Leo Brincat: loyalties and lip service

epa04912519 Maltese Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and CLimate change Leo Brincat arrives for an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the conference center in Luxembourg, 04 September 2015. EU Foreign Ministers gather in Luxembourg to discuss on the ongoing refugees and migrant crises. EPA/JULIEN WARNAND

When Leo Brincat gave evidence before the EU Parliamentary Committee on Budgetary Control last week he was, as anticipated, quizzed on his position regarding the Panama Papers.

Leo Brincat made himself crystal clear by stating that he would have submitted his resignation – or else suspended himself from office until such time as matters would have been clarified – had he been himself involved.

He volunteered the information that there had been a point at which he had considered resigning from Ministerial office due to the manner in which the Panama Papers scandal was handled in Malta. He added that, eventually, however, his considerations did not materialise and he did not resign as he had no desire to be a “hero for a day and end up in the (political) wilderness” thereafter.

Then came the fundamental issue: what about his vote against the motion of No Confidence in Minister Konrad Mizzi which was discussed by Malta’s House of Representatives? He emphasised that he could not vote in favour of the No Confidence motion as he was bound by the party’s Parliamentary Whip! It was a basic standard of local politics, based on the Westminister model, he emphasised.

At this point Leo Brincat made it clear to the EU Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee that he had made a very important and fundamental choice: he preferred loyalty to the party whip to loyalty to his principles: those same principles which he has been harping on for ages. When push came to shove, solidarity with Konrad Mizzi took priority over good governance. This is what irked a substantial number of MEPs and prompted them not to recommend the  approval of Leo Brincat as a member of the European Court of Auditors. Leo’s declaration means only one thing: that his statements on good governance are only lip service to which there is no real commitment.

From this point onwards, the issue became one of principle, stated Slovenian Green MEP Igor Šoltes, Vice Chairman of the EU Parliamentary Committee on Budgetary Control and rapporteur on the European Court of Auditors, when interviewed by the local media. How is it possible to expect appointment to the European Court of Auditors and simultaneously give a nod of approval to Konrad Mizzi? Leo’s reluctance to distance himself from Konrad’s misbehaviour was his undoing.

Leo Brincat was considered as being technically qualified for the post of member of the European Court of Auditors but his public behaviour relative to the Panama Papers left much to be desired: it rendered him ethically unqualified.

Most of the information on Malta and the Panama Papers scandal is freely available online. In this day and age, MEPs and their staff, like anyone else, can easily look up all the information they need in an instant. They do not need any prodding by David Casa, Roberta Metsola, Therese Commodini Cachia or anyone else!

The facts are damning enough. Leo Brincat, unfortunately, came across as an ambivalent person who speaks in favour of good governance yet through his vote simultaneously gives support to its negation. Konrad Mizzi’s behaviour,, sanctioned in parliament by the vote of Leo Brincat and his colleagues on the government benches, signifies that the Parliamentary Labour Party in Malta does not care about good governance. Leo Brincat’s failure is quite representative of the Labour Parliamentary group’s behaviour in Malta, as they have all contributed to this mess – the effects of which are yet to come.

In fairness, I must also point out that the press had, at a point in time picked up information about a rowdy Labour Party Parliamentary Group meeting during which Leo Brincat and a number of other MPs (including a number of Ministers ) had argued for Konrad Mizzi’s resignation or removal. It is indeed unfortunate that Joseph Muscat did not feel sufficiently pressured to remove Konrad Mizzi from Cabinet, as that meeting was only followed up with cosmetic changes in Konrad Mizzi’s Cabinet responsibilities.

It is useless to try and shift the blame onto Joseph Muscat and his cronies. While Joseph Muscat is ultimately responsible, this does not exonerate Leo Brincat and each individual member of the Labour Party Parliamentary group; each one of them too must shoulder responsibilities for  failure to act in removing Konrad Mizzi from public office.

At the end of the day there is just one lesson: loyalty to your conscience is not up for bartering.

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