Standards Commissioner throws out complaint over Speaker’s ‘antagonistic’ letter to Matthew Caruana Galizia

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler finds no breach of ethics by Speaker over tiff with Matthew Caruana Galizia

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler (left) and Speaker Anglu Farrugia
Standards Commissioner George Hyzler (left) and Speaker Anglu Farrugia

A letter sent to Matthew Caruana Galizia by the Speaker last November was “antagonistic” but not unethical, the Standards Commissioner has ruled.

George Hyzler found that the letter signed by the Speaker’s legal consultant Prof. Ian Refalo may have been “antagonistic in tone” but could not be said to contain threatening language.
The investigation was requested by independent candidate Arnold Cassola last November in the wake of the Speaker’s reaction to Caruana Galizia’s pointed reaction to the reprimand handed down to Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar.

Caruana Galizia wrote to the Speaker, complaining about the ineffectiveness of the sanction meted out to Cutajar and asked Farrugia to resign “due to proven incapacity and unwillingness to defend parliament from corruption”.

Caruana Galizia was reacting to a meek letter sent to Cutajar by the Speaker, in which he informed her that the ethics committee had reprimanded her in the wake of the Standards Commissioner’s investigation. The letter contained no reprimand but just informed Cutajar that she was reprimanded.

Cutajar was found to have breached ethics when she failed to declare a monetary gift running into thousands she had received from murder suspect Yorgen Fenech before he had been indicted.

The Speaker’s letter reprimanded Caruana Galizia for addressing his correspondence directly to the Speaker and not the Clerk of the House. He also rebutted the claims made by Caruana Galizia.

Subsequently, a member of the Speaker’s staff, Ancel Farrugia, posted disparaging comments on Facebook against critics of his boss. The two posts were subsequently deleted.

Cassola asked Hyzler to investigate the behaviour of the Speaker and Farrugia.

The Standards Commissioner concluded that Farrugia was not a person of trust as defined at law and so he could not investigate him.

Furthermore, Hyzler ruled that although the tone of the Speaker’s letter to Caruana Galizia was “antagonistic” it was not unethical.

It was Cassola who disseminated Hyzler’s decision after receiving a copy as complainant. In a statement, Cassola said the commissioner’s ruling that he cannot probe a member of the Speaker’s staff “uncovers a flaw in the law”.

“I disagree with Dr Hyzler on his treating the Speaker differently from MPs. If anything, the Speaker, who represents the whole parliament, has to be held to even higher standards. The flaws in the law on standards in politics can allow the Speaker and his staff member to get away with their intimidating behaviour,” Cassola said.