Opposition MPs walk out of Chamber in protest after Mizzi takes the mic

Simon Busuttil leads PN MPs out of the House after minister Konrad Mizzi stands up to speak of power station, says Opposition doesn't recognize legitimacy of former energy minister

Opposition MPs staged a protest walk out of Parliament after minister Konrad Mizzi took the mike to explain details related to the LNG power station project.

PN leader Simon Busuttil said that the Opposition leader didn’t recognize Mizzi’s legitimacy, given his ownership of an offshore Panama company and hence led his MPs out of the Chamber.

Environment minister Jose Herrera was delivering a ministerial statement on Malta’s ratification of the Paris climate change agreement, and fielded several questions from the Opposition benches concerning the LNG tanker that will be docked in Marsaxlokk Bay as part of the power station project.

During his speech, he passed the mic to Mizzi to explain technicalities on the project. Mizzi had served as energy and health minister but the Prime Minister demoted him to a “minsiter without portfolio” earlier this year after he was revealed to own an offshore company in the Panama Papers scandal. Although Joseph Muscat is now officially the energy minister, Mizzi has maintained oversight over major energy projects.

As Mizzi stood up to speak, Busuttil repeatedly insisted that Muscat should re-enter the House to speak about the power station project.

“Muscat is the energy minister and he should therefore be the one to speak in Parliament on energy-related issues,” he told Speaker Anglu Farrugia.

However, Farrugia said that Herrera had a right to pass the mic on to Mizzi, prompting the Opposition leader to stage a walk-out.

In a statement issued after the walk-out, the PN said that Mizzi has only one question to answer – “the source of the millions of euro that he had wanted to deposit in his secret Panama company”.

“Muscat is trying to cover up the Panama scandal by sending Konrad Mizzi – who is actually still the energy minister – to speak in Parliament as though it was business as usual,” the PN said. “However, Muscat is gravely mistaken, because the public is still angered at how he hadn’t fired Mizzi and [OPM chief of staff] Keith Schembri, but rather defended them.”

In his speech, Mizzi said that the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) will publish all report in its possession related to safety, emissions and maritime risk assessments in relation to the LNG tanker that will be docked in Marsaxlokk Bay as part of the power station project.

This will precede a 30-day public consultation period, after which ERA will take an official stance on the Armada LNG Mediterrana.

“The project is part of the Labour government’s energy roadmap and the tanker is an interim measure pending the construction of a gas pipeline between Malta and Italy,” he said. “The government will next year apply for permits to construct the pipeline, both in Malta and in Italy.”

In response to questions by shadow environment minister Marthese Portelli, Herrera insisted that the authorities are following the set procedures and EU directives in applying for an Integrated Pollution, Prevention and Control permit for the tanker.

“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have a tanker, a power station or industrial zones, and the entire island will be nothing but fields, flowers and beaches. However, unfortuantely, Malta isn’t a region but a country, which is why we have to stress the importance of sustainable development.”

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