[WATCH] Panama Papers | Prime Minister set to take action irrespective of audit outcome

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat commits himself to publish all public contracts signed – including energy and health – before the end of year

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addressing the Labour annual general conference (Photo by Ray Attard)
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addressing the Labour annual general conference (Photo by Ray Attard)
Muscat pledges to take action irrespective of audit outcome

Irrespective of the outcome of an audit into the offshore trusts and companies, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat this morning confirmed he would be taking action.

Addressing the party delegates at during the conclusion of Labour’s general conference, Muscat reiterated that news of the offshore trusts and companies held by energy minister Konrad Mizzi and his chief of staff Keith Schembri had bothered him.

“It did not bother just me. It bothered other people out there. It did not just bother people who voted for us for the first time but it also bothered Labourites. It bothers them that the results we are achieving are being overshadowed,” Muscat said.

“Was there anything illegal? Those involved are denying it. There is an investigation underway which will tell us clearly. I will take a decision once I have all facts in hand … I am a leader. I do not base my decisions on polls or hysterics. I want a country where reason prevails.

“Their position would no longer be tenable if it results they lied. If it turns out that it was the truth, it will still not be an excuse not to do anything. The harm has been done. We need to send the message that it’s not just about doing what’s legal but also doing what’s right.”

Muscat said he did not care if he was losing in popularity by not taking a decision immediately: “Something more important than popularity is justice.”

The Prime Minister said he never shied away from taking decisions, but he never was one to base it on the pollsters.

“The day I start taking decisions according to popularity will be the day I stop leading this country and this movement. If I looked at numbers, divorce and civil unions would have never seen the light of day. The numbers said one thing, but my principles, my thoughts and my heart said another.”

“A leader stops being a leader on the day he decides to follow the current. A leader is a leader when he understands the sentiment, analyses the facts, listens, takes decisions and shoulder responsibility for it. That is what I do. This is what I will continue doing.”

Muscat admitted that he could have done things differently himself. Next Friday, he added, the Labour parliamentary group will present one front in parliament where the government will not lose against the opposition’s no-confidence motion.

“This is a vote which we will accept with humility and which will give us greater energy to continue changing the country.”

In his lengthy but decisive speech, Muscat pledged to publish all major public contracts – including those signed in energy and health sectors – before the end of the year.

“Whilst respecting what is commercially sensitive, we will publish these contracts because we have nothing to hide. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”

The Prime Minister also announced the setting up of an international public registry of companies which would list anyone involved in corruption, providing a clearer picture for public contracts bidding. In financial services sector, the government wants to ensure that the ‘beneficial ownership’ is open and accessible to all without abuse.

Muscat said fighting corruption didn’t come with protests but with facts. “Corruption is won by taking solid action,” he said.

Muscat said he was not interested in leading a tribe: “I took an oath to lead the country. I will not be among those who sow hatred.”

He joined the President of the Republic in calling for unity in the country: “We move forward when we work as one country.”

The Prime Minister pledged a clampdown on poverty, reiterating that he will dedicate all efforts to fight poverty: “This is my commitment.”

During his address, Muscat also challenged Opposition leader Simon Busuttil to publish the names of all those who will be lending thousands to the PN under the Cedoli 2016 scheme.

“This is a scheme that favours corruption. He can say it’s legal … even companies in Panama are legal. The issue is not about legality but about correctness. There may be doubts on the legality of it, but there are no doubts that it is incorrect. This is a scheme that favours corruption.

“With all its secrecy, Simon Busuttil is creating a Panama in Malta … a Panama in his own party. I challenge him to list the names.”

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