Updated | Nationalists, PD lambast Muscat's IIP donation to Puttinu as an insult and a sham

A €5 million pledge by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to Puttinu Cares garners criticism from political adversaries claiming it was an attempt to justify the money's disputed provenance • Finance Minister Edward Scicluna says contribution does not hail from IIP Fund in deleted Facebook post

Puttinu Cares raised a record of €6.6 million on Good Friday, with €1.6 million donated by the public
Puttinu Cares raised a record of €6.6 million on Good Friday, with €1.6 million donated by the public

 

A €5 million donation to a children’s hospice charity from the Maltese government has become the subject of controversy, after opposition parties railed against the prime minister’s intervention during a telethon.

Joseph Muscat’s ‘donation’ of €5 million to the Puttinu Cares fundraiser on Friday was lambasted by critics and lauded by his supporters, over the fact that the money was said to hail from the controversial sale of Maltese citizenships in the Individual Investor Programme.

70% of the IIP’s revenues are hived off to a posterity fund called the National Development and Social Fund, which recently acquired a majority stake in Lombard Bank, while the remaining 30% are placed inside the government’s consolidated fund.

Read also: Puttinu Cares raises record €6.6 million in Good Friday fundraiser

Late into the night on Friday, as the audience celebrating reaching the €1.6 million in donations collected, Xarabank host Peppi Azzopardi took a live telephone call from Muscat – who is in Australia meeting Maltese migrants – where he announced that €5 million from the IIP revenues would be donated to the Puttinu Cares Foundation.

Puttinu Cares is currently seeking to build 30 apartments in central London to accommodate the families of patients seeking treatment. Every month, around 90 Maltese patients travel to the UK with their families for medical care, and the funds raised on Friday would ensure that they adequate accommodation is provided for.

But Opposition MPs and critics were quick to lambast the Prime Minister’s announcement as a way of justifying the passports-for-cash scheme.

Nationalist MP Beppe Fenech Adami, a cancer survivor, said he was “insulted and disgusted” by the donation, labelling it an attempt to justify the way the money was collected in the first place. He said the implication was that passports need to be sold to the “corrupt” and to “criminals” in order for cancer patients to receive treatment.

His colleague Jason Azzopardi even went as far as likening the action to the Italian mafia boss Toto Riina’s own donations to charity money obtained through crime.

And former PN leader Simon Busuttil addressed his tweet to the Prime Minister, saying “we don’t have to sell our soul or our citizenship for you to do your duty and provide full health care for cancer patients.”

But the Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia struck a more cautious tone to that of his vociferous parliamentary group.

“We must bind ourselves to build these apartments in London so that cancer sufferers will have a place to stay in during the worst of moments. I believe we must see what the national health service’s needs are in its entirety, and that we must give more to who has the least, the elderly, the poor, the sick and those in need.

“Let’s leave charity to those who know it and value it the most, the thousands of volunteers, NGOs, people and big-hearted citizens who give all they can.”

Echoing a similar sentiment was the Democratic party (PD) leader Anthony Buttigieg, who wrote on Facebook that the €5 million was money that belonged to taxpayers, “not some super act of generosity on the part of the Prime Minister”.

“After years of a budget surplus and unprecedented economic growth, do you think there should be any need for a charity like Puttinu Cares?” Buttigieg asked.

PD MP Godfrey Farrugia wrote that medical services should fall under the public healthcare system, and not depend on charity. “The Prime Minister is not genuine in this regard,” he said. His partner and MP Marlene Farrugia also chimed in on the subject on Facebook. “The Prime Minister’s duty is not to give to charity, but to make sure that no family under his watch would need charity.”

As expected, the MPs’ statements were met with political backlash. Labour MP Edward Zammit-Lewis tweeted that “basic decency would evoke a common front and unity, especially for those in need, and on Good Friday,” criticising Jason Azzopardi’s comments in particular.

Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar accused Azzopardi of having presided over “scandalous deals” when he was a minister for public lands, citing it as the “real insult”. Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield referred to comments by the PN MPs as “cold-hearted and bitter”, while Robert Musumeci, the government’s consultant on planning laws, wrote that it was “simply not on” for people to be cynical about the Prime Minister’s contribution.

In a post he later deleted, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna tweeted that the contribution was not, in fact, coming from the IIP Fund. “They are coming from the budget and being spent on a deserving project affecting many Maltese and Gozitan families.”

While Muscat said that the money was hailing from the NDSF, finance minister Edward Scicluna posted on Facebook – later deleted – that the money hailed from the government’s consolidated fund.

 

 

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