‘PN wants bailout to address financial woes’ - Owen Bonnici

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici calls on Opposition to put its house in order and refutes accusations levelled at Labour

Owen Bonnici said the PN was 'obsessed' with Labour's party clubs
Owen Bonnici said the PN was 'obsessed' with Labour's party clubs

Winding down a 14-hour debate on party financing on Wednesday evening, justice minister Owen Bonnici said the proposed law will “revolutionise” politics, underlining the importance of introducing checks and balances to ensure that political parties are not held hostage by private donors.

However, Bonnici insisted that Labour had not stolen any public or private property and accused the opposition of wanting a “bailout” for its financial woes, after being taken to task over the 30-odd properties that the State expropriated and devolved to the party for use as party clubs.

Bonnici noted that he had taken on board a number of valid proposals floated by PN deputy leader Mario de Marco, whom he said "unlike other opposition MPs" strayed away from the party’s obsession with Labour’s party clubs.

In reaction to Opposition leader Simon Busuttil’s earlier speech, Bonnici said: “Is this all the Opposition has to offer? All I heard, De Marco apart, is that Labour has stolen property. All but one of the Opposition MPs did nothing but repeat the same accusations without making one single proposal.”

The minister then went to great lengths to explain that Labour did not steal any properties and that all its clubs were legally rented.

He accused the Opposition of seeking a “bailout” to address their financial woes and stressed that in the 2008 rent law reform piloted by the previous administration, football, band clubs and political clubs were exempted from new regulations “because of the social function they perform.”

“Dr Busuttil, do you want to remove the protection on rentals of all clubs? If you want it removed then explain it during your visits to such clubs in summer. If not, do not accuse us of stealing anything.”

Political parties and other organisations were exempted in the 2008 rent reform, which was intended to address the previous situation which allowed tenants to retain possession of rented property while paying insignificant rents set decades before.

However, the law which was unanimously approved in Parliament exempted social organisations from provisions which guaranteed suitable rents payable to landlords. This provision was however extended to clubs by the current government last year through a legal notice which had raised the rents for clubs by 10% per year for three years and by 5% for seven subsequent years.