The Malta Independent 13 November 2018, Tuesday

Analysis – Election roundup Day 25 - A Prime Minister who is not at all serene

Stephen Calleja Saturday, 27 May 2017, 06:23 Last update: about 2 years ago

The Xarabank debate between the leaders of the two major parties did not disappoint.

There were accusations, denials, truths, lies, rebuttals, insinuations and so much more.

The revelations made on this portal an hour before the debate began took pride of place, as the Opposition Leader pounced on the news to inflict more damage on the Prime Minister, whose only defence was that the report was “incorrect”.

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The TMI report said that investigations by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) reveal the transfer of money from a company connected to Armada Floating Gas Services Malta, owners of the LNG tanker berthed in Marsaxlokk, to a Dubai-based company created for the purpose of transferring kickbacks to then Minister for Energy Konrad Mizzi and Prime Minister Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.

The PM was flustered by this, and became even more so when Simon Busuttil “published” reports that he presented in court which led to the opening of two magisterial inquiries against the OPM chief of staff. The reports were published in full on the PN’s media as Dr Busuttil was speaking about them.

The Prime Minister’s reply was to attack Busuttil on some commission he said Busuttil took when he worked as a lawyer many years ago, regurgitated the same accusations about Beppe Fenech Adami he has been making for months, and said Mario de Marco has a company in Cyprus, an allegation Dr de Marco immediately denied.

But, apart from the talk on what the two parties are proposing and the above attacks, what was easily understood is that the more time passed, the more Joseph Muscat became aggressive, literally and rudely pointing his fingers in the direction of the Opposition Leader and, more than once, attacked him on a personal level with repeated references to “sweaty hands”, a condition over which Dr Busuttil has no control.

This exposed a Prime Minister in a corner, as he failed to deflect yesterday’s fresh revelations whereas his own accusations did not carry too much weight.

On the other hand, the Opposition Leader had the upper hand with the FIAU reports and the documents he presented to the magistrate, which he chose to unveil in the presence of the Prime Minister. I had the hunch he was going to do so when he failed to reply to a direct question I asked him during the recording of the programme INDEPTH, which will be uploaded on this portal later today.

More than what was said, it is the body language, pitch of the voice and attitude that gave away a lot yesterday. In this score, Busuttil remained calm all throughout whereas the Prime Minister, sensing that his message was not coming across and that his counterpart held the trump cards, became increasingly close to losing his temper.

He is not as serene as he portrays himself to be.

The rest of the day was relatively quiet, with Joseph Muscat not involved in any public activity while Simon Busuttil holding one press conference to give more details on the metro transport system the PN is proposing.

Xarabank from The Malta Independent on Vimeo.

He took the opportunity to condemn the pressure he said Muscat placed on Magistrate Aaron Bugeja during a TV programme the previous night, and he was echoed by the Chamber of Advocates who, in a statement, said that what the PM had said “constituted inappropriate pressure” on the magistrate.

 

Another constituted body, the Chamber of Commerce was equally scathing in a statement saying that it was concerned with the growing levels of uncertainty arising from the failure of some of our key national institutions.

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