Busuttil defends Cassar’s resignation, says Muscat lied on Gaffarena demands

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says it is untrue that Joe Gaffarena had not made any demands during meeting with Joseph Muscat prior to 2013 election

Less than a week after former PN health minister Joe Cassar submitted his resignation from parliament in the wake of accusations that he had accepted gifts from businessman Joe Gaffarena, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has leapt to the defence of the embattled Cassar, saying the latter’s decision was honourable and one which set an example to Maltese politicians.

Speaking on Radio 101, Busuttil said Cassar’s resignation saw the Nationalist Party stand by its pledge to offer a new brand of honest politics.

“This week was a lesson in political responsibility. Even though he denied the reports levelled against him, Joe Cassar paid the ultimate price by resigning. This was the honourable decision that merits respect and admiration.”

“The resignation also proves that the political standards in Malta are being set by the Opposition and not by the party which prior to the election, had pledged to be accountable,” Busuttil said.

Turning the tables on the Labour government, Busuttil said he expected Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to demand the resignation of land parliamentary secretary Michael Falzon, on whose watch Gaffarena’s son, Marco, was granted a controversial €1.65 million for a Valletta property.

“The Opposition is raising the standards of politics in Malta. The time has come for Michael Falzon to shoulder political responsibility. The facts are there for all to see, but despite an inquiry report confirming that illegalities had been carried out in the deal, Muscat is still dragging his feet,” Busuttil said ostensibly referring to a MaltaToday report which revealed that IAID inquiry had established that land values were ‘illegal’.

The PN leader said that even though Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has every reason to demand the resignation of Michael Falzon, Muscat is still dragging his feet.

“One of the reasons why Muscat has not taken any action against Michael Falzon is because Falzon himself is answerable to the prime minister, and if the Falzon were to shoulder political responsibility, Muscat must also do so,” Busuttil.

Blasting Muscat, the PN leader said that the prime minister had fallen into a “pathetic situation,” as rather than responding questions on political responsibility, he is employing “immature” tactics in an effort to deviate the public’s attention and distort the truth.

Busuttil also said that it was a lie that Joe Gaffarena had not made any demands when he had met Joseph Muscat prior to the election. In an interview with the Sunday Times of Malta, Muscat said that he had twice met with Joe Gaffarena before the last election, but insisted that the businessman did not make any demands.

“Muscat has admitted to having met Gaffarena, but claimed that he had not demanded anything. This is a lie. I know this because I was approached by Gaffarena for the permit of the petrol station and I sent him packing. Once the government changed, it was given to him immediately. This means that the Labour Party had made him a promise,” Busuttil said.

Turning his attention on the issuance of visas by the Maltese consulate in Algeria, the PN leader said the series of scandals that have besieged the government in such a short time has led to the public losing its trust in politics. Busuttil also reiterated his call for an independent inquiry to investigate Identity Malta, arguing that if the Opposition’s call is not heeded, it will turn upon independent institutions to ensure that responsibility is shouldered.

On the Gozo hospital, the PN leader said the government’s plan to privatise the hospital “betrays” the Gozitans.

“Nowhere is it mentioned in Labour’s manifesto about the Gozo Hospital being privatised. The government must guarantee healthcare to Gozitans, and not privatise it … Hospital workers are also worried, because all they are getting is Konrad Mizzi’s sweet talk,” he continued.