Labour whip weighs in on Panamagate and says he would have resigned

Pressure mounts on Konrad Mizzi as Labour whip Godfrey Farrugia is third government exponent to suggest the energy minister should resign over Panamagate

Labour whip Godfrey Farrugia is the latest exponent to call for Mizzi's resignation
Labour whip Godfrey Farrugia is the latest exponent to call for Mizzi's resignation

Labour whip Godfrey Farrugia has piled on the pressure on embattled energy and health minister Konrad Mizzi by saying that he would have stepped down had he been involved in Panamagate.

In comments to the Times, Farrugia said “let me speak for myself. As a citizen I have always lived by principles, morals and ethics, and I cherish them. As an MP, I represent the people, and so I cherish them even more. If I were in Minister Konrad Mizzi’s position, I would resign.”

The Labour whip is third high-profile Labour exponent to clearly say that Mizzi’s position is untenable. Yesterday, education minister Evarist Bartolo said “if it were me, I would never have anything to do with jurisdictions like Panama.”

Bartolo is one of several veteran MPs who in a Labour parliamentary group meeting expressed his opinion that Mizzi should resign his post as energy and health minister. This week, former Labour prime minister Alfred Sant also said that Mizzi should do the “honourable thing” and resign.

Mizzi, whose offshore interests in Panama were revealed by the leak of over 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, insists he has done nothing wrong and in his maiden speech as Labour deputy leader to the party delegates on Thursday, suggested he would give Prime Minister Joseph Muscat a free hand in determining his fate.

The prime minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri is also embroiled in Panamagate but similarly to Mizzi he has denied any wrongdoing.

“I feel that the Prime Minister has to take a decision, and can consider any such decision as he feels fit,” Mizzi said to great applause.
Such a stance has clearly irritated Bartolo, who said “personally, as a politician I must shoulder the responsibility for my actions, and not shift onto somebody else to judge whether I am in the right or wrong.”

In a reference to former Labour leader Alfred Sant’s earlier post on Facebook, Bartolo said that had Sant “given me that piece of advice, I would have resigned.”

Mizzi, the newly-elected PL deputy leader for party affairs, insists he has done nothing wrong by setting up an offshore company in Panama which is owned by the trustees who run his offshore New Zealand trust, Rotorua.

Highlighting Labour’s values of justice, fiscal morality, freedom and dignity, Bartolo said “if it were me, I would never have anything to do with jurisdictions like Panama…there are laws for gods and laws for animals, are we animals?”

Whilst praising Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for showing “an admirable sense of fair play and prudence” in how he handled news of Mizzi’s Panamanian company and offshore trust, the Labour MEP criticised Mizzi for placing the onus on Muscat.

In reply to a Facebook post by the Foundation for Social Welfare Services CEO Alfred Gritxi, in which the former ETC chairman said that “the Prime Minister spoke and everybody should shut up,” the minister reiterated that he will vote for government in Monday’s vote of no confidence tabled by the opposition.

Confirming his loyalty towards Muscat, Bartolo said his only intention was to help the Prime Minister and not to “add to his problems.”
On Thursday, the embattled energy minister that he was “serene and happy,” and refuted suggestions that he had committed anything wrong by opening an offshore company in Panama.

Sant argued that what should have been a clear and inevitable decision should have never been placed on Muscat.

“In his personal and political interest, in the interest of his family, of the Labour Party and the government and in the national interest, Mizzi’s honourable decision is to resign as soon as possible,” the former Labour prime minister said.

Sant went on to add that Mizzi would then be in a better position to defend his name and his honour.

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