Minister cannot be held accountable because standards commissioner still non-existent, PN says

PN MPs Adrian Delia and Robert Cutajar call out Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia over breach of ethics when he failed to be present in parliament's main chamber despite being inside the building

PN Whip Robert Cutajar (right) claimed there have been instances of ministers arriving late, to avoid parliamentary questions
PN Whip Robert Cutajar (right) claimed there have been instances of ministers arriving late, to avoid parliamentary questions

Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia, cannot be held accountable for his parliamentary behaviour over the past couple of days since the position of standards commissioner remains vacant, Nationalist MPs have lamented.

PN transport spokesperson Adrian Delia wants Farrugia to shoulder political responsibility for an event that happened some three weeks ago but for which video evidence has only now come to light. The video footage published by Lovin Malta showed two Transport Malta officials beating up a man in Marsa as he was lying in the middle of the road.

On Wednesday, Speaker Anglu Farrugia flagged shortcomings by Aaron Farrugia for refusing to show up during parliamentary question time in which Delia was addressing the Transport Malta issue. Farrugia had been away on official business but had returned to parliament while Delia was asking. However, the minister did not enter the chamber despite being inside the parliamentary building.

The Speaker's ruling was delivered in a parliamentary sitting following a request by Opposition Whip Robert Cutajar.

Cutajar, who accompanied Delia at a press briefing this morning, claimed there have been instances of ministers arriving late to avoid parliamentary questions, but this episode was unique as Farrugia was not inside the chamber despite being in the parliament building.

Parliamentary questions for Farrugia were instead answered by Culture Minister Owen Bonnici and government Whip Andy Ellul.

Speaker Anglu Farrugia established that Transport Minister was indeed in the parliament building at around 4:20pm. He also explained that Bonnici and Ellul had no intention to misguide the House when they said the Transport Minister was on official duty, as they believed it so.

“He fooled Minister Owen Bonnici and his ministerial colleagues, and he disrespected the speaker and parliament,” Delia said.

The Prime Minister's “refusal” to reach a compromise on the selection of a new standards commissioner has been the subject of previous criticism from the Nationalist Party, but Delia briefly broached the subject once more in response to questions from journalists.

“We don’t want the ruling to pass as if nothing has happened,” Cutajar said. However, Delia said that not much can happen while the job of standards commissioner is vacant.

The Prime Minister has put forward the name of former chief justice Joseph Azzopardi for the role of standards commissioner that was vacated last September by George Hyzler. However, the Opposition has so far expressed reservations on the former judge.