Caruana's visit to Marseille done 'in national interest'

Labour MP Justyne Caruana says her visit to France earlier this week was done in national interest.

MP Justyne Caruana who was this week embroiled in a controversy over the use of an AFM helicopter to get her to the airport on time, today said that her attendance at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM) meeting in Marseille was done in the national interest

Intervening by phone on Andrew Azzopardi's programme Ghandi xi Nghid broadcast on Radio Malta, Caruana said "I was only carrying out my Parliamentary duties and it was the only way I could make it to Marseille on time."

Caruana explained that her presence in Marseille on Tuesday was of utmost importance to the country, however she said that she "cannot divulge details of the reason of my visit and the reports I presented because I do not want to compromise the national interest."

At this point, foreign affairs minister George Vella who was present in the studio, intervened and said that Caruana's presence was very important in light of problems Malta was facing in regards to the PAM secretariat. 

"Caruana's presence was very important as she had to present a report and raise certain issues," Vella said.

Together with Labour MP Etienne Grech, Caruana was in Marseille to attend a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean. She also chairs the committee on the Middle East and had to present the parliamentary assembly with two reports.

It transpires that the government ordered back both MPs to Malta in case a vote on the Opposition's motion on the citizenship scheme were to be taken on Monday evening.

Caruana added, "Nobody can expect me to answer my phone when I'm not in a position to reply. My presence in Marseille was important, as I requested to intervene in the national interest."

Hitting out at the opposition for failing to send a representative despite being part of the delegation, Caruana said "I took risks because I made serious accusations (in the conference). But I cannot divulge details in the national interest."

Vella explained that the whole incident happened because government could not take a risk by not having Caruana in parliament on Monday evening, given the urgent motion which was expected to be presented by the opposition over the Euuropean parliament's vote over Malta's citizenship scheme.

On whether the use of the armed forces' helicopter, estimated to cost around €1,000 a trip was justified, Caruana said "everyone is free to criticise but we must look whether the criticism is justifiable and what the motives are."

"I ask whether the transportation of Gozitan patients to Malta by helicopter to receive treatment was a waste of money," the MP said in reference to the previous administration's decision to stop a number of treatment programmes in the Gozo General Hospital.

A report in The Times of Malta revealed that Labour MP Justyne Caruana was flown from Gozo to the Malta International Airport by an army helicopter, describing it as an "unprecedented transport service" on instructions of the OPM.

Admitting that she has a phobia from flying, Caruana said "it was no joyride" and explained thatshe was "shaking" with fear while flying on the AFM helicopter which she said was old and almost obsolete.

Replying to accusations that she was not answering phone calls by The Times, Caruana said "I arrived in Marseille at midnight and when the conference started I had no phone connection at the venue. What does (Times journalist) Ivan Camilleri expect?"

While noting that she "only" has a Blackberry because she cannot afford a 3G phone, Caruana went on to explain that since she was incommunicado she informed the government's director of communications Kurt Farrugia to get in touch with the Times' journalist.

"I am not remunerated for this work," the Gozitan lawyer said, adding that such assignments took up time from her professional career.

Andrew Azzopardi's other guest, opposition MP Carm Mifsud Bonnici, said the incident "does not sound good and raises questions despite the explanation provided."

Polly, jekk membru tal-gvern magħandux dritt li jekk ikun meħtieġ juza il-helikopter biex ikun jista jilħaq it-titjira biex imur jirraprezenta lill-Malta, mela min għandu dritt li juza il-helikopter, xi producer ta' serje televiziva li wara li kienet tablet lill-Armata biex jipprovdilha il-helikopter biex tmun tista tiġbed xeni mil-ajru, liema talba kienet irrifjutata mill-Armata. Wara saret telefonata min Kastilja li ordnat lill-Armata biex tagħti dak kollu li din il-producer kellhe bzonn? U dan mhux kollox ta, għax uzat ukoll patrol boat u diversi karozzi tal-Puluzija mill-iskwadra mobbli. Dak hu zgur abbuz, sinjura Polly. U biex infakkrek ftit għax nont ser ninsa. L-isem ta Polly l'aktar li jiġi assoċjat hu ma xi PAPPAGALL.
Polly, mela mingħandu dritt li juza l-ħelikopter? Xi ħadd li jgħid li għandu ammirazzjoni kbira lejn il-prim Ministru? Naħseb li taf għall min qed ngħid? Tibzax Polly, ħalli nfakkrek ftit. Tiftakar meta kien qed jiġi iffilmjat il-teleserial Becky? Dak inhar il-producer li kullħadd jaf min hi, tablet li-Forzi Armati biex tkun tista tuza il-ħelikopter għall xi ġbid ta' xeni. Meta l-Armata irrifjutat, ħiet telefonata min Kastlja u ordnat lill-Armata biex tagħti lill-din il-producer dak kollu li jkollha bzonn. Dan ma kienx kollox, sinjura Polly, għax mhux biss ingħatat is-servizz tal-ħelikopter talli wzat ukoll patrol boat fik ukoll karozzi tal-Puluzija mill-iskwadra tal-Mobile. Jekk membru tal-Gvern ma għandiex dritt li tuza il-ħelikopter, din il-producer kellha dritt?
To solidify any arguments regarding ethics, the specifics regarding use of the helicopter should be raised in Parliament and solidified - if it is at the PM's disposal, say for what reasons. Dispatching it left right and centre creates an ethical concern - particularly if there were an opposition MP who urgently required use of the copter for particular reasons also in the National Interest.
@Polly….Does Polly need a cracker? It seems that Polly refuses to understand that the Prime Minister’s office ordered the helicopter for the Right Hon. Justyne Caruana to catch a connecting flight to represent her country in an important conference at Marseille.
@truthBtold. Le ma ghandiex dritt li tuza helikopter ghax dik deputat tal-parlament u mhux Prim Ministru.... Lejali din Justyne? u ghaliex il PN ghandu jkun lejali lejha? Ghax hajret lin nazzjonalisti "sriep" u li "dawk mhumiex parti mill familja taghna"? U hallina u iddahaqniex.
Why not leave Ms Justyne Caruana alone? The PN, namely Jason Azoppardi should learn not to sweat the small stuff and concentrate on big stuff like the IIP which, if it goes through will ruin our country's good standing with the rest of the world. Ms Caruana was traveling on Government business and she was not attending a party or attending operas,funerals or flying to attend partisan People'party meetings in Sicily or attending private functions. Stop being idiots and put things in perspective. I thought Jason Azoppardi had more class, but alas?????? "Il-baqra milli jkollha ittik."
X'national interest. Bicca laqgha ta' Assemblea li ma tipproduci xejn. Justyne Caruana minghaliha trid iddahhak meta tistqarr li "her presence in Marseille on Tuesday was of utmost importance to the country". Go and tell it to the marines.Justyne Caruana suppost li kienet ilha taf li ghandha tattendi din l-Assemblea, tant li hija kellha tipprezenta, u fil-fatt ipprezentat, bhala Rapporteur zewg rapport ghad-diskussjoni, wiehed dwar il-'Mena political developments in the Mediterran Region" u l-iehor dwar "Access of people with disabilities to the labour market in the Mediterranean".
X'national interest. Bicca laqgha ta' Assemblea li ma tipproduci xejn. Justyne Caruana minghaliha trid iddahhak meta tistqarr li "her presence in Marseille on Tuesday was of utmost importance to the country". Go and tell it to the marines.
This piece of news has become so ridiculous now. Simonpn should also mention the helicopter trips that his gonzipn used for showing up during stupid activities. Useless wasting time on such news when there's better to blab about like the oil scandal.
One must ask why the newspapers in Malta are wasting so much space on such a hollow complain by the leader of the opposition and his minion Jason Azzopardi. Considering who the journalist from the TOM was, you get the feeling that Ivan Camilleri is only assigned on matters of no substance or to be given media space only when his journalistic views exposes his incompetence. It’s enough to make you puke. The Right Hon. Justyne Caruana has every right for the use of that helicopter especially when it is demanded by the Prime Minister’s office. End of story. The PN should be so lucky to have someone so loyal to their country, with unblemished integrity and hard work ethics of Justyne Caruana.
When one makes a gaffe it's better that one admits the mistake straight away. It's useless coming up with a different version by the day to excuse oneself. NOT all of use believe all that is said. We are not impressed at all when we are continually being reminded of what 'the holiest than thou' used to do pre March '13. We voted "to change" and NOT " to copycat". Otherwise we are in a status quo.
I have no doubt that MP Justyne Caruana's presence in Marseille was of national interest, HOWEVER, the OPM's order for her to return in case a vote is taken in parliament was clearly not!!
Sorry but to me the whole saga can be explain like a fly on a donkey ass is good for the donkey!
I think it was in the 'national interest' that the Times and Malta Independent and SimonPN never told us that Gonzi and Giovanna used the helicopter 45 times to attend operas,open cribs,funerals and fly to partisan People'party meetings in Sicily? Issa sabu l-iscoop ? Liema opera ta importanza nazzjonali ra Gonzi: Macbeth; Cosi fan Tutti, l-Aida, I Vespri ta 9 ta Marzu 2013?
Dr Justyne Caruana is one of the most hard working PMs we have, not only among Gozitan ones, but among the whole Parliament. She travels across the Channel sometimes even twice or four times in a day when there is the need. No one can say that she is abusing of her position as an MP as all she was doing was her duty in the national interest unlike the nationalist MEPs in Brussels who were doing their utmost to ridicule the name of Malta in front of Europe to gain personal points for the coming EU elections and points for their party who cannot admit that they have lost the election and are no in opposition for at least another four years. Justyne is right when saying that because of bad management of the Gozo hospital the helicopter had to be used very often sometimes a more than once on the same day to make up for the lack of essential services to Gozitan patients at the hospital during the Nationalist administration when the hospital was under the responsibility of Giovanna Debono.