Busuttil to task shadow cabinet with 'challenges on political priorities'

Opposition leader asks three MPs to exert pressure on government on high fuel prices, patients’ dignity and transparency in public contracts

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil with Marthese Portelli, Jason Azzopardi and Claudette Buttigieg. Photo: Chris Mangion
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil with Marthese Portelli, Jason Azzopardi and Claudette Buttigieg. Photo: Chris Mangion

Following last week’s reshuffle of the shadow cabinet, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has now asked three of his shadow cabinet members to start exerting pressure on the government on three political priorities: high cost of fuel, patients’ dignity and transparency in public contracts.

Addressing a press conference at the PN’s headquarters, Busuttil said the reshuffle was not a façade, but “a reshuffle in substance”.

“We want to make a difference in people’s lives, even if we are in the Opposition. We can’t allow the government to keep ignoring people’s concerns and our shadow cabinet will make sure that these concerns are addressed.”

The three shadow cabinet members receiving their first tasks are energy shadow minister Marthese Portelli, health shadow minister Claudette Buttigieg and justice shadow minister Jason Azzopardi.

Portelli is being asked to carry out the necessary initiatives and force government to lower the prices of petrol and diesel to truly reflect the reduction in international prices.

“It is clear that the government is stealing from the public. For every €30 spent on diesel, the government is collecting €12; for every €30 spent on petrol, the government is collecting €10. Pre-tax, Malta has the highest price of fuel. Post-tax, Malta still retains one of the highest fuel prices,” Busuttil said.

Buttigieg has been asked “to uncover the government’s incompetence” in the health sector and to ensure that the patient’s dignity is always respected.

“There has not only been an increase in the number of patients being placed in corridors, but men and women are being placed together. Patients are being cleaned with wipes because there are no sanitary facilities,” Busuttil said.

Azzopardi has been tasked to see the publication of a number of contracts, documents and reports which the government has not yet published: the contract between Enemalta and Shanghai Electric; the contract between government and Electrogas; the contract on the purchase of oil; the Henley & Partners contract; the Ombudsman’s report on ministers and MPs’ salaries; the Darryl Luke Borg inquiry; and a report on former police commissioner Peter Paul Zammit.

“The government treats transparency and lack of information as if these are not in the people’s interest. How can you have a proper democracy and an open debate if the government keeps hiding information?” Busuttil asked.

Proposals put forward by a committee appointed by the government would see MPs, Cabinet members, the President, the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition and the Speaker receiving a hefty pay rise.

The proposals were presented to the Prime Minister in December 2013. Busuttil confirmed that a copy of the “confidential” report was passed on to the PN a few days before Christmas 2014. A report on the recommendations appeared in the media a few days ago.

“We received the report in a confidential manner a few days before Christmas while government has had it for over a year. With the stamp ‘confidential’ on the report, surely the Opposition was not in a position to publish it itself,” Busuttil said, when asked whether the Opposition should have made the report public. He went on to praise the Malta Independent for publishing the report.

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