The Malta Independent 7 June 2023, Wednesday
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Watch - Panama Papers: PM has lost moral authority to govern, he should go - Simon Busuttil

Helena Grech Sunday, 10 April 2016, 15:13 Last update: about 8 years ago

The Prime Minister has lost the moral authority to govern the country, Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil today told thousands of people who gathered in front of the PM's office in Valletta. "In the name of all that is right, for our national interest, in the interest of the constitutional duty you have bound yourself to, leave, so that you do not cause further harm."

He was speaking at the end of a second national protest to be organised by the PN since the Panamagate scandal erupted. The PN is calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and the OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.

In his address, Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil said that five weeks after the first national protest against corruption, today we meet again for a national demonstration, showing our determination in the fight against corruption.

"We are more determined than ever before," he told the thousands present. "We have gathered here today, not as Nationalists, not as Labour supporters, but as Maltese, and because we are Maltese, if you tarnish the name of Malta, you are also tarnishing our name. Before me there are thousands of people. I see people whom I have never seen attend a political activity. We all have something in common, we are all concerned for Malta."

Unfortunately, our country has entered into a blind alley, he said. It is a dark alley of corruption, favouritism, discrimination, abuse of power and attacks against all those who presume to voice their opinion against the Government. Our country has entered into an alley of uncertainty, instability and wherever it goes, it has lost the good name it once had, Dr Busuttil said.

Our country is enduring scandal after scandal, which have been coming for the past three years. This latest scandal has impacted everybody, because there is a direct connection with the heart of Castille. In reality, the worst scandals which we have seen in the last three years all have one thing in common – Joseph Muscat.

The scandal of Australia Hall, Cafe Premier, the secret visit to Azerbaijan, Zonqor, the Gaffarena scandal and now, the company in Panama. All these scandals have either the signature or stamp of approval of Joseph Muscat, Dr Busuttil said.

Dr Busuttil made a list of what he said established facts that cannot be denied. "We know that Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri opened up secret companies in Panama, when they were already in power. Dr Mizzi was the only Minister of an EU member state involved. Keith Schembri is the only EU chief of staff implicated in the scandal.

We know that they tried to open bank accounts in Dubai, and they failed not for lack of trying, but because they did not manage to convince the bank that the money deposited do not come from corruption, he said.

We know that they wanted to deposit money into the bank accounts from brokerage services. Let me make this clear: when you are a Minister, and when you are Chief of Staff, you cannot earn money from brokerage without it stemming from corruption, the Opposition Leader said.

We have a Prime Minister who boasts that his is a salesman, and Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi boast that they are brokers: one sells and the other two receive earnings from brokering deals, Dr Busuttil said.

The attempt to open up a bank account is a clear sign that there is money; nobody sets up a bank account to leave it empty. A question is immediately raised – where is the money they wanted to put in Dubai?

Today we found out that three companies were actually opened in Panama, and so we ask: Prime Minister, who does the third company belong to? Dr Busuttil asked.

Today we got to know that Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri started the process to open up their companies in Panama five days after the election. The only roadmap they had was heading towards Panama. Before the election, they said that they would hit the ground running – and the first thing they did was rush off to open up companies in Panama.

What was the reaction of the Prime Minister to these facts? His first response, Dr Busuttil said, was giving a promotion to Konrad Mizzi as Labour Deputy Leader for Party Affairs, when he already knew about Dr Mizzi’s secret company in Panama. This means that instead of kicking him to the side, he gave him a promotion.

The Prime Minister's second reaction was to defend them for seven weeks. Instead of the Prime Minister becoming the prime defence against corruption, he has basically told us that he sees no problem about having companies in Panama. When they got caught out trying to set up bank accounts in Dubai, the Prime Minister told us that what was done was ‘standard enquiry.’ 

Is there anybody here who wakes up in the morning, and after drinking their coffee says, let me carry out a standard enquiry so that I set up an account in Dubai.

Can you imagine going home and finding a thief going through for things, and then the Prime Minister tells you that he does not see a problem: "That person is not a thief because he had not yet stolen anything, and he only entered your home to carry out a standard inquiry. Who do you think you are fooling Prime Minister?"

Today, instead doing what is expected of him for seven weeks and sent them packing, the Prime Minister continued to drag his feet and is heading to Lebanon to continue selling passports.

The two people caught out are not your average people. These are the closest people to the Prime Minister, Dr Busuttil said. They were chosen directly by the Prime Minister. They have offices inside Castille with the Prime Minister, they are involved in the biggest government decisions and they have negotiated the most important contracts over the last three years. None of these contracts have been published to date, they are hidden to this day.

For these reasons we are asking: what interest does Joseph Muscat have, which would make him defend them at all costs? This is why it is not just a question of removing Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, but it is a question of trust in the Prime Minister himself.

Just imagine, how can the Prime Minister sit down with other Prime Minister and defend the financial services sector if his own Minister has a secret company in Panama?

How can he lead the EU presidency with this shadow of doubt cast over him?

Like you, I am concerned, shocked and I cannot understand how, after only three years, we are talking about a lack of confidence in the Prime Minister. What is sure, is that we cannot continue like this and remain quiet.

And like me, all Malta and Gozo are concerned, shocked and angry. The anger is bigger for those workers who have had a reduction in waged. All those who are enduring precarious work – with contracts of just three months, all those pensioners who cannot keep up, all those who have entered into poverty and all those single mothers should be mad.

For this reason, our message to the Prime Minister today is this: You have lost all moral authority to lead us. In the name of all that is right, for our national interest, in the interest of the constitutional duty you have bound yourself to, leave, so that you do not cause further harm.

For this reason, last Thursday, in the name of the Opposition, I presented a vote of no confidence, not against Konrad Mizzi, but against the government of Joseph Muscat. We have put forward this motion so that we show that in Parliament there are those ready to reflect public sentiment. This does not mean that we want an early election.

Today, international media is following us. Our message to them is this: do not condemn Malta because of Joseph Muscat. The Maltese population is against corruption. If these are closing an eye to corruption, they are doing it in their name and not ours – not in our name.

The Labour Party has a majority in Parliament and it can continue to govern. It has two years left – but in the name of all that is right, for our national interest, choose a new leader who is not tarnished with the stain of corruption, the way that Joseph Muscat is.

We have strong values which make us Maltese and European. Honestly, truthfulness, clean politics, liberty, tolerance, transparency and responsibility are our values. One begins to understand why Joseph Muscat was against Europe, he does not share our values, Dr Busuttil said.

All in all, we are proud to be Maltese. We do not want anybody to make a fool of us, and show us disrespect. We want Malta’s name to be revered around the world. We did not work to push Malta forward, just for it to be brought to its knees in three years. We spent 30 years building Malta’s name.

"I would like to close by thanking everybody who responded to Malta’s calls. Thank you for giving a voice to the Maltese people, and showing that we want to live in a civilised country, a first world country. Thank you for acting exemplary in showing how to be the best in Europe. Look around you, look at the crowd. Even the Maltese people are capable of waking up and speaking out for what is right – the power of the people."

For this reason, in this country, we are re-awakening the immortal words of Ruzar Briffa: the crowd got up at once and shouted – We are Maltese! Pity who laughs at me and vilifies me, because who does not answer the call of the crowd is mistaken.

"I am here to give hope so that together we can get out of the alley.

"I am here to give you faith that together we can win back normality, tranquillity and stability. "I am here to tell them that we are on the right side. With reason we are a force of power, and together there is strength. I am certain that Malta will win back its normality.

Many of the protesters carried banners with the words "barra", which is a call for the resignation of both Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi, as well as that of OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri. Others had "issa daqshekk" (now it's enough), reminiscent of the GWU call durring the nationalist administration.

There are also huge balloons with the faces of the three people involved in this scandal - Muscat, Mizzi and Schembri.

Photos/videos Jonathan Borg and James Bianchi

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