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Busuttil demands Owen Bonnici's resignation for ‘breaching’ Constitution

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says nomination of Speaker's daughter Caroline Farrugia Frendo as magistrate as a sop to her father had turned Malta into a 'banana republic

Daniel Mizzi
7 February 2016, 11:01am
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici should resign after violating the Constitution when nominating Caroline Farrugia Frendo and Ingrid Zammit Young as magistrates, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said today.

The PN leader argued that the nomination of 33-year-old Farrugia Frendo, the daughter of Speaker Anglu Farrugia, as a sob to her father after he expressed displeasure at not being nominated to be a member of the European Court of Auditors had turned Malta into a banana republic.

Busuttil’s comments come in the wake of a report by MaltaToday on Sunday which revealed that Farrugia Frendo’s nomination was being interpreted as a sop to her father after he made it clear to his close associates that he was interested in replacing Louis Galea at the European Court of Auditors for the €240,000 a-year-job – a post which has since been taken up by outgoing Labour Deputy leader Toni Abela.

In an interview on Radio 101, PN leader Simon Busuttil argued that the report of Farrugia being ‘displeased’ at not being considered for Auditor was another twist in the controversial nomination of Farrugia Frendo and Ingrid Zammit Young as magistrates, and made him question whether Malta had become a ‘banana republic’ under the Labour Party government.

Insisting that Farrugia Frendo’s nomination should be withdrawn for the fact that the young lawyer has not yet completed the minimum seven years’ practice experience since taking her oath in March 2009, the Opposition said Justice Minister Owen Bonnici should resign for violating the Constitution.

“Owen Bonnici is either incompetent and is unaware of what the Constitution states or simply steamrolled over the constitution and ignored it, making matters worse. In any case, the minister, who is responsible at making sure that the Constitution is respected, should resign,” Busuttil said.

Farrugia Frendo was nominated as magistrate alongside Ingrid Zammit Young, who has since turned down the nomination after the Commission for the Administration of Justice raised doubts on the Constitutional validity of her appointment. On Friday, the CAJ said Zammit Young’s chairmanship of the Employment Commission precluded her from becoming magistrate as the Constitution states that nominees are not eligible until three years after their termination of public office.

And for Busuttil, the CAJ’s warning to the Prime Minister delivered another nail in the coffin for the government’s controversial nominations, as it was a condemnation to the government that beggared belief.

Busuttil insisted that the nominations – which were dubbed a “constitutional gaffe” by Kevin Aquilina, dean of the University of Malta’s faculty of laws – should have resulted in someone’s resignation, but it was as if nothing happened.

“The government is willing to breach the Constitution to appoint the people it wants and does not deserve to lead the country. Both nominations violate the Constitution, and the government should withdraw them immediately,” he said.

Insisting that the “country deserves better,” Busuttil pledged that a future PN government would reform judicial appointments as had been recommended by former European Court of Human Rights Judge Giovanni Bonello, who on Thursday condemned Malta’s ‘outdated, archaic and totalitarian system’ of appointing magistrates.

The Opposition leader also pledged that a future PN administration would safeguard the separation of powers that exists between the country’s judiciary and parliament, and blamed the government of trying to control the country’s institutions.

'Joseph Muscat's mask has fallen ... The people are seeing a dirty and corrupt government' - Busuttil

Turning his attention to the Gaffarena scandal, the PN leader said the damning report by the National Audit Office had brought down Joseph Muscat’s mask and had spelled the beginning of the end for the Prime Minister.

The Opposition leader said the report into the fast-tracked expropriations of the property owned by Mark Gaffarena provided ample evidence that the government was caught in a web of corruption.

“These scandals have proven that the government deceived the public, especially the genuine Labourites. The government was elected on the basis of many promises, all of which have now been breached,” Busuttil said.

The PN leader also claimed that the Gaffarena scandal was not yet a closed chapter as a number of questions remained unanswered. Particularly, Busuttil questioned whether the prime minister knew about the deal, if the police were investigating Castille, and if Mark Gaffarena had used the €3.5 million to corrupt anyone.

“These are simple questions, and one wonders why these have yet to be answered. The mask has fallen for Joseph Muscat and the people were now seeing a dirty and corrupt government,” Busuttil said.

The Opposition leader also promised that if elected, he would implement a system whereby parliament would be given information on the public land transferred, and any MP who fails to report any misgivings or malpractice carried out by other MPs would be disciplined.

“These are the way things should be done … I do not want people to vote for me because Joseph Muscat’s mask has fallen, but because we are a better option,” he continued.

Daniel Mizzi reports from the law courts.