Busuttil on Dissett protests at meagre 58-cent COLA

Opposition leader attacks ‘brazen-faced’ nepotism and discrimination on party financing law

Simon Busuttil told PBS's Reno Bugeja that he wants to build his party on the value of honesty.
Simon Busuttil told PBS's Reno Bugeja that he wants to build his party on the value of honesty.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil accused the Prime Minister of having build the foundations of his government “on a lie” when he was unable to deliver the LNG plant which Joseph Muscat himself gambled his political career on.

In a wide-ranging interview on PBS’s Dissett, Busuttil defended his choice of not having his MPs head the PN’s new policy fora, which he said will provide “clear plans, not some inexistent roadmap” that will structure the party’s electoral manifesto.

He said that the “various views” inside the PN on crucial matter such as equality, was ground for rich debate, and that he wanted to see dialogue and discussion on any controversial subject inside the party.

Busuttil once again defended the party’s abstention on civil unions, saying that the PN was in favour of civil unions but against gay adoptions, and refused the notion of a U-turn by saying he was committed to retain gay adoptions in law.

“If you have a law passed through the democratic process, then you accept it,” he replied, cueing Dissett presenter Reno Bugeja to quiz on him on whether he was now accepting the Individual Investor Programme that was selling citizenship for €650,000.

“I said I would repeal these passports but since then the law changed three times, thanks to our pressure. It’s not a scheme which, economically, we would have promoted. Now that the law has been passed, I accept it,” Busuttil said.

But he also said that since having attended the first meeting on the IIP with Joseph Muscat, he had learnt that newly naturalised citizens under the IIP would not be publicised under a separate list but together with other regularly naturalised citizens.

“Even the 12-month residency requirement is not being thoroughly applied,” Busuttil claimed.

There were moments in which Busuttil had to answer for the previous Gonzi administration’s affairs, but refused to give a straightforward answer and complained that he was not being asked on more pressing matters. In one example, Bugeja asked the Opposition leader why he was taking Muscat to task over using EU funds to restore Villa Francia – officially the Prime Minister’s residence, but not where Muscat actually lives – when back in 2009, Gonzi himself had used national funds to re-open and restore the Lija palace.

“Is it possible that we are not discussing the 58c COLA or the traffic problem this country faces, and instead we are discussing this TVM news clip from 2009?” Busuttil asked, trying to brush off the uncomfortable comparison.

“EU funds must be spent on public projects that everyone can enjoy… and I don’t know how the EU could have approved such funds,” Busuttil then said.

He was also asked what the PN had done while in government to investigate allegations of abuse inside the Chinese Leisure Clothing factory, to which Busuttil said that there were allegations of trafficking that had to be investigate by the police.

It was revealed throughout the programme that PN secretary-general Chris Said had met with the Chinese ambassador on the issue throughout the week, after PN organ In-Nazzjon ran a series of reports on allegations of human trafficking by the firm’s directors.

Busuttil also accused Muscat of lying when he himself had told Reno Bugeja on Dissett that he would resign if the power station is not delivered in two years. “The LNG plant was this government’s most important pledge. This government is built on a lie. I want to build [my programme] on honesty,” Busuttil said, accusing the government of diverting attention from the LNG plant delays by using George Pullicino’s stewardship of a €35 million solar energy project that has since been cancelled over irregularities.

“You cannot have a government that throws mud each time it has its back to the wall. It is evident that I will believe George Pullicino over somebody like Konrad Mizzi, whose wife was given a plum job at Malta Enterprise in such brazen-faced nepotism. Mudslinging politics is not honesty.”

He also accused Muscat of taking back money he had saved people on energy cuts, by according them a meagre 58c in the Cost Of Living Adjustment, the mechanism of which is determined at law. “Muscat took the unions to the streets to protest the low COLA… can we really say that people are going to be better off with just a 58-cent increase in their weekly salaries?”

Busuttil also demanded that Labour declare the value of their 28 party clubs that had been expropriated by the Labour government and granted to the party for their use, before calling on the Opposition to support a party financing law.

“First they should declare the value of the properties they stole,” Busuttil said, who defended the former administration’s effort to reclaim Australia Hall, a Pembroke property Labour was granted by the Mintoff government in return for land it gave to the State for the siting of the Malta Shipbuilding.

“The PN government filed a case to reclaim Australia Hall which Labour then dropped – this is an obscenity, sleaze… the PN will not accept any sort of discrimination. It has to be a fair law. We are proposing amendments, but we will not accept such discrimination from a party that has millions in stolen property.”

More in National