Muscat calls on Busuttil to ‘come clean’ on meeting with Gozitan whistleblower

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says Simon Busuttil’s credibility is on the line, says development of American University highlights difference between government and previous PN administrations. 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has called on Simon Busuttil to ‘come clean’ on his meeting with a Gozitan whistleblower who revealed the Gozo works-for-votes scheme, arguing that the PN’s credibility is on the line.

Speaking during an interview on One Radio, Muscat challenged Simon Busuttil to “refresh his memory well” and to disclose what was said during a meeting between him and the Gozitan contractor. The meeting was held two months after Busuttil became PN leader.

In March, MaltaToday revealed that the Gozitan contractor – who is among three contractors who have come forward to substantiate claims that they were asked to carry out construction work for Gozitan constituents – had listed some of what he called “works for votes” to then-PN Secretary General Chris Said.

The whistleblower also claimed that he had also detailed the scheme to Simon Busuttil during an impromptu meeting between the two. The scheme – which was broken by MaltaToday – subsequently saw Giovanna Debono’s husband Anthony arraigned in court on Tuesday. Debono, a civil servant inside the Gozo ministry, was charged with misappropriation of public funds, the abuse of his office, fraud, and falsification of documents amongst other charges.

“I will not speculate on Giovanna Debono’s position but the crucial point is that two years ago, the Gozitan whistleblower talked to Simon Busuttil, but until now, Busuttil has yet to come clean on what said, and more poignantly, what his reply was.”

“I do not know whether there were any witnesses in the room, but Busuttil has the political responsibility to refresh his memory and disclose what was said,” Muscat held.

The prime minister also said that for the first time in Malta’s political history, politicians are realising that they will not be exonerated from facing justice. “This is not an issue of mud slinging, at first some said that all would be forgotten after the local council elections, but justice is now being meted out,” he said.

Turning his attention on the proposed American university in Marsaskala, the prime minister insisted that the proposed development highlights the clear difference between this government and the Nationalist party.

“For many years, investments in the South were those which polluted the area and which were not wanted. The previous PN government developed a sewage treatment plant on 60 tumoli of land, and not the government wants to develop a university over 90 tumuli and 500 tumoli as a natural park,” he said.

“People can see the difference … The previous governments were reluctant to take any decisions out of fear that it would upset a lobby, but this government will not shy away from taking decisions,” he said.

The development of a private university by Jordanian university has come under fire by environmentalists and the Opposition, who have both insisted that the university should not be developed on an ODZ site.

While acknowledging the environmental concerns that the project may incur, Muscat explained that the government is considering alternative sites and also meeting with several environmental NGOs.

“Malta is a small country and whatever decision is taken is bound to create controversy. The government will abide by the rules,” he said.

573 submit application for Individual Investor Programme

On the Individual Investor Programme, Muscat explained that 573 people have applied for the scheme. Muscat argued that ever since Malta announced the IIP, other countries followed suit without imposing any strict requirements.

Nevertheless, Muscat insisted, the government will not waive from its principles: The programme is aimed at attracting high net-worth individuals and not those who feel that they are going to us a favour when purchasing the Maltese citizenship.

“There is a wide choice from where people can choose to buy their passports. However, the government’s stand will remain the same, anyone who wants a quick-fix sale will not be welcomed, nor are others who think that they are going to do us a favour.”

The prime minister also rebutted criticism levelled by the PN for meeting with investors and promoting Malta.

“Calling me a salesman is not insulting ... My work is to convince people to come to Malta and to attract investment to Malta. Investment does not fall from the sky, I am proud to focus my energy on attracting investment tot Malta,” he added.

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