Busuttil accuses government of ‘large scale deception, betrayal’

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca should not go ahead with the swearing in of Caroline Farrugia Frendo as magistrate; PN insists on parliamentary debate on judicial appointments

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has accused the government of “large scale deception” and of betraying the electorate after the country was plagued by a corruption crisis and a series of scandals.

Buoyed by a MaltaToday survey which showed that nearly 33% of switchers – those who voted PN in 2008 and PL in 2013 – are now back in the PL fold, the Opposition leader insisted that voters had been betrayed after being promised everything and subsequently left hung out to dry.

Addressing the PN faithful in Attard, the Opposition leader argued that the nomination of Caroline Farrugia Frendo and Ingrid Zammit Young to the magistrates’ bench and the Gaffarena scandal had highlighted the government’s deception and betrayal of the electorate.

Speaking on the nomination of Farrugia Frendo, the PN leader argued that the President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca should not go ahead with the swearing in, insisting that it was her duty to safeguard the constitution and raise the doubts surrounding the nomination.

The nomination of Farrugia Frendo – the 33-year-old daughter of Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia – has garnered controversy after it had transpired that she was at least a month short of the minimum seven years’ practice experience to qualify for the bench. Farrugia Frendo’s fellow nominee, lawyer Ingrid Zammit Young, has since turned down her call to the bench after the Commission for the Administration of Justice raised doubts on her constitutional validity.

And for Busuttil, both Farrugia Frendo and Zammit Young – whose father is a Labour canvasser claimed to have helped the justice minister in the past electoral campaign – were nominated on the basis of their “political connections and not on merit.”

Insisting that Justice Minister Owen Bonnici had “blatantly ignored” the Constitution by forging ahead with the nomination of Farrugia Frendo, the PN leader insisted that it is now up to the President of the Republic to safeguard the Constitution.

“The President [Marie Louise Coleiro Preca] will tomorrow preside over a meeting of the Commission for the Administration of Justice. The President’s main duty is to safeguard the Constitution and consequently, I expect her to raise this issue and discuss the controversy surrounding the nomination,” Busuttil said.

The PN leader also said that the government had been left red faced and in a state of panic after it had been left to shadow home affairs minister Jason Azzopardi to file a private members’ bill to amend the constitution and change the way members of the judiciary are appointed.

“The government has yet to discuss the bill in parliament. If the government fails to do so, the Opposition will raise the issues in parliament next Thursday… Nevertheless, the Opposition is ready to cooperate, but only if the nomination of Farrugia Frendo is suspended,” he said.

Reacting to the motion, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said he was taking the PN’s proposals with a pinch of salt, but that he would still forge ahead with making Caroline Farrugia Frendo a magistrate. The minister has also insisted that he would reform the system of appointing judges before the next election.

Insisting that is justified to say that the government is facing a corruption crisis, the PN leader said the government’s tenure has been plagued by “a series of scandals and large scale deception.”

“The Labour Party promises good governance, clean politics and a new style of leadership. However, nothing of this sort has been implemented, and reality can’t be further from the truth,” Busuttil said.

'Police should protect the whole country, not just Joseph Muscat'

Describing the Gaffarena scandal being tantamount to “corruption and deception,” the PN leader said the damning report by the National Audit Office had proven how the “electorate was betrayed by the government.”

Once again, the Opposition leader claimed that Gaffarena scandal was not yet a closed chapter as a number of questions remained unanswered. Particularly, Busuttil questioned whether the prime minister knew about the deal, if the police were investigating Castille, and if Mark Gaffarena had used the €3.5 million to corrupt anyone.

Echoing Beppe Fenech Adami’s call for the Police Commissioner to investigate the Gaffarena scandal and the Castille connection, Busuttil insisted that the police should “do its duty and heed the PN’s call.”

“If the police are truly representing the public, it should investigate and protect the whole country, not just Joseph Muscat. I expect the police to take action, as otherwise we would take all actions possible,” he said.

The PN leader explained that even though a number of police officers had been sent to the Lands Department after the Auditor General’s report, this was just “a mise en scène” as police had not yet started the allegations being made in the report.

Busuttil also said that the government had also betrayed the Monti hawkers, and that it failed to eradicate precarious employment. Similarly, he said, the government had “deceived” the public after spending €430 million on the taxpayers’ money on a public transport system which was a failure and had not reached the standards that ought to have been implemented.

More in National