Edward Scicluna: bla boċċi

Ix-xhieda ta’ Edward Scicluna f’nofs il-ġimgħa fl-inkjesta dwar l-assassinazzjoni ta’  Daphne Caruana Galizia hi offensiva u triegħex. Mix-xhieda tiegħu stess Scicluna joħroġ bħala Ministru tal-Finanzi  bla sinsla, dgħajjef u beżżiegħ: inkapaċi li jkun deċiżiv fil-konfront tal-abbuż. B’riżultat ta’ dan  spiċċa jiċċertifika lilu nnifsu bħala  li mhux kapaċi jerfa’ fuq spallejh r-responsabbiltajiet ta’ Ministru.

F’dan kollu mexa fuq il-passi tal-kollega tiegħu il-Ministru tal-Affarijiet Barranin Evarist Bartolo. Fl-istess inkjesta, Bartolo, xehed ix-xahar l-ieħor meta qal li kien jippreferi strateġija ta’ sopravivenza: li jsalva l-ħajja politika tiegħu biex ikun possibli li jkompli l-ġlieda politika “fil-futur”. Dan qalu meta kien rinfaċċat bin-nuqqas ta’ azzjoni konkreta min-naħa tal-Gvern (li minnu hu kien u għadu jifforma parti) fil-konfront tal-involviment tal-eks-Ministru Konrad Mizzi u l-eks-Chief of Staff tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Musca,t Keith Schembri, fl-iskandlu magħruf bħala Panama Papers.

Il-kaz ta’ Edward Scicluna mhux  wieħed iżolat. Il-qarrejja jiftakru s-seduta ta’ smigħ ta’  Leo Brincat fl-2016 fil-Parlament Ewropew meta ġie mgħarbul mill-Kumitat tal-Budget in vista tan-nominazzjoni tiegħu biex ikun jifforma parti mill-Qorti Ewropea tal-Awdituri.  Meta, in vista tad-dikjarazzjonijiet tiegħu kien ippressat għal tweġiba mill-Membri tal-Parlament Ewropew dwar il-għala ma rreżenjax, Leo Brincat kien wieġeb li ma kellu l-ebda xewqa li jkun “eroj għal ġurnata biex imbagħad, wara jispiċċa f’baħħ politiku”.

Edward Scicluna quddiem l-inkjesta qal : “għalfejn għandi nirreżenja jien, meta hu ħaddieħor li għamel il-ħażin?” Żied jgħid li hu “daħal fil-politika biex jagħti servizz” u dan minkejja li kien komdu Brussel bħala Membru tal-Parlament Ewropew b’salarju ta’  €100,000.

Li jagħti l-pariri lil Joseph Muscat biex jiddistakka ruħu mill-impatti tal-iskandlu tal-Panama Papers mhux biżżejjed.  Edward Scicluna kien bla dubju jaf, anke kif jirriżulta mix-xhieda tiegħu, li dawk ta’ madwar Joseph Muscat kienu qed iduru mar-regoli biex jevitaw obbligi dwar trasparenza u kontabilità, u dan biex jilħqu l-għanijiet tagħhom.  Bħala Ministru tal-Finanzi Scicluna seta’, kieku ried, jaħsad ras dan l-abbuż mill-ewwel, bla ma jħallieħ jikber. Iżda minflok ipprefera jitfa’ ir-responsabbiltà fuq ħaddieħor: ipprova  jiddistakka ruħu biex jevita l-inkwiet u jibqa’ komdu.

Ir-responsabbiltajiet ta’ Edward Scicluna bħala Ministru tal-Finanzi imorru lil hinn milli jħejji l-budget bi stimi ta’ dħul u infieq. Għandu ukoll l-obbligu li jassigura li l-infieq tal-Gvern ikun wieħed trasparenti b’kontabilità sħiħa, u dan irrispettivament minn liema awtorità, Ministeru jew ċrieki madwar il-Prim Ministru jkunu fdati minn xi proġett speċifiku.

Il-Prim Ministru għandu l-obbligu li jmexxi bl-eżempju: għandu jassigura ruħu li kemm il-Kabinett tiegħu kif ukoll dawk kollha madwaru jimxu bi trasparenza u kontabiltà sħiħa. Jekk jonqos  milli jagħmel dan hu obbligu tal-membri kollha tal-Kabinett li jew jisfurzawh jaġixxi sewwa inkella li jirriżenjaw mill-Kabinett u jkomplu l-kritika tagħhom minn barra. Kull membru tal-Kabinett li jonqos li jaġixxi b’dan il-mod ikun kompliċi u responsabbli flimkien ma dawk li jkunu qed jabbużaw.

Dawk madwar il-Prim Ministru m’għandhomx jitħallew imexxu b’mod li jevitaw li jagħtu kont ta’ għemilhom u b’hekk iġibu fix-xejn il-ħidma tal-Parlament li kontinwament isus fuq it-trasparenza u l-kontabilità bla eċċezzjoni.

Hu irresponsabbli li Edward Scicluna issa jipprova jiddistakka ruħu pubblikament minn Joseph Muscat u dawk ta’ madwaru. Issa li Muscat m’għadux Prim Ministru hu faċli li jagħmel dan! Messu kellu l-boċċi li jaġixxi immedjatament li nduna x’kien għaddej.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 16 t’Awwissu 2020

Edward Scicluna has no balls

Edward Scicluna’s testimony, mid-week, during the inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination is outrageous. Through his own testimony he depicts himself as a spineless Minister of Finance, weak, soft and cowardly, incapable of acting decisively in the face of abuse. As a result, he ends up certifying himself as not being capable to shoulder his responsibilities as a Minister.

In so doing he is following the lead of his colleague Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo. Bartolo, testifying in the same inquiry last month stated that rather than resign he preferred to politically survive to be able to fight another day.  He stated this when faced by his Government’s lack of concrete action on the direct involvement of former Minister Konrad Mizzi and Joseph Muscat’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri in the Panama Papers and other irregularities.

Scicluna’s is not an isolated case. Readers will remember Leo Brincat’s hearing at the European Parliament in 2016 when he was scrutinised by its Budget Committee in relation to his nomination to form part of the EU Court of Auditors. When, in view of his statements, he was pressed for an answer by MEPs as to why he did not resign he had replied that he had no desire to be a “hero for a day and end up in the (political) wilderness thereafter”.

Edward Scicluna told the inquiry: “why should I resign if someone else did wrong?” He added that to “enter local politics to perform a job” he had left his comfort zone and a €100,000 job in Brussels as an MEP.

Advising Joseph Muscat to distance himself from the Panama Papers fallout is certainly not enough. Scicluna was definitely aware, even as evidenced in his own testimony, that Joseph Muscat’s Kitchen Cabinet was bypassing the system and as a result was avoiding transparency and accountability rules to better achieve “their aims”. As Finance Minister Scicluna could have nipped abuse in the bud but he did not, as he preferred to compartmentalise responsibilities and stay safe in his new comfort zone.

Scicluna’s responsibilities as Finance Minister amount to much more than budgeting for the necessary expenditure. Ensuring that all Government expenditure is transparent and fully accountable is his ultimate responsibility too, irrespective of which quango, Ministry (or Kitchen Cabinet member) is in charge of any specific project.

The Prime Minister has the duty to lead by example: he should ensure transparency and accountability in the workings of all his Cabinet members, including those in his Kitchen Cabinet. Whenever he fails to do so it is a duty of Cabinet members themselves to bring him to order or else to resign from Cabinet and take up the case in public. Any Cabinet Minister who fails to so act is an accomplice and collectively responsible for the resulting abuse.

No Kitchen Cabinet or shadow government should be allowed to run the country, continuously avoiding the checks and balances which, responsible parliaments set up to ensure that the taxes we pay are well spent.

It is irresponsible for Edward Scicluna to denounce Joseph Muscat’s Kitchen Cabinet now that he is no more Prime Minister. He should have had the balls to act immediately that he was aware of Muscat’s Kitchen Cabinet manoeuvres. The fact that he remained in his comfort zone signifies that he is as morally bankrupt as his colleagues in the now defunct Kitchen Cabinet.

Birds of a feather flock together.  

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 16 August 2020

Il-Partit Laburista hu moralment u politikament fallut

Joseph Muscat u l-Partit Laburista huma moralment u politikament falluti. Ir-responsabbiltà għas-sitwazzjoni kurrenti jrid iġorrha Joseph Muscat kemm bħala Prim Ministru kif ukoll bħala Mexxej tal-Partit Laburista. Għalhekk irreżenja. Imma anke l-Kabinett u t-tmexxija tal-Partit Laburista huma kollettivament responabbli flimkien miegħu.

Ma ħadux passi meta kellhom l-obbligu li jaġixxu, jiġifieri meta kienu ppubblikat l-Panama Papers fl-2016. Dakinhar, il-Prim Ministru messu keċċa kemm lil Konrad Mizzi kif ukoll lil Keith Schembri u sussegwentement kellhom ikunu investigati mill-Pulizija, flimkien mal-merċenerji tan-Nexia BT. Iżda ma ġara xejn minn dan!

Anke l-Partit Laburista f’dak il-mument kellu l-obbligu li jiċċensura lit-tmexxija tal-Partit talli naqas mill-jaġixxi. Minflok ma għamel hekk il-Partit Laburista, b’mod irresponsabbli, ta’ appoġġ inkundizzjonat lit-tmexxija u nhar is-26 ta’ Frar 2016 eleġġa lil Konrad Mizzi b’96.6% tal-voti validi bħala Deputat Mexxej tal-Partit. Dan kollu seħħ jumejn biss wara li kienu ppubblikati l-Panama Papers. Fi ftit ġimgħat imbagħad, kellu jirreżenja bħala riżultat ta’ pressjoni pubblika.

Għaliex jaġixxu b’dan il-mod?

It-tweġiba jagħtihielna l-eks-Ministru Leo Brincat fi kliem li ma jħallix lok għal misinterpretazzjoni. Dan meta kien qed jiġi eżaminat mill-Kumitat tal-Parlament Ewropew dwar il-kontroll tal-Baġit fl-2016 f’konnessjoni man-nomina tiegħu biex ikun jifforma parti mill-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri.

Meta Leo Brincat kien qed jixhed, kif mistenni, kien mistoqsi dwar il-Panama Papers. Kien ċar meta qal illi kieku kien hu, kien jirreżenja jew tal-inqas jissospendi ruħu sakemm l-affarijiet ikunu ċċarati.

Brincat, imma, qal iktar minn hekk: huwa informa lill-Kumitat Parlamentari li kien hemm mument, li kien qed jikkunsidra jirriżenja minn Ministru minħabba l-mod kif imxew l-affarijiet dwar l-iskandlu tal-Panama Papers f’Malta. Imma, żied jgħid, reġa’ bdielu u ma rriżenjax għax ma kellu l-ebda xewqa li jkun meqjus bħala eroj f’dak il-jum li jirriżenja, imbagħad wara jispiċċa fil-baħħ politiku!

Il-Membri Parlamentari Ewropej, inbagħad iffukaw fuq l-argument ċentrali: jista’ is-Sur Leo Brincat jispjega għaliex meta l-Parlament kellu quddiemu mozzjoni ta’ sfiduċja f’Konrad Mizzi, huwa kien ivvota kontriha u ta l-fiduċja lil Konrad Mizzi? Brincat emfasizza li hu qatt ma seta’ jivvota favur il-mozzjoni ta’ sfiduċja għax kien marbut kif jivvota mil-Whip Parlamentari tal-partit tiegħu!

B’dik it-tweġiba, Leo Brincat kien qed jagħmilha ċara mal-Kumitat Parlamentari tal-Parlament Ewropew għall-Kontroll tal-Baġit li hu kien qed jagħmel għażla fundamentali.

Fil-mument li ġie biex jagħżel bejn il-lealtà lejn il-partit u l-lealtà lejn il-prinċipji tiegħu, il-prinċipji rmiehom il-baħar u għażel il-partit. Fil-mument deċiżiv is-solidarjetà ma’ Konrad Mizzi kellha prijorità fuq l-osservanza tal-prinċipji ta’ governanza tajba. Huwa dan li dejjaq lil numru sostanzjali ta’ membri tal-Parlament Ewropew u wassalhom biex ma jirrakkomandawx il-ħatra ta’ Leo Brincat bħala membru tal-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri, l-istess kif kienu għamlu ftit qabel bin-nomina ta’ Toni Abela. Id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Leo Brincat lil Parlament Ewropew tfisser ħaġa waħda: li dak kollu li qal dwar il-governanza tajba ma jiswiex karlin, għax fil-mument tal-prova ċaħdu.

L-istess ħaġa għandu jingħad dwar Evarist Bartolo u l-prietka tiegħu ta’ kull fil-għodu fuq il-media soċjali. Fis-siegħa tal-prova, anke Varist, bħall-bqija tal-grupp Parlamentari (inkluż Chris Fearne, li qiegħed fuq quddiem fit-tellieqa għat-tmexxija tal-Partit) irmew il-prinċipji tagħhom biex jippruvaw isalvaw ġildhom.

Fl-aħħar minn l-aħħar, il-Partit Laburista, bħall-Partit Nazzjonalista qablu, mhux interessat fil-governanza tajba ħlief bħala għalf għal diskors politiku. Għax il-Partit Laburista hu moralment u politikament fallut.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 29 ta’ Diċembru 2019

Labour is morally and politically bankrupt

Joseph Muscat and his Labour Party are morally and politically bankrupt. The responsibility for the current state of affairs rests primarily on Joseph Muscat’s shoulder as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party – hence his resignation.

However, the Cabinet and the Labour Party leadership are, together with Joseph Muscat, also collectively responsible for the ensuing mess.

They failed to act when they should have acted when the Panama Papers were published in 2016. At that point in time Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri should have been fired on the spot by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and thoroughly investigated by the police, together with the mercenaries at Nexia BT. Yet they were not.

At that point in time, the Labour Party was duty bound to censor its leadership for failing to act. Instead of doing so, it irresponsibly shored up the leadership and elected Konrad Mizzi with 96.6 per cent of available votes, endorsing him as Deputy Leader on the 26 February 2016, two days after the Panama Papers saw the light of day. He resigned some weeks later as a result of public pressure.

Why do they act in this way?

The answer was given in crystal clear language by former Labour Minister Leo Brincat when he was being vetted by the European Parliamentary Committee on Budgetary Control in 2016 with reference to his nomination to form part of the European Court of Auditors. I have already written about the matter in my article entitled: Leo Brincat: loyalties and lip service (TMIS 18 September 2016).

When Leo Brincat gave evidence, he was, as anticipated, quizzed regarding the Panama Papers. He made himself crystal clear by saying that he would have submitted his resignation – or else suspended himself from office until such time as matters had been clarified – had he himself been involved.

Brincat further 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.

MEPs then focused on 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? Brincat emphasised that he could not vote in favour of the No Confidence motion as he was bound by his Party’s Parliamentary Whip! He emphasised the fact that this was a basic standard of local politics, based on the Westminster model.

As a result of this exchange, 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 about which he has been harping on for ages. When push came to shove, solidarity with Konrad Mizzi took priority over adherence to the principles of 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 as they had done previously when faced with the nomination of Toni Abela. Leo’s declaration means only one thing: that his voluminous statements on good governance are only lip service to which there is no real commitment.

The same goes for Evarist Bartolo’s daily sermon on social media in respect of good governance. When push came to shove even Evarist and the rest of the Labour Party Parliamentary group (including Chris Fearne, current front-runner in the leadership elections), dumped their principles overboard to save their skin.

At the end of the day, the Labour Party – like the Nationalist Party before it – is not interested in good governance except as material for political speeches. Labour is morally and political bankrupt.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 29th December 2019

Wara d-dibattitu fi Strasburgu

 

Id-dibattitu tal-ġimgħa l-oħra fil-Parlament Ewropew dwar is-saltna tad-dritt wera li prattikament il-partiti politiċi kollha huma mħassba dwar is-saltna tad-dritt f’Malta. Il-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia jkompli jżid ma dan it-tħassib.

It-tħassib hu wieħed akkumulat u huwa ġġustifikat minħabba diversi affarijiet li ġraw fuq tul ta’ żmien.

Il-ħatra u r-riżenja ta’ diversi Kummissarji tal-Pulizija matul dawn il-ħames snin xejn ma għen f’dan il-kuntest.

Ir-rapporti tal-FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit) li waslu għand il-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija u ma ittieħdu l-ebda passi dwarhom ukoll wasslu l-messaġġ li f’dan il-pajjiż xejn m’hu xejn: li l-liġi hi bla siwi.

Jekk il-liġi hi bla siwi għax l-awtorijtajiet li għandhom l-obbligu li jimplimentawha jagħlqu għajnejhom, daqqa waħda u drabi oħra t-tnejn, hu ġustifikat li jingħad li s-saltna tad-dritt hi mhedda.

F’dan il-kuntest ma tista’ tagħti tort lil ħadd li jissuspetta illi l-awtoritajiet kollha ħaġa waħda, jħokku dahar xulxin. Anke jekk mhux neċessarjament hekk.

Imma hemm min qiegħed japprofitta ruħu minn din is-sitwazzjoni biex jiżra’ sfiduċja iktar milli diġa hawn. Ilkoll kemm aħna, fuq quddiem nett il-partiti politiċi, għandna l-obbligu li f’din is-siegħa delikata ma nesagerawx fil-kritika li nagħmlu. Anke fejn il-kritika hi ġustifikata. Il-kritika li issir hemm bżonn li tkun waħda responsabbli avolja jkun hemm min ma jagħtix każ, jew inkella jipprova jagħti l-impressjoni li mhux qed jagħti każ.

Il-fatti jibqgħu dejjem fatti.

Il-Prim Ministru żbalja meta ma tajjarx lill-Konrad Mizzi mill-Kabinett u lil Keith Schembri minn Chief of Staff fl-uffiċċju tiegħu wara li isimhom deher fil-lista magħrufa bħala Panama Papers. Kien żball oħxon li anke fil-Partit Laburista stess kien hemm dibattitu jaħraq dwaru. Fil-Partit Laburista kien hemm min kellu l-kuraġġ li jesprimi fehmtu dwar dan fil-pubbliku. Hekk għamlu s-sena l-oħra Evarist Bartolo u Godfrey Farrugia. Kien hemm oħrajn li tkellmu fil-magħluq waqt laqgħat tal-Grupp Parlamentari. Fil-gazzetti kienu ssemmew l-ismijiet tad-Deputat Prim Ministru ta’ dak iż-żmien Louis Grech u tal-Ministri Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna u George Vella. Hemm ukoll id-dikjarazzjoni ċara pubblika ta’ Alfred Sant, avolja dan issa qed jitkellem ftit differenti. Naf li hemm oħrajn. Kollha talbu r-riżenja ta’ Konrad Mizzi.

Il-preokkupazzjoni tal-lum hi in parti riżultat ta’ din id-deċiżjoni żbaljata tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat.

Il-kobba issa kompliet titħabbel bil-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Sfortunatament hemm min qed jitfa l-argumenti kollha f’borma waħda u jgħaqqad, b’mod irresponsabbli l-affarijiet, meta s’issa għad ma hemm l-ebda prova dwar min wettaq dan id-delitt u għal liema raġuni. L-iżbalji li saru fil-kors tal-investigazzjoni xejn m’huma ta’ għajnuna. La d-dewmien tal-Maġistrat Consuelo Scerri Herrera biex ma tibqax tmexxi l-investigazzjoni Maġisterjali u l-anqas li d-Deputat Kummissarju Silvio Valletta ma fehemx li l-presenza tiegħu fl-investigazzjoni tista’ tkun ta’ xkiel għall-kredibilita tal-konkluzjonijiet m’huma ser jgħinu.

F’dan il-kuntest il-kummenti ta’ Frans Timmermans Viċi President Ewlieni tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea huma ta’ validità kbira: “Let the investigation run its full course. What is not on is to start with a conclusion and look for facts to support that conclusion.”

Il-preokkupazzjoni tagħna lkoll hi ġustifikata. Imma tajjeb li nżommu quddiem għajnejna li t-taħwid kollu li għandna quddiemna ma tfaċċax f’daqqa, ilu jinġabar ftit ftit. Biex dan jingħeleb jeħtieġ l-isforz flimkien ta’ kull min hu ta’ rieda tajba.

 

ippubblikat f’Illum – Il-Ħadd 19 ta’ Novembru 2017

Beyond the Strasbourg debate

Last week’s debate in the European Parliament on the rule of law in Malta revealed that all political parties are preoccupied with the matter and the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia has made a bad situation worse.

This preoccupation has not developed overnight, it has accumulated over time. The appointment of various Commissioners of Police and their subsequent resignation for a variety of reasons has not been helpful: it has reinforced the perception that “all is not well in the state of Denmark”.

The Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports received by the Commissioner of Police, and in respect of which no investigation was carried out, sent out one clear message: in this country, some people are clearly not subject to the rule of law. Can anyone be blamed if this message – sent by the Commissioner of Police – was clearly understood by one and all?

This transmits an additional clear message: the authorities are in cahoots; they are scratching each other’s back. Even though reality may be different, this is the message which has gone through.

Unfortunately, some people may be cashing in on these developments and, as a result, increasing exponentially the lack of trust in public authorities in Malta. This is a very dangerous development and calls for responsible action on the part of one and all, primarily political parties. Speaking out publicly about these developments is justified, notwithstanding the continuous insults which keep being levelled against such a stand. It is time to stand up and be counted.

The Prime Minister erred when he did not dismiss Minister Konrad Mizzi and Chief of Staff at the OPM Keith Schembri on the spot, after it was clear that their names featured prominently in the Panama Papers. This serious error by the Prime Minister triggered a debate about the matter in the Labour Party. Some even had the courage to speak publicly: Evarist Bartolo and Godfrey Farrugia did so. Others participated actively in the internal debates within the Labour Party, in particular during meetings of the Parliamentary Group. Last year, the media had mentioned various Labour MPs as having been vociferous in internal debates on the matter: it was reported that former Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech and senior Ministers Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna and George Vella took the lead.

Even former Labour Leader Alfred Sant made public declarations in support of required resignations. This week, Sant sought to change his tune in a hysterical contribution to the Strasbourg debate. Others have preferred silence.

The Prime Minister’s erroneous position in refusing to fire Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri has been a major contributor to the present state of affairs. The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has made matters worse and has, justifiably, led to the current preoccupation with the question of whether the rule of law is still effective in Malta at all.

Unfortunately some individuals begin linking all the incidents together – in the process, weaving a story which is quite different from reality, at least that which is known so far. Some claim to be able to joint the dots, thereby creating a narrative unknown to the rest of us, because the dots can be joined in many different ways.

Mistakes made during the initial stages of the investigation of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder further reinforce the perceptions that all is not well. When Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera took quite some time to realise that it was not right for her to lead the investigation into the murder of a journalist who had been the prime mover in torpedoing her elevation to the position of a Judge in the Superior Courts, everyone was shocked.

Even the failure of Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta to realise that for him to lead the police investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder could dent the credibility of the police investigation in view of his marriage to a Cabinet Minister was another serious mistake. This is no reflection on the couple’s integrity but an ethical consideration which should have been taken into consideration in the first seconds of the investigation.

In this context, the comments of European Commission Senior Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans assume greater importance “Let the investigation run its  full course. What is not on is to start with a conclusion and look for facts to support that conclusion.”

It is reasonable that all of us are seriously preoccupied. The present state of affairs did not develop overnight. It requires the concerted efforts of all of us to be put right.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 19 November 2017 

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.

Leo Brincat: iħallas il-prezz tal-ambivalenza

 

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Il-Parlament Ewropew iktar kmieni illum waranofsinnhar iddeċieda li ma jaċċettax in-nomina ta’ Leo Brincat bħala membru Malti tal-Qorti tal-Awdituri. Fil-Parlament ma kienx hemm diskussjoni, imma r-rakkomandazzjoni tal-Kumitat tas-sorveljanza tal-Budget. Kienet rakkomandazzjoni biex Leo Brincat ikun approvat. Fil-kumitat kien hemm diskussjoni u l-maġġoranza tal-kumitat qablet li Leo Brincat kellu  ikun approvat.

Waqt il-laqgħa tal-kumitat Leo Brincat wieġeb diversi mistoqsijiet mill-membri parlamentari ewropej. Il-mistoqsijiet kienu juru b’mod ċar x’kien ta’ tħassib għall-membri tal-kumitat parlamentari. Ir-raġunijiet u l-argumenti li inġiebu huma bla dubju l-bażi li fuqhom il-Membri tal-Parlament Ewropew ivvutaw u iddeċidew li ma japprovawx il-ħatra ta’ Leo Brincat.

Hemm min jitħassar lil Leo Brincat għad-deċiżjoni li ittieħdet iktar kmieni illum. Għax, jgħidu, huwa raġel validu, ippreparat u ta’ integrità. U li ma kellux jeħel hu bit-tortijiet tal-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat.

Tajjeb iżda li niftakru ftit li meta Leo Brincat ġie mgħarbel mill-Kumitat Parlamentari tal-Parlament Ewropew dwar is-Sorveljanza tal-Budget ħarġet ċara ħafna li l-bniedem hu ambivalenti.

Issa l-ambivalenza tfisser l-esistenza simultaneja ta’ żewġ attitudnijiet opposti u konfliġġenti.

Leo Brincat iffaċċjat b’dak li kien qed jingħad dwar l-involviment tal-Ministru Konrad Mizzi fil-każ magħruf bħala l-Panama Papers qal illi li kien hu floku (flok Konrad Mizzi, jiġifieri) kien jirriżenja minn Ministru jew ta’ l-inqas jissospendi ruħu sakemm jiċċaraw ruħhom l-affarijiet. Leo Brincat  żied jgħid li ffaċċjat b’dak li kien qed jiġri kien hemm mumenti li kien qed jikkonsidra li huwa jirreżenja minn Ministru. Imma kieku huwa rreżenja, żied jgħid Leo Brincat, kien ikun “a hero for a day”.  Imbagħad, wara, jitwarrab u jispiċċa “in the wilderness”.

F’din is-sitwazzjoni, żied jgħid, ipprefera li jiġġieled minn ġewwa. Ma qalilniex kif jew x’għamel. Imma nafu minn dak li ħareġ fl-istampa li f’dak iż-żmien kien hemm laqgħa movimentata tal-grupp parlamentari laburista u Leo Brincat issemma flimkien ma numru ta’ veterani oħra fil-grupp Parlamentari Laburista li insistew għar-riżenja ta’ Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri l-Kasco. Imma jidher li kienu fil-minoranza.

Imbagħad ġiet is-siegħa tal-prova, l-vot ta’ sfiduċja fil-Parlament. F’din is-siegħa tal-prova Leo Brincat bil-vot tiegħu ddikjara li kellu fiduċja f’Konrad Mizzi u ivvota favur tiegħu, minkejja li fil-fehma tiegħu Konrad Mizzi kellu jirreżenja!

Ambivalenza iktar minn din qatt ma rajt u diffiċli biex nara.

Huwa veru li ma kellux freevote imma li kien obbligat mill-Partit tiegħu li ma jivvutax kontra Konrad Mizzi. Imma dik kienet l-għażla li kellu jagħmel Leo Brincat. Meta ġie biex jagħżel ivvota kontra dak li kien jemmen fih. Ivvota favur il-medjokrità u kontra s-serjeta u l-governanaza tajba.

Fil-fehma tiegħi din hi l-issue ċentrali li fuqha iddeċieda l-Parlament Ewropew meta għarbel il-ħatra ta’ Leo Brincat. Kien ċara daqs il-kristall minn kmieni. Id-dikjarazzjonijiet ta’ Leo Brincat favur l-imġieba korretta u l-governanza tajba ma jikkorrispondux mal-vot ta’ fiduċja favur Konrad Mizzi. Huma żewg affarijiet kontradittorji.

Dak hu li jfisser il-vot tal-lum fil-Parlament Ewropew. Min m’għandux il-kuraġġ tal-konvinzjonijiet tiegħu (għax jemmen ħaġa u jagħmel mod ieħor) mhux addattat għal karigi pubbliċi.

 

Leo Brincat u l-morsa tal-iskandlu tal-Panama

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Bħal diversi minnkom segwejt lill-Leo Brincat jiġi eżaminat mill-Kumitat Parlamentari tal-Parlament Ewropew dwar il-Kontroll tal-Budget qabel ma jinħatar bħala membru tal-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri.

Leo qal li Konrad Mizzi messu irriżenja. Qal ukoll li hu ħassu f’morsa u kien qed jikkunsidra li jirriżenja fil-ġranet ta’ qabel il-mozzjoni ta’ sfiduċja.

Dan fakkarni li f’dawk il-ġranet kien hawn diversi rapporti dwar diversi membri tal-Kabinett li tkellmu b’ċerta qawwa waqt il-laqgħat tal-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista u lkoll insistew li Konrad Mizzi kellu jirriżenja.

Issa li m’għadux membru tal-Kabinett Leo stqarr fil-pubbliku dak li kien magħruf li qal wara l-bibien magħluqa.

Għamlu tajjeb il-Membri Parlamentari Ewropej li insistew għal tweġibiet dwar l-iskandlu tal-Panama. L-istorja ċertament ma tieqafx hawn għax fil-ġimgħat li ġejjin trid tibda l-inkjesta fid-dettall dwar l-istess skandlu. Għad irridu naraw kif din l-inkjesta ser tiżviluppa u b’mod partikolari kif ser iġibu ruħhom dawk il-Maltin li ser ikunu mitlubin jidhru quddiem il-kumitat parlamentari tal-Parlament Ewropew li ser imexxi l-inkjesta.

Min ħaseb li l-istorja raqdet sejjer żmerċ. Għad irridu nisimgħu ħafna iktar. U min żbalja għad irid iħallas. Jekk mhux illum ikollu jħallas għada.

Id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Leo Brincat illum għandha sinifikat simboliku. Seta kellha sinifikat ħafna ikbar kieku kellu l-kuraġġ tal-konvinzjonijiet tiegħu.

Il-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista u l-iskandlu tal-Panama

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Id-dimostrazzjoni tal-Partit Laburista li saret fuq Kastilja nhar il-Ħadd l-1 ta’ Mejju ma kienitx dwar l-iskandlu tal-Panama. Bħal kull attività politika pubblika tingħata t-tifsira li jkun l-aktar jaqbel. Għalhekk naturali, u nifhem li l-Partit Laburista, taħt assedju tul dawn l-aħħar tmien ġimgħat, jinterpreta d-daqs tal-folla fuq Kastilja bħala waħda li tagħtih appoġġ f’dan il-mument diffiċli.

Peró, fir-realtà, x’appoġġ qed tagħti l-folla lill-partit f’dan il-mument kritiku?

Il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat innifsu mhuwiex ċert. Ġie ikkwota jgħid li jekk il-każ Panama huwiex magħluq jew le, iridu jkunu in-nies li jiddeċiedu. Ma kienx qed jirreferi biss għal dawk li kellu quddiemu. Muscat hu konxju li kemm Konrad Mizzi kif ukoll Keith Schembri l-Kasco għamlu gaffe kbir. Imma Konrad u Keith ħadmu miegħu mill-qrib u hu ovvju li jħossu obbligat mhux ftit lejhom. Għalhekk dam biex iddeċieda u meta iddeċieda iċċaqlaq mill-inqas u effettivament ma ddeċieda xejn.

Ittieħdu żewġ miżuri : Konrad ma baqax direttament responsabbli għall-enerġija imma tħalla membru tal-Kabinett bħala Ministru bla portafoll. Kien ġest simboliku li bih Joseph Muscat qed jirrikonoxxi li sar żball imma mhux qiegħed jaċċetta li l-iżball hu gravi biżżejjed li jimmerita tkeċċija. L-iskuża fjakka li qed iġib Muscat hi li ħadd ma qiegħed jallega llegalità. Li mhux qiegħed jgħid Muscat hu li dwar allegazzjonijiet ta’ illegalità ma hemmx ħtieġa ta’ intervent tiegħu għax jeżistu mekkaniżmi legali li jipprovdu għal dan l-intervent min-naħa tal-awtoritajiet. L-issue reali, a bażi ta’ dak li hu magħruf s’issa pubblikament hi waħda ta’ imġieba u ta’ serjetà fit-tmexxija [good governance].

Konrad irriżenja [jew ġie mitlub jirriżenja] minn Deputy Leader tal-Partit ftit ġimgħat wara li inħatar f’elezzjoni fejn kien jidher li kien il-magħżul u tellaq waħdu.

Il-mistoqsija inevitabbli hi : għalfejn ma rriżenjax minn kollox? Dak li għamel [li għandu kumpanija fil-Panama] għandu jkun tal-mistħija għalih, għall-partit u għall-pajjiż. Dwar l-istess ħaġa irriżenja l-Prim Ministru tal-Iżlanda kif ukoll Ministru Spanjol. Imma Konrad le, għax skond Joseph, fil-waqt li l-affarijiet setgħu saru aħjar, ma sar xejn ħażin.

Din hi l-qalba tal-problema. Li Joseph Muscat hu amorali. L-etika għalih hi irrelevanti. Jgħodd x’inhu legali jew illegali imma mhux x’inhu tajjeb jew ħażin.

Fortunatament bosta membri tal-grupp parlamentari jaħsbuha differenti minn hekk. Hemm min tkellem fil-pubbliku bħalma għamlu Evarist Bartolo u Godfrey Farrugia. Hemm oħrajn li tkellmu fil-magħluq waqt laqgħa tal-Grupp Parlamentari. Issemmew l-ismijiet tad-Deputat Prim Ministru Louis Grech u tal-Ministri Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna u George Vella. Hemm ukoll id-dikjarazzjoni ċara ta’ Alfred Sant. Naf li hemm oħrajn. Kollha talbu r-riżenja ta’ Konrad Mizzi.

Il-grupp parlamentari laburista m’huwiex kuntent bis-sitwazzjoni. Huwa konxju li s-skiet tal-Partit Laburista quddiem it-taħwid tal-Gvernijiet tas-snin 70 u 80 kienet raġuni ewlenija li kkundannat lill-partit għal 25 sena fl-Opposizzjoni. Illum jirrealizzzaw li hu kmieni wisq, wara biss tlett snin, biex il-partit laburista jsib ruħu f’dan it-taħwid kollu. Il-ftit li għamel Joseph dwar il-kaz (anke jekk kosmetiku) għamlu biex jipprova jissodisfa lill-grupp parlamentari tiegħu. Imma xorta ħadd ma hu sodisfatt. Dan kien jidher anke nhar il-Ħadd mill-body language ta’ Joseph x’ħin kien qed jindirizza l-folla fuq Kastilja.

Iċ-ċavetta qegħda f’idejn il-grupp parlamentari laburista biex dan iwassal lill-partit forsi jiġi f’sensieh. Is-soċjetà ċivili ukoll għandha responsabbiltà kbira li tibqa’ ssemma’ leħinha biex tkompli tagħmel il-kuraġġ lil dawk li fil-Partit Laburista qed jinsistu li Konrad (u Keith) għandhom jirriżenjaw. L-intellettwali tal-pajjiż hemm bżonn ukoll li joħorġu mill-friża u jiftħu ħalqhom flok ma jillimitaw ruħhom għat-tfesfis fil-widnejn.

Għax il-folol preżenti għad-dimostrazzjonijiet m’humiex biżżejjed biex tirbaħ l-elezzjonijiet. Hemm bżonn ferm iktar minn hekk. L-imġieba tajba tal-Gvern hi element essenzjali. U dan il-Gvern, bħal ta’ qablu qiegħed iġib ruħu ħażin.