Busuttil: Labour’s antics ‘like African dictatorship’, council elections postponed till 2019

Opposition leader says Muscat administration has lied about minister's wife's contract as trade envoy and says Labour will postpone local council elections up until 2019.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil delivered a stirring speech in the House of Representatives on Thursday evening, accusing the Labour government of stifling its critics and ignoring serious cases of government maladministration, in a glaring breach of its electoral pledge not to repeat the errors of the Nationalist administration it unseated.

In his adjournment speech, Busuttil said that recent acts by Joseph Muscat’s administration had revealed a government that “was going against the principle of true democracy and freedom.”

“We’ve had lies, secrecy on public contracts, intolerance for criticism, insults that have no place in a civilized country,” Busuttil said.

The PN leader said it was not normal to have the wife of energy minister Konrad Mizzi – Chinese national Sai Mizzi Liang – being appointed as a trade envoy to Malta Enterprise, without her contract being made public for an entire 12 months.

“This is not something normal. The Prime Minister this week admitted that he handled this appointment the wrong way. We agreed, but he insisted that she was being paid €3,700 – a lie. He presented the contract on the table of the House, revealing that she was being paid €73,000 – or €13,000 a month,” Busuttil said.

 

Busuttil said it would soon be 40 years since US president Richard Nixon resigned over his lies in the Watergate scandal, using the reference to say that Muscat was “lying, without taking any responsibility for his actions.”

Busuttil said the Labour government used the occasion to insult him, saying his administration was intolerant towards any criticism, and that critics were being dubbed as “negative” by the government.

“Criticism should be rebutted by civil debate not by insults… the intolerance of criticism is a grave matter.”

Busuttil also accused Muscat of not being transparent about the privatization of part (33%) of Enemalta’s operations to Chinese state-owned company Shanghai Power Electric.

“There were secret negotiations, and we are expected to debate a law to turn Enemalta into a plc, after the government said it would not privatize it, without giving the Opposition access to information on the privatization deal.”

Busuttil also accused Labour of making a U-turn over suggestions to introduce state funding for political parties, in its proposals for party financing rules.

“How can you criticise us of making a U-turn? Labour want us to agree with everything they say. So we are now in a situation where the Labour Party can enjoy a public property which it gifted itself [Australia Hall], while all the other parties are going to have limits on what donations they can receive,” Busuttil said.

“I don’t expect taxpayers to pay our debts. What I expect is a level playing field, equality and fairness, and not that Labour gives itself favours while trying to suffocate its political adversaries.”

Busuttil also took issue with the appointment of former Labour MP Wenzu Mintoff as judge.

“Nobody was ever appointed from the political and media world, straight to the judiciary… because this appointment comes just days after government launched an attack on the Ombudsman,” Busuttil said, referring to the refusal by the home affairs ministry to grant the Ombudsman access to information to investigate complaints by army soldiers.

“It's an attack that has come after a complete, partisan takeover of the disciplined corps of the country – the army and the police – the latter having recently been led by the shortest-lived Commissioner in the 200 years of its history,” Busuttil said.

The PN leader took Muscat to task for using previous Nationalist administrations as a yardstick for his own administration’s wrongdoings.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right. What kind of argument is it that an Opposition previously criticised something objectively wrong, and that now that it is in government, it’s as if nothing has happened when it commits the same errors? You were elected with the promise not to commit these errors: how can you now commit these same, if not worse errors, and then tell us, that ‘it’s what you [the PN] used to do’?”

In his speech, Busuttil also attacked Muscat’s plans to postpone local council elections, without consulting the Opposition, to a seven-year term, a strategy that critics say is intended to dead-leg an abrogative referendum against spring hunting by not tieing the plebiscite with local council elections, which tend to have high turnouts.

“That the government removes this right to have people vote in a local council election, comes straight out of an African dictatorship. These are not normal controversies: democracy in our country must be strengthened.”

More in National

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition

Subscribe