‘Joseph Muscat must go’ – Simon Busuttil

Ahead of tomorrow's no-confidence motion against the government, Simon Busuttil says Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is directly responsible for not taking action against Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, and he should therefore go

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil at this morning's meeting in Ghar id-Dud, Sliema • All Photos: Chris Mangion
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil at this morning's meeting in Ghar id-Dud, Sliema • All Photos: Chris Mangion

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat should resign over the Panama Papers revelations as his inaction and continuous defence of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri made him a “problem”, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said today.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s no-confidence motion against the government, the PN leader said the country is suffering from a “deficit in good governance”, and insisted that even if the government were to defeat the motion, it would still have lost in the eyes of the people.

The motion of no-confidence against the government was presented by the Opposition on the back of the Panama Papers revelations that showed energy minister Konrad Mizzi and the prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri owning offshore companies and trusts.

Several Labour MPs and senior ministers believe that Mizzi, who is also the Labour Party’s deputy leader for party affairs, should resign from his post as minister following the revelations. But nonetheless, it is understood that they will back the Labour government against the motion, thereby confirming the eight-seat that the government enjoys in parliament.

Conceding that he was “aware of the numbers,” Busuttil made a last ditch attempt in an effort to sway Labour MPs to vote in favour of the motion, arguing that though he understands the position they find themselves in, they are duty-bound to vote in the country’s national interest.

“We truly believe that the Opposition had to present the motion of no-confidence because it was the right thing to do. If the motion is defeated, the country would still enjoy a moral victory over the government,” he said.  

Addressing party faithful in Ghar id-Dud, Sliema, the PN leader explained why the Opposition had presented a motion of no-confidence against the government and not Konrad Mizzi himself. However, in a silence that speaks volumes, Busuttil made no mentions of a MaltaToday report which revealed how one of the businessmen embroiled in the Panama Papers storm had his company Redmap Constructions carry out €34,000 in works on properties owned by PN deputy leader Mario de Marco back in 2011.

Hitting out at Muscat, Busuttil insisted that Joseph Muscat was now Malta’s main problem as he had repeatedly defended Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, and claimed that the prime minister’s inaction had put Malta’s reputation at stake.

“Any normal European country would have immediately targeted the main problem, and in our case, this is Joseph Muscat. He is the one who repeatedly stood by Mizzi and Schembri. The decision that should be taken is evident to all, except to the prime minister … Had it not been for Joseph Muscat we would not be in the mess we are in,” Busuttil rallied.

Despite reiterating his calls for the sacking of Mizzi and Schembri, Busuttil argued that their resignation now would not be enough, as the country had lost its trust in the prime minister, thereby meriting his resignation.

“Malta finds itself in an unprecedented situation … Even if Muscat were to remove Mizzi and Schembri now, confidence in him has been lost, and the country no longer trusts him, so consequently, he has to go,” he said.

Busuttil argued that other “normal democratic countries”, such as Iceland and Spain, saw their ministers resign in the wake of the Panama Papers leak.

“If we are truly the best in Europe, why hasn’t Konrad Mizzi resigned? This is why the no-confidence motion is being presented against the government, it is because we want to live in a normal democratic country … The prime minister should have take action eight weeks ago, but he has repeatedly stood by them,” he said while blasting Muscat.

The PN leader argued that Muscat’s inaction is down to one of two reasons: he is either unaware of the difference between right or wrong or he is personally involved.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s marathon 13-hour parliamentary sitting which will discuss the no-confidence motion, Busuttil said he hoped for a strong and clear debate where everyone would be able to express their thoughts and anger.

“We have a right and duty to attack the government, but we will be doing this in a civil manner,” he said. Busuttil also insisted that contrary to the Labour Party, the PN would not be launching any systematic attacks against those who had the courage to speak out against the government.

Thousands of jobs at risk due to the Panama Papers scandal - de Marco

On his part, PN deputy leader said thousands of jobs in the igaming and the financial services industries are at risk due to the negative implications of the Panama Papers scandal.

“The reputation of Malta’s financial services industry is being tarnished as a result of the Panama Papers scandal, and this is all down to Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat,” he said.

Hitting out at Muscat, de Marco said that rather than taking the obvious decision of sacking Konrad Mizzi and Schembri, the prime minister turned the Panamagate scandal into a battle between the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party. Moreover, he accused the government and Joseph Muscat of launching a series of attacks against anyone who opposed the government.

Particularly, de Marco slammed Muscat after earlier this week on Reporter, family minister Michael Farrugia berated retired judge Giovanni Bonello for attending a national protest against corruption organised by the Nationalist Party.  

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