
In total defence mode, Refalo brushed off the question as to when he would return the artefact and told the MP, who had once been a Eurovision Song Contest participant, “You can come [to my house] and sing whenever you like. It would be my pleasure.”
The minister’s jibe was a reference to a political debate last March between Zahra and Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli, who had taken a dig at the then-PN candidate when she attempted to ridicule Zahra by saying, “We are not singing on a stage here.”
Opposition leader Bernard Grech was quick to interject on Monday over Refalo’s quip, demanding of Speaker Anglu Farrugia that “The House should not tolerate any minister or an MP attacking someone personally over their talents.”
Among much commotion and desk-banging from the government side of the aisle, the Speaker reprimanded Refalo, saying,” I agree, there should be no personal attacks in the House. This kind of talk hurts people,” and he asked Refalo to retract the comment.
Refalo “excused” himself, claiming he failed to understand what was offensive and insisting he had never personally attacked anyone in the House.
Opposition MP Mark Anthony Sammut had opened the can of worms a few minutes earlier when he asked Refalo to confirm if he was the subject of a criminal investigation over the artefact and whether he intends to return it.
Refalo said he “was waiting for this question” and went on to explain how “I spoke with the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage, I brought him on site, showed him the stone and told him to take it or leave it there and that I was at his disposal at any time for an investigation”.
He then launched into a whataboutism rant over how, under a Nationalist administration, the Fort Chambray English military cemetery in Gozo had been pillaged by contractors and heritage had disappeared, how former Prime Minister George Borg Olivier had pillaged artefacts and how the Labour government had secured the loan of patrimony paintings for MUZA from HSBC. The PN, he said, had sold the country’s heritage, as though that absolved his responsibility to return public property.
The heated exchange was continually interrupted by the commotion and banging from government MPs, with some, such as MP Rosianne Cutajar, attempting to divert the discussion by asking about “important things such as how the ministry was helping fishermen and farmers”.
Repeatedly questioned by Opposition MPs Justin Schembri, who asked the minister where and how he had found the artefact, and Sammut, who asked the minister to state in simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ terms whether he intended to return the artefact, Refalo’s only belief-defying answer was for them to put any further questions in writing and that he would answer them.
Kemm hemm nies jahdmu mal gvern ghawdex? Kemm minhom jidhlu ghax xol?
I would accept the invitation and take the police with me as every member of parliament has the right to. Then indicate the stolen monument and order the police to take action.
Parliament full of idiots is what comes to my mind right now, and a crowded one as well, which in fact it perfectly reflects the sick situation of our small island.
I am sure that Julie has no problem since she can sing. It is the minister who has a problem as he did not answer the questions put to him.
The Minister answered tactfully that he will be keeping the national heritage monument within his possession and that he does not intend to return it where it belongs!
We have hundreds of such monuments littering the countryside, neglected. Possibly an equal quantity in the Maghtab landfill.
There are far more important things to press the government, corruption, rule of law, and a long list of contracts which have/will cost use millions if not billions. And the opposition is bickering over a two foot cube of common globigerina, looking at the photo possibly a poor fake copy.
PN Pull your socks up please, you have fallen into the usual fools trap!
You are really missing the basic premise. That this is national heritage that belongs to the public. When a minister takes something from the public because he thinks it would look nice in his home, what else is he taking? How can you be sure his decisions are in the public interest rather than his own? We’ve become so inundated with scandals that we’re brushing aside the basic principles. And that’s their strategy. Getting lost in the mud.
You know the old saying “take care of the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves”.
Halliel w arroganti. Isthi
The attitude of Maltese (PL) politicians, they steal and assassinate with vengeance.
min jisraq hwejjeg il-poplu – HALLIEL
min japprova l-korruzzjoni – KORROTT
min joqtol jew igieghel lil min joqtol – ASSASSIN
min ma jghidx l-Verita’ – GIDDIEB
Fil-parlament maqjel (as per the speaker), ghandna hafna min dawn.