Update 2 | Muscat says PN leader 'made a fool of himself' by attacking judiciary

PN leader says inquiry over shooting incident is a cover up • Government says PN leader Simon Busuttil's attack on inquiry is unprecedented and unfounded



Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tonight denied that he was absconding from his responsibilities and turning the table on the leader of the opposition, he accused Simon Busuttil of being “irresponsible.”

Concluding the budget debate on the Office of the Prime Minister, Muscat said Busuttil should be ashamed of himself for accusing three retired members of the judiciary of conjuring a cover up in their investigations over the shooting incident involving the home affairs minister Manuel Mallia’s driver.

Telling Busuttil that he made a fool of himself, Muscat said “Parliament deserves better standards and I hold the leader of the opposition accountable for his words and in the coming weeks we’ll all see who is responsible and who isn’t.”

Claiming that Busuttil’s accusations had shocked his own MPs, Muscat said “the leader of the opposition attacked persons of great integrity. I will accept the conclusions of the inquiry, whatever they are and I challenge the leader of the opposition to do the same.”

In reply to accusations that he was hiding behind the inquiry, a bullish Muscat said “I am waiting for the facts to be determined by the inquiry. I never shied away from taking decisions and I never will.”

Accusing the leader of the opposition Simon Busuttil of being negative, Muscat reminded him that he was “part and parcel” of the previous government’s failures, adding that “the opposition still hasn’t learned from its past mistakes.”

“We’re solving the mess we inherited, especially at Enemalta,” Muscat said, rebutting Busuttil’s claim that government had allocated €14 million in subsidies.

Busuttil says inquiry is a 'cover up'

Earlier, PN leader Simon Busuttil said the country had had enough of the “anything goes culture” cultivated by the Labour government.  

Insisting that the country deserves an honest government, Busuttil said the shooting incident involving home affairs minister Manuel Mallia’s driver epitomised the laissez faire attitude.

“Imagine if someone hits your car, then shoots at you. With this government, anyone can do whatever they want, as long as it is not the opposition or second class citizens. This culture is bothering people, Prime Minister"

“Whoever is on Labour’s bandwagon feels they have a licence to do as they please. This has led to the creation to two classes of citizens, with normal citizens on one side and others like minister Helena Dalli and her husband who can do whatever they like on the otehr,” Busuttil said in reference to the civil liberties minister’s ostensibly illegal works on a farmhouse she owns.

Insisting that Mallia’s position was no longer tenable, Busuttil said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat should shoulder his responsibilities and “stop hiding” behind the inquiries which were ordered. 

“Mallia’s position is no longer tenable and you do not need an inquiry to reach such an obvious conclusion,” he said during the budget debate on the Prime Minister's Office.

Moreover, Busuttil shed doubt on the inquiry led by three retired members of the judiciary which was commissioned by Muscat to investigate whether any cover up took place.

In reference to Muscat’s claim on Dissett last week that he did not suspend Mallia until the inquiry is concluded because there was no use to suspend the minister only to reappoint him a fortnight later, the PN leader said Muscat gave away his intentions.

“The Prime Minister already knows that the inquiry would not apportion any blame on Mallia,” Busuttil said, accusing the inquiry of “covering up a cover up.”

He explained that Mallia’s position is no longer tenable because he is responsible for the police force and the protection of citizens and the driver who shot at the vehicle was a police officer detailed to him.

Busuttil also asked what role the Office of the Prime Minister played in the wake of the incident. “What was your office’s role in the issue of the statement which said that the minister’s driver fired warning shots in the air?”

“We now know that the press release which disgusted you was issued by your own office,” he said, adding that by the time the OPM issued the “deceitful” statement everybody knew what had happened.

He also asked whether the OPM communications director Kurt Farrugia and the Prime Minister himself will shoulder their responsibilities.

Moreover, the PN leader said, the government had failed to react to a number of reports which were published in the media over the past days.

Busuttil asked why the vehicle which was shot at was removed from the crime scene immediately after the incident, why the empty shells were removed from the site and why no gun residue tests were carried out.

“We haven’t been told whether the vehicle suffered any damage following what was first described as a hit and run accident. Did the accident really happen?”

The PN leader also asked “who is the Scottish victim? Did he know the minister’s driver?”

Turning his attention to the acting police commissioner Ray Zammit, Busuttil asked what role did he play in the incident and what happened in the wake of the shooting.

However, Busuttil made no mention of the report published by MaltaToday on Sunday which revealed that parts of the police report on the incident had been deleted.

On government’s announcement on the new power plant, Busuttil said that energy minister Konrad Mizzi’s announcement had raised more questions than it answered.

“Mizzi’s announcement clearly confirms that Labour’s key electoral promise will not be delivered. But we also had a confirmation that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat lied when he said that the delay will only be delayed by a few months and now we got to know that it will be delayed by 15 months. However, we neither believe you nor the minister,” he said.

He added that Mizzi’s choice of words shed doubt on the completion of the Electrogas plant “because the minister was very careful to say that government will be purchasing gas by June 2016 without defining whether this will be generated by the new plant or the BWSC plant.”

Pointing out that government has allocated €14 million for Enemalta subsidies, Busuttil said this conflicted with Mizzi’s claim that the tariff reductions will not be paid for by the taxpayer.

“Nothing is as it seems with this government, you must always read between the lines.”

The PN leader also asked why government had bound himself to purchase electricity at a fixed price when it could purchase energy at far cheaper rates through the interconnector.

“The people are asking whether we’re getting the best possible deal,” he said, adding that the opposition would keep up the pressure on government once the long-awaited details of the contracts government is expected to sign are published.

Government lashes out at Busuttil's unfounded accusations

In reaction, government said Busuttil’s accusations against the retired judges “is of great concern” and equated to an attack on the judiciary.

“The leader of the opposition should well know that the three retired members of the judiciary are reputable and his unprecedented and unfounded attack only serves his partisan interest.”

Government reminded that Busuttil refused the opportunity to appoint the members of the judiciary himself and his “irresponsible declaration confirms his negativity and bad judgement in crucial matters.”