[WATCH] Marlene Farrugia tenders resignation from Labour and environment committee

Backbencher Marlene Farrugia tells MaltaToday she has handed her resignation to the Prime Minister • Opposition leader Simon Busuttil: Muscat's Labour movement 'has started to crack'

Labour MP Marlene Farrugia had already broken ranks by joining a protest of Nationalist MPs at Zonqor Point against the siting of the American University of Malta.
Labour MP Marlene Farrugia had already broken ranks by joining a protest of Nationalist MPs at Zonqor Point against the siting of the American University of Malta.

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Labour MP Marlene Farrugia has finally broken ranks with the party she joined in 2003 as a prospective candidate, to announce her resignation in a letter she gave to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat today.

Marlene Farrugia tendered her resignation to the prime minister, saying she was resigning from the PL, the parliamentary group, and as chairperson of the permanent committee for the environment and planning.

Farrugia personally confirmed her resignation by SMS to MaltaToday. Her resignation was hand-written on parliament letterhead paper.

The Labour government won a nine-seat majority in 2013. Farrugia’s partner Godfrey Farrugia is the party’s whip.

In a tweet, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said that Muscat’s “movement” - the broad church of voters he spearheaded as part of his electoral campaign - had “started to crack. People are beginning to see through him.”

On his part, Joseph Muscat said he accepted her resignation.

Farrugia was the third MP to announce a resignation: Giovanna Debono resigned from the Nationalist group but retained her seat after her husband Anthony Debono was charged in court with misappropriation; and Joe Cassar resigned from the Nationalist group and as MP after being found to have received undeclared gifts from a donor when he was minister.

Earlier in the sitting, Marlene Farrugia joined the Opposition in voting against two amendments of the Environment Protection Act, which will set up one of the two authorities formerly merged into the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. Farrugia also supported calls by the Opposition for parliamentary scrutiny of the executive chairman, nominated by the government; she said that “it was time for the government to move away from past practices and increase parliamentary scrutiny.”

The two amendments to the law were rejected with government winning the votes by 33 to 22.

A former Nationalist candidate in the 1996 and 1998 elections, she was at the time married to Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando. The couple separated and in September 2003, she announced she was exploring a candidature with the Labour Party. In 2008 she was elected MP, where she supported the leadership bid by George Abela after the resignation of Alfred Sant. In the run-up to the 2013 election, her partner Godfrey Farrugia was also fielded as a candidate, successfully.

She became a vocal critic of Joseph Muscat’s administration soon after stepping down from an assistant’s role to her partner, the then health minister Godfrey Farrugia, which found little favour in the media. When Godfrey Farrugia, today government whip, announced in 2014 he would resign as minister, Marlene Farrugia opened up about her partner’s ordeal as minister, saying that he was “repeatedly humiliated” by the Prime Minister.

The Zurrieq MP had also lashed out at Muscat over the way decisions taken by Godfrey Farrugia would be overruled by Castille.

She wrote in the press later that only a year earlier, Labour’s “young, articulate leader succeeded in convincing the people that a new freedom can be found in doing politics differently”, citing his pledge for meritocracy and open dialogue. She promised her “ultimate loyalty” to the Labour movement. “I will not rest until our slogan of Malta Taghna Lkoll becomes a reality,” she said.

Farrugia was also a vocal critic of the siting of the American University of Malta at Zonqor Point, and as chair of the parliamentary environment committee gave environmental NGOs unprecedented access to have their views heard on the AUM project.

She also recently said she would not support the Labour administration’s proposals to re-introduced embryo freezing, after this was banned by the Nationalist administration in 2013.

MPs resigning

There have been three cases in the past 25 years when sitting MPs resigned from their respective parties.

In 1989 Labour MP Wenzu Mintoff renounced the party whip and represented Alternattiva Demokratika, a new party he helped found after being expelled from the Labour Party.

The other incident happened in 1995 when Labour MP Joe Brincat temporarily fell out with his party and sat in Parliament as an independent MP until the end of the legislature.

Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando resigned in the summer of 2012 from the Nationalist MP, retaining his seat as an independent MP.

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