MPs gifting goodies: Repubblika, Cassola demand police action and ethics probe

Oranges, roly-polys, and cupcakes: a smorgasbord of political goodies inspires a police report and a request for an ethics investigation

Would an apple a day have kept the MP away? Rosianne Cutajar using a citric fruit for maximum electoral appeal
Would an apple a day have kept the MP away? Rosianne Cutajar using a citric fruit for maximum electoral appeal

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola has called for an investigation by Standards in Public Life commissioner George Hyzler, into MPs who gifted food items to constituents.

Cassola said Hyzler should investigate any breach of ethics after Labour minister and MPs Silvio Schembri, Silvio Parnis, Alex Muscat and Rosianne Cutajar distributed food items to particular cohorts of voters.

“Malta needs honest politicians with vision and not yuppie charlatans who treat voters and constituents as if they were inferior beings being fed the crumbs by the ruling elite,” Cassola told MaltaToday.

It is one of the first kinds of reaction to MPs who gift constituents with food or other items: former Nationalist minister Francis Zammit Dimech had once flooded his district with teddy-bears, his Cabinet colleague John Dalli had produced a perfume with his name on it, while Nationalist MP Robert Arrigo had distributed stress-balls. Recently, former Labour minister Konrad Mizzi distributed bottles of wine with his face emblazoned on it.

The civil society group Repubblika even called on the Police Commissioner to investigate Cutajar, a former parliamentary secretary who resigned in the wake of a Hyzler investigation for her role in brokering a property acquisition by magnate Yorgen Fenech, after she uploading images of herself treating a number of elderly people to bags of oranges.

Cutajar uploaded a number of images showing herself giving small bags of oranges to elderly residents in the Smartcare Dar Pinto home in Qormi, her hometown.

“This care home is found in the electoral district Rosianne Cutajar was elected in, and will be contesting the next general election in. It is clear that the gifting of food broke Section V of the General Elections Act, Chapter 354, Art. 54-56),” Repubblika present Robert Aquilina said in a press conference outside of the police depot in Floriana.

The nursing home praised Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar for visiting its residents and gifting them with small bags of oranges.

“She greeted all our residents and presented them with a healthy gift in honour of yesterday’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and the upcoming Father’s Day,” Smartcare Dar Pinto said.

Similarly, former parliamentary secretary for the elderly Silvio Parnis had in 2020 distributed roly-polys to elderly patients in care homes, quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the message “Courage” emblazoned on them. Parnis subsequently lost his Cabinet post in a reshuffle, largely on account of the spread of the virus inside care homes.

Silvio Schembri, economy minister, has also distributed cupcakes for Mother’s Day,

MPs react

Reacting to the report, Cutajar said that such behavior is part of a systematic character assassination campaign against her.

She said the oranges were merely a small gesture, and thinking people could be brought with an orange, was an insult to people’s intelligence.

On the other hand, Schembri said that he will remain close to the people, and will continue to “spread love”, while “they” spared jealousy and gloom”.