Busuttil claims oil scandal is ‘smokescreen’ for high fuel prices

Opposition leader says main concern of people is high price of fuel and petrol in Malta

Photos by Ray Attard
Photos by Ray Attard

The Opposition leader Simon Busuttil is claiming that news broken in MaltaToday that the state-pardoned oil trader George Farrugia was still securing gifts for government officials after 2005, was a “smokescreen” deviating attention from the expensive fuel prices on the market.

Malta is currently experiencing the highest price of petrol and diesel in the EU.

“The real issue here is the cost of diesel and petrol,” Busuttil said, whose party yesterday launched a website that shows the public the rate of fuel price increase.

Simon Busuttil was the main guest on Saviour Balzan’s Reporter, aired on PBS.

Busuttil said that if the government were to feel that the presidential pardon is being abused, it could always remove it. However he was not hopeful. “Two years have passed and nobody new has been arraigned in connection with the oil scandal.”

Busuttil however insisted that the government had not yet even published its hedging contracts, hypothesising that for all the pubic knew, government may be pocketing the entire difference.

Busuttil underlined his mission as PN leader to rebuild his party anew, having changed his frontbenchers and announced a new shadow cabinet that includes new MPs and also MEPs as shadow ministers, while former ministers from the Gonzi cabinet will now be backbenchers.

“I did not throw anyone away. I created ten teams, approached 10 people and asked them to be the new faces of the PN. My only intention is to change the people.”

Busuttil said the reshuffle was “not simply a change of faces” but a change in form and structure of his shadow cabinet, with a view to transforming the Opposition into a viable alternative party ahead of the next general elections.

“There is the question of renewal, but also the need for a new style of politics in Malta. The Opposition should not only speak about issues government speaks about, but also about what we as an opposition think are important. Take democracy for example: today government announced a parliamentary debate on the contract on the sale of the power station, BWSC and Enemalta; but the government is insisting that it will not publish any documents on the sale. This affects democracy.”

Busuttil also claimed that the PN’s new website - http://dieselupetrol.com - had been blocked on government servers. “Then they unblocked it with a lot of excuses,” Busuttil said referring to an incident in which a government firewall prevented the page from loading on civil service computers.

Frans Ghirxi, the former editor of Labour-leaning newspaper L-Orizzont, chipped in to say that the Opposition had to admit its errors.

“Simon Busuttil had a hand in the electoral programme of 2013. After becoming leader, he tried giving the impression that the electorate had taken a wrong decision and yet he kept the same shadow Cabinet right up until the MEP election, with the same result.”

Ghirxi conceded that Busuttil’s reshuffle was a sign that change was underway while lawyer Joe Giglio, who is heading PN working group on home affairs reforms said that the reshuffle showed all PN members participating. “Ten groups of people working together as sub-teams that work together – this is a new approach to politics, it includes everyone and no one is excluded. This is not musical chairs because in that game, someone is always left out. The second thing that struck me is the substance of the change in the sense we are dealing with subjects in a new way.”

Giglio applauded the inclusion of MEPs as shadow ministers, whom he said will bring a long-overdue European dimension to politics.

Busuttil said MEPs Roberta Metsola, Therese Comodini Cachia and David Casa could still contribute by being shadow ministers on the same subject as their competence in Brussels. “When we need someone to speak in Parliament in Malta, there are other group members, hence the groups… When the moment arrives, yes, we will consider them for the general elections in Malta.”

Surveys

Busuttil also remarked on MaltaToday surveys showing that half of the switchers in the last election who voted for Muscat will not be voting for the Labour PM again.

Busuttil is still suffering from a 15-point trust gap with Muscat, even after the dismissal of home affairs minister Manuel Mallia over the Sheehan shooting incident.

But he was in no doubt as to the implications of the incident, saying that the gravity of the attempt to cover up the actions of Mallia’s personal driver was that the government chose to hide the truth rather than bring it to light.

“The people have made their choice, which I respect, and so far they do not feel that there is a reason to change it. There is still time and I am determined to give the people a choice and a good choice at that. One doesn’t stop a marathon runner midway asking if he thinks he will arrive at the finish line – that would be premature,” he said.  

Referendum

In his last comment, Busuttil said, “We are going to let the people decide in liberty. I personally had fought for the derogation, and will be voting in favour of keeping it.”

Reporter airs every Monday at 20:40 on TVM2, with a repeat at 21:55 on TVM.

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