Bickering MPs disagree over allowing Jason Azzopardi to read Fekruna Bay statement

Disagreement between Public Accounts Committee members on whether PN MP Jason Azzopardi should be permitted to read his sworn statement led to the matter being referred to the Speaker for a ruling

Consensus on whether PN MP Jason Azzopardi could read a statement was nowhere to be found in Wednesday's PAC hearing
Consensus on whether PN MP Jason Azzopardi could read a statement was nowhere to be found in Wednesday's PAC hearing

Today's Public Accounts Committee was characterised by bickering between MPs, who couldn't reach an agreement on whether Jason Azzopardi could read a sworn declaration he had prepared before testifying at a sitting on the Fekruna Bay saga

The Nationalist Party MP, who was the parliamentary secretary responsible for the Lands Department when in 2013 two properties worth €4.3 million were transferred to a company in exchange for the expropriation of land it had owned in the tal-Fekruna area in Xemxija, was called as a witness today by the government's side of the PAC.

Azzopardi had planned to read a statement which he also submitted in writing to the PAC, but its members from the government - Robert Abela, Julia Farrugia Portelli, Alex Muscat and Clayton Bartolo - insisted that, according to the relevant guidelines, while a witness could make a written submission, it was up to the Committee whether he should be allowed to read this out before questions are posed to him from the members.

“We know how to read, he can submit the written statement and we will ask questions based on that document,” Abela said.

This did not go down well with Azzopardi, nor with the PAC’s Opposition MPs Beppe Fenech Adami and Chris Said, who asserted that it had been the usual practice at the Committees several times in the past that a witness be allowed to read his statement before question time. Opposition MP Kristy Debono was also present, but stayed silent.

It seemed the issue had been been resolved when the PAC’s members appeared to be in agreement that Azzopardi could make an “oral presentation” on the statement, and that questions would follow, but this was not to be as shortly after Abela argued that since the written statement had in effect been submitted, the witness couldn’t make a statement unless a vote on the matter be taken, in line with the guidelines.

After close to an hour of back-and-forth arguments - with Azzopardi swivelling on his chair in vexation - Fenech Adami decided that the matter would have to be taken up to the Speaker of the House, who is not part of the PAC, for a ruling.

The session was suspended for another sitting, pending the Speaker’s decision.

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