“It is a bitter experience to have a Standards Commissioner who is an ex-politician,” Glenn Bedingfield ranted in parliament two short years ago. Now he’s furiously promoting a former Labour Party candidate, Joseph Azzopardi, to fill that very post.
Labour’s shamelessness knows no bounds. Bedingfield, former Labour whip, spent months hounding former Standards Commissioner George Hyzler. His relentless, vicious attacks on the Commissioner’s office were disturbing.
Bedingfield accused Hyzler of presenting reports “issued strategically and timed to harm the government”. He advised Hyzler that “he should not see the speck in another person’s eye while ignoring the beam in his own”.
He also blamed Hyzler for “leaks from his office”, explicitly pointing fingers at a member of Hyzler’s staff “recruited from a newspaper”.
Bedingfield made all sorts of false accusations to discredit Hyzler. He declared that one of Hyzler’s consultants was “under the shadow of corruption” and “found guilty in court due to negligence as an auditor”.
He accused another consultant that his son was a member of a civil society group. He claimed another consultant ran up a €3,000 phone bill.
He lashed out at the Commissioner for failing to give the public information. He mocked Hyzler, calling him “an emperor” with too much to hide.
The Commissioner was compelled to reply. Hyzler condemned Bedingfield’s “violent attack” to avoid “unnecessary harm to the institution and its employees, who should not be targeted for doing their duty”.
Hyzler pointed out that he submitted an annual report to the House. He sent copies of all his consultants’ contracts to the Speaker and authorised him to publish them.
When Bedingfield was challenged to provide evidence of “the shadow of corruption”, he didn’t, but he continued to repeat the false claims. Hyzler investigated the €3,000 phone bill allegation and found it fictitious.
Bedingfield regularly disrupted proceedings of the parliamentary standards committee. When Carmelo Abela was found guilty of ethics breaches, Bedingfield falsely claimed the report had been leaked. Nobody had leaked the report. Bedingfield should have known that but still peddled the lie.
He called on the Speaker to launch a probe. He refused to attend the committee’s meeting, delaying the hearing. When Hyzler’s report came to a vote, Bedingfield voted against. Speaker Anġlu Farrugia abstained, and the report wasn’t approved.
Carmelo Abela was let off the hook, and Hyzler’s work counted for nothing.
When Rosianne Cutajar was found guilty of ethics breaches, Bedingfield created such chaos that the Speaker stormed off, suspending the parliamentary committee’s session. When they finally reconvened, Bedingfield voted against adopting the report that condemned Cutajar’s behaviour.
The Labour MPs, together with the Speaker, voted for further investigation instead. But when the Opposition called for witnesses to testify, Bedingfield objected.
When Cutajar was finally and inevitably found guilty, she was let off with a polite letter from the Speaker thanks to Bedingfield. She faced no sanctions. Hyzler’s work was torpedoed by Bedingfield again.
Hyzler was right: “The only conclusion one can draw is that the MP (Bedingfield) is consistently trying to undermine this office by making unfounded claims and insinuations, not only against me but also against my employees, who are being victimised just because they are carrying out their duty”.
The man who single-handedly caused the most devastating harm to the Standard Commissioner’s office and its reputation has suddenly discovered a new zeal for defending that office. Labour has unleashed its bulldog to attack the Opposition for refusing to accept the former Labour Party candidate, Joseph Azzopardi, as Standards Commissioner.
In a glaringly ironic article in The Times of Malta, Bedingfield accused the PN of “opposing in a most capricious and impulsive way the nomination of a widely respected former Chief Justice to the post of Standards Commissioner”.
Bedingfield conveniently omitted to mention Azzopardi’s political candidacy with the Labour Party. He launched insults at the Opposition – “toxic attitude”, “devoid of any moral authority”, “political bickering in such sensitive situations”. And then hypocritically pointed out that “I am highlighting this to showcase how inconsistent the PN’s attitude is”.
Certainly not as inconsistent as denouncing one Standards Commissioner for being a politician while promoting another politician to take his place.
Of all its MPs, Labour chose Bedingfield to defend its indefensible efforts to ram its chosen candidate into the post. While accusing the Opposition of wanting to get its way, Abela’s government is sprinting through parliament changes to the law that will remove the requirement for a two-thirds majority to select the Commissioner.
That will kill any motivation for compromise and cross-party consensus. Abela wants to decide who becomes Standards Commissioner. His anti-deadlock mechanism is nothing but an authoritarian manoeuvre to secure absolute control for himself.
Who better to choose for that post than a former Labour candidate who, as Chief Justice, berated journalists for “asking compromising questions” and lashed out at editors for publishing a decision of the Commission for the Administration of Justice to reprimand a magistrate.
As Chief Justice, Azzopardi declared, “The people should be thankful to magistrates for taking on an evergrowing workload”. Sweet.
In the furore around the long-vacant Commissioner’s post, instead of maintaining diplomatic silence, Azzopardi chose to provoke: “I’m not bothered with the opposition to me”.
Any decent person would long have informed Robert Abela he’s no longer interested in the post to help defuse the situation in the national interest.
Instead, Azzopardi fuels discord with his petty partisan remarks: “In the past, there were presidents of Malta who were elected with a simple majority”. His own words confirm his singular unfitness for the role.
Meanwhile, that schoolyard bully Robert Abela declared, “I want to send a message to those who act as though they’re champions of the rule of law and who use atrocious tactics to force the institutions to deliver the result they desire”.
His message is that Joseph Azzopardi will be Commissioner. ‘Because I, and only I, decide’.
Did you say “emperor”, Glenn?