Parliamentary Secretary questions motive for fishing director's 2010 removal

Clint Camilleri turned the tables on the Opposition during parliamentary question time asking MPs why Andreina Fenech Farrugia had been removed from her role by the PN in the first place

Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries, Clint Camilleri
Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries, Clint Camilleri

Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries Clint Camilleri asked Opposition MPs to state why the now-suspended director of the fisheries department Andreina Fenech Farrugia was removed from her post by a Nationalist administration back in 2010.

"You asked why the labour government reinstated Fenech Farrugia in 2013 but the real question is why she was removed by the PN government in 2010 in the first place,” Camilleri told Opposition MPs during parliamentary question time.

“There is no documentation that tells us why she was transferred from fisheries director to the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority with the same exact package," Camilleri said.

He said there was no question that Fenech Farrugia was a competent person, adding that she had even been nominated for the post of executive secretary of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

READ MORE: Spanish police arrest 79 over illegally-caught tuna from Maltese quotas

Camilleri was replying to questions posed to him by MPs after environment minister José Herrera presented a ministerial statement saying Fenech Farrugia had been suspended following the publication of transcripts of conversations in which she appears to solicit bribes from Spanish tuna operator José Fuentes García.

Responding to doubts about whether she would have been suspended had the transcripts not been leaked to the press, the parliamentary secretary confirmed that magisterial inquiries had already been in place to investigate the case.

"As to why her suspension was immediate, it was this government that strengthened legislation on fish farming and irregularities in this sector were always dealt with immediately," he said.

"We are already in talks with the European Commission to make sure that local fishermen don't suffer because of what was revealed today."

Environment Minister José Herrera said that while he couldn't speak for all allegations, this time, an immediate suspension seemed like the appropriate response.

"It's not possible for me to sack someone anytime names are mentioned in a blog. In Republic street I hear a million stories and perhaps only one of these would be true. But in this case we have interceptions of phone conversations. I presume someone innocent until proven guilty, yes, but it is now up to the authorities to decide," Herrera said.

PN MP Edwin Vassallo, in reply to Herrera's ministerial statement, loudly proclaimed that the government was not consistent if Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM's Chief of Staff Keith Schembri had retained their office.

"If the government can be stern with small-fry, why doesn't he use the same criteria with ministers and government officials?" Vassallo said.