Cardona: Godfrey Farrugia’s resignation letter doesn’t seem like it was written by him

The economy minister said he was amazed by the letter because Farrugia had never raised any issues during with government or the Labour Party

Host Saviour Balzan (left),  minister Chris Cardona (centre) and PN deputy leader Mario De Marco (right)
Host Saviour Balzan (left), minister Chris Cardona (centre) and PN deputy leader Mario De Marco (right)

Economy minister Chris Cardona has said that he was amazed at the contents of the letter of resignation presented to the Prime Minister by former Labour Party whip Godfrey Farrugia.

Cardona was speaking during the programme XTRA on TVM together with PN deputy leader Mario De Marco.

The minister said that he knows Farrugia to be an honest, mature and sensible man and was surprised by his letter because he could not understand why he had never spoken about the issues raised in the letter during cabinet, parliamentary group or party meetings.

“With the biggest honesty, I can say that Godfrey Farrugia use to regularly contribute with good ideas. He would sometimes criticise, like everyone else, but the harshness of this letter doesn’t seem like it is by Godfrey Farrugia.”

De Marco responded by pointing out that Farrugia had mentioned in his letter his disapproval of the way in which the Panama Papers revelations were handled, with Cardona arguing that if this was the case, he would have expected Farrugia to write his letter last year.

The PN deputy leader said that the letter reflects the sentiment of many “genuine labourites” who find themselves unable to relate to the direction the Labour Party has taken.

“They feel betrayed by what is happening because they made a lot of sacrifices to see the PL elected to government,” he said.

Journalist and political commentator Frank Psaila, speaking on the phone, dismissed claims that Farrugia’s letter was somehow unexpected, adding that Farrugia had for a long time been dropping hints about the way he felt. He described Farrugia as one of the few courageous people to come out and say that “nobody is bigger than the Labour Party”.


Decision to hold a snap election

Cardona insisted that the decision to hold an election in a month’s time was taken by the Prime Minister solely on the basis of what is best for the country, adding that although the Prime Minister had not communicated a date, the Labour Party had been working on its electoral manifesto for over a year.

“I had started to feel, along with my colleagues, that the election was close,” said Cardona, adding that he had said that the Labour Party was ready for an election back in March.

De Marco stressed that the fact that Muscat had decided to call an election early, despite him having gone on record saying he would govern till the end of his legislature caused one to think that something had changed which caused the Prime Minister to go down an unprecedented route. He said it was clear that over the past weeks, the Prime Minister started to feel that his position was not as secure.

“For the first time, we have a Prime Minister that is the subject of an investigation,” he said, insisting that Muscat should have opted to resign until his name was cleared.  

Running through the allegations made against Muscat, De Marco said that a breakdown in the country’s institutions had taken place and the country was experiencing instability as evidenced by a number of declarations by different institutions and social partners.

Asked whether the PN was prepared for an election this soon, De Marco insisted that the it was.

“Knowing Joseph Muscat, we could anticipate that he was going to call an early election,” he said, while pointing out that the it was clear from newspaper editorials and opinion pieces that Muscat had taken a decision which suited him and not the country.

Mario De Marco
Mario De Marco

According to De Marco, a PN victory on 3 June was still a possibility, and this he said could be seen from MaltaToday’s latest survey.

“These four weeks will be crucial,” he said. “We have seen the Prime Minister’s trust rating fall to an all-time low and one must also consider the survey’s margin of error.”

It was also relevant to consider the fact that previous surveys by the newspaper had shown great concern about corruption among the electorate, he continued.

Cardona said that if one were to rely on the MaltaToday’s trust barometer, the Labour Party would still retain a comfortable lead, and that people clearly, still trusted Joseph Muscat more.

Pressed on the fact that Muscat’s approval had dropped in recent weeks, Cardona said that this was understandable given that the Prime Minister was having accusations levelled at him that were completely fabricated and intended to damage him.


Proof of Egrant allegations

Cardona once again insisted that the allegations being made about the Prime Minister and his family were a complete fabrication, while acknowledging that the current situation could have been avoided had the OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and then energy minister Konrad Mizzi been sacked.

Asked about what would happen no conclusive evidence were to be revealed, De Marco insisted there was already ample evidence to warrant resignations.

He insisted that the fact that it had been revealed that three companies - two of which belonged to Schembri and Mizzi – were revealed to have been set up by Nexia BT shortly after the election was damning enough, especially when one considers the proximity between them and the Prime Minister.

Moreover, he said that it was also a fact that the owner of Egrant was so important that Nexia BT employee Karl Cini had written to Mossback Fonseca saying he would be providing him with the third name over Skype, rather than by email. 

Chris Cardona
Chris Cardona

The testimony and evidence provided by a former Pilatus bank in recent days was another fact according to De Marco, who pointed out that the women had allegedly scanned copies of documents with the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat’s name on them.

“She also said she saw the transfer of funds from the bank account of the daughter of [Ilham] Aliyev to Egrant’s bank account,” he added.

Pressed on whether he believes the whistle-blower, De Marco would not give a direct answer however he insisted that the Prime Minister has given so many different explanations that the accusation can’t be viewed in isolation and must be “viewed within the wider context”.


Campaign slogans and electoral pledges

According the minister, the Labour Party’s slogan which loosely translates to “Malta’s best days” did not refer to the present, but rather was intended to highlight the fact that the government was only half-way through its vision for the country and that a second term for Muscat will see the country’s best days still ahead of it.

On whether the aspirational tone of the slogan would see people forget about accusations of corruption and bad governance Cardona stressed that one should not base their position on “lies and fabrications” made by PN leader Simon Busuttl.

“The question one needs to answer is who you want as Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat or Simon Busuttil,” he said.

As for the PN’s slogan, De Marco said that it reflected the fact that over the past year it had become clear that Muscat was choosing himself over the country.

He insisted that it was not “the best time” for the 100,000 or so people living in poverty, or close to the poverty line. Nor was it the best time for those still working under precarious conditions.

On the PN’s proposals for Gozo, De Marco said that they were a result of the fact that the Labour Party had made a considerable number of promises which it had not kept, including the promise to construct a cruise-liner terminal and better connectivity.

Moreover, he clarified that the PN’s pledge to offer €10,000 to those choosing to live in Gozo was aimed at young first-time buyers and would not be open to foreigners.

Moreover, he insisted that Labour’s pledge to repair all of the country’s roads was four years too late, pointing to the fact that more was spent on capital expenditure during the previous legislature.

Cardona defended the government’s proposal to give public holidays back to the people since, he said, the economy was doing well and could afford it.  He said the proposal had been discussed with stakeholders and insisted the government would be not push forward without proper consultation.


Alternattiva Demokratika and coalition talks with PN

Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) secretary general Ralph Cassar, also speaking by phone, said that the talks between AD and the PN had broken down because the PN was insisting on assimilation rather than a true coalition and that AD could not “betray” those who genuinely wanted to vote a third party.

On Egrant allegations, Cassar insisted that it was clear that people did not open companies in tax havens for family planning, and that the fact that the Prime Minister had kept Mizzi and Schembri by his side had compromised his position.

Cassar confirmed that AD would be fielding candidates on each district.