Busuttil alleges underhand deals in Gaffarena expropriation

Debating a new law that will give Parliament full autonomy, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil hits out at government’s ‘abuse of power’ • Says MaltaToday survey confirms people are concerned about corruption

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil came down hard on the government during a discussion in the House of Representatives on a new law that will give Parliament full autonomy.

Busuttil dedicated much of his intervention to the Gaffarena expropriation scandal, the report of the Auditor General and the important role played by the media in exposing what went on.

Arguing that a stronger and independent parliament was important in a democratic country, Busuttil harped on the role played by the opposition in keeping the government on its toes.

“It is the role of every member of parliament to keep the government under the spotlight and parliament provides an important platform for the opposition to scrutinize the government,” he said.

Contending that the law being discussed was “technical”, Busuttil said the “more important and political question” to be asked was whether the government respected parliament.

“Government doesn’t respect parliament because it immediately attacks those MPs who dare criticize it. It even shut up its own backbenchers by appointing them on boards and giving them salary packages that exceed even the Prime Minister’s pay.”

Quoting a survey published by MaltaToday on Sunday, Busuttil said worries of corruption have gone up by 7% when compared to August reaching the highest levels ever recorded by a MaltaToday survey.

“The people are right because what we have today is government in a corruption crisis,” he said, referring to the PN’s good governance pledges which will not allow MPs to sit on public boards.

“Only in this manner can we ensure that members of parliament do their job without any interference.”

The PN leader said the independent media were an equally important pillar of democracy, without which the fight against corruption would be inexistent.

Busuttil reiterated the importance of appointing the heads of institutions following a vote in parliament to ensure complete independence and enjoy a trustworthy position.

“The Opposition is playing an important role in holding government accountable. We are accused by the government of being negative and yet, it was the Auditor General who came to our same conclusions on the Gaffarena expropriation case.”

Busuttil dubbed the NAO report “a novel about mafia”.

“This man [Gaffarena] held control over the Lands Department, Castile and the police. You only find these stories in novels about mafia.

“The government is offended because we call them corrupt. Yes you’re corrupt. What else can you call this? You paid Gaffarena €3.5 million, giving him more than he deserved and asking him to pay less that he should have.

“What we should ask now is who benefitted from this deal? Who did Gaffarena pay? What did he give them? I am sure we will know very soon.”

The Opposition leader also insisted that parliamentary secretary Ian Borg must shoulder responsibility after a report by the Commissioner for Planning found Borg had employed “devious methods” to obtain a permit for his Rabat property.

A report by the Permanent Commission Against Corruption did not find any evidence of corruption and MEPA officers claimed not to have known that the property in question belonged to Borg. The application was not filed under Borg’s name.

Borg and MEPA have denied any wrongdoing, arguing that the permit was legitimate.

“What’s so special about you?” Busuttil told Borg in parliament. “If I were Michael Falzon I’d feel offended knowing that another Cabinet member was condemned by an independent institution but was not fired. Are you one of Muscat’s favourites?”

Borg defended himself from Busuttil’s statements, arguing that the PCAC concluded that Borg had not been given something he was not entitled to. He said, that the previous applicant’s permit had been turned down because the applicant had applied for half of the site, whereas Borg had applied for the full site.

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