PN MP Ryan Callus resigns from Lands Authority board

Nationalist MP Ryan Callus resigns from Lands Authority board, claiming regulator has been captured by the state

Nationalist MP Ryan Callus
Nationalist MP Ryan Callus

Opposition MP Ryan Callus appointed to the board of governors to the Lands Authority submitted his resignation on Tuesday.

In a letter to Transport Minister Ian Borg, Callus said that in the months that he had occupied his role on the Lands Authority board, he had become aware of the authority’s capture by the state.

“In my eyes, this is not an independent authority as the Opposition would expect of the administrator of our country’s lands.”

The board of governors of the Lands Authority was created as a part of the reform of the lands regulators, after the Old Mint Street scandal had forced the resignation of then Lands Minister Michael Falzon.

The former Lands Department was turned into a regulatory authority with a board of governors chaired by Judge Emeritus Lino Farrugia Sacco to oversee decisions taken by the authority.

This is the second PN MP to resign from a regulatory authority. On Sunday, Marthese Portelli resigned from her post on the Planning Authority Board, saying that the Planning Authority had been taken over by people who did not have the common good at heart.

In his resignation letter, Callus made reference to the bill that established Lands Authority in the previous legislature, where the Opposition had tabled the proposal that the lawyer, architect and auditor on the board of governors be appointed by the Chamber of Advocates, the Institute of Accountants and the Chamber of Architects respectively.

"This proposal was intended to grant further independence to the board of governors, but the government still appoints seven out of ten governors. The Lands Authority has once again turned into a department where the decisions are taken by the few, in the dark and far away from transparency," Callus wrote.

In a statement released by the PN, the Opposition claimed that Lands CEO, James Piscopo, is too close to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.  "In these circumstances, the PN felt it could not be an accomplice in manoeuvres intended solely for the benefit of the few to the detriment of the rest of the population."

In a reaction, transport minister Ian Borg accused the PN of damaging the institutions with political games. "The issue here is that the Opposition lacks credibility. Only on 29 October, during his speech in parliament, Callus disagreed with another Nationalist MP who said the parties should not have their representations on the planning and lands board, saying that as a board member he could ensure transparency. This declaration would have been made after the decision to hand over certain powers to the Lands Authority CEO of 9 August."