Marlene Farrugia defies Speaker: 'Gbejna was perfect description for Camilleri'

Maltese MPs in ridiculous 'food fight': Speaker's ruling on gbejna insult degenerates with Labour MP's 'omelette' missive against Opposition leader

Battle of the insults: Marlene Farrugia (left) throws a cheeslet at Clint Camilleri, while Rosianne Cutajar dubs the Opposition leader an 'omelette' (froga)
Battle of the insults: Marlene Farrugia (left) throws a cheeslet at Clint Camilleri, while Rosianne Cutajar dubs the Opposition leader an 'omelette' (froga)

Democratic Party MP Marlene Farrugia has refused to withdraw her description of Agriculture Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri as a “gbejna” (cheeselet) during a parliamentary committee discussing the Bulebel industrial estate expansion.

The exchange took place on Monday with Camilleri insisting that the comment represented a racial slur and asked the Speaker for a ruling.

On Tuesday, Speaker Anglu Farrugia said the use of the word “gbejna” went contrary to a standing order that prohibits the use of offensive words amongst MPs. He asked the PD MP to apologise and withdraw the comment, a request Farrugia immediately shot down. 

“Out of all the Maltese words which I know, gbejna was the most appropriate word to describe [Camilleri] at the time. I will not withdraw it,” Farrugia said, in a quasi-comical scene.

More commotion erupted after the Speaker’s ruling, when government MP Rosianne Cutajar made a passing reference to a “froga” (omelette) in connection with a parliamentary question on a proposal made by Opposition leader Adrian Delia earlier this week.

"From the gbejna we will move on to omelettes because this week the PN leader slipped (ghamel froga) when he said that he wanted to introduce free public transport, which is already in place. Can Transport Minister Ian Borg tell us how long it has been in force?"

Cutajar's comment caused uproar on the Opposition benches with MPs demanding the Speaker use the same yardstick and ask her to withdraw the comment. She said that if someone's feelings had been hurt then she would withdraw the comment.   

The Speaker ruled Cutajar's comment had been withdrawn despite protestations from the Opposition that she had not done so clearly.

'I could have called him a gbara'

Clarifying her comments later on, Farrugia said that she had called Camilleri a ġbejna because of his “non-verbal and verbal” reaction to her request to have the Environment Committee take a vote on the Bulebel Industrial Estate expansion.

“It was not meant as a derogatory term and I could have used the term gbara and not ġbejna,” Farrugia said. 

The Speaker was not moved by her explanation, insisting he had reviewed the transcript in its entirety.

“You did not withdraw the word and you can challenge my ruling if you like.”

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