The Malta Independent 18 October 2021, Monday

Motion of no confidence in Konrad Mizzi does not go through, 31 in favour, 36 against

Helena Grech & Gabriel Schembri Wednesday, 4 May 2016, 16:08 Last update: about 6 years ago

A five-hour Parliamentary debate on Independent MP Marlene Farrugia’s motion of no confidence in no-portfolio Minister Konrad Mizzi has was defeated in Parliament this evening, with 31 MPs voting in favour and 36 against.

Dr Mizzi abstained from voting, while PL deputy leader Louis Grech was not in the House for medical reasons. The two independent MPs, Marlene Farrugia and Giovanna Debono, voted in favour of the motion.

The debate was characterised by Opposition MPs speaking about the failures of the minister, while government MPs defended the government's achievements. 

Former Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi admitted, together with the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, to have opened a company in the financially secretive jurisdiction of Panama, held by a trust in New Zealand.

21:04 Independent MP Marlene Farrugia said that MPs hold their position in order to benefit the lives of all Maltese and Gozitan.

“Government Whip Godfrey Farrugia’s speech was one of the best I’ve heard in Parliament,” she said. Dr Farrugia spoke of the national conscience that both her and her husband felt, and how they both dreamt of the movement which grew prior to the last general election.

“This is why Godfrey Farrugia was close to tears tonight. Government MPs were called here today by the Prime Minister to give their stamp of approval for this new norm. These norms are not acceptable and not what we fought for before the last election,” she said.

“Million-euro contracts, guaranteed through tax payers’ money, remain unpublished. The power station was supposed to be ready in two years. Have you no shame? Do you know how cheap oil has become?”

She praised Tourism Minister Zammit Lewis for tabling the Memorandum of Understanding signed with regard to Air Malta.

“The worst is that for every project that comes to Malta, people are wondering how much will go into the piggy-bank. This is the whole reason we are here today. Konrad Mizzi was removed from Deputy Leady of the Labour Party. Does that mean that he is not good enough for the Labour Party but good enough for Malta?”

“Konrad Mizzi cannot be part of this Cabinet, especially in light of the big projects coming our way. How can we appear in front of other governments with this stain?”

“The more an economy grows, the more responsibility a Minister must shoulder, it does not provide for a Minister to hide from the public. This is the public sentiment.”

"The fact that Konrad Mizzi did not resign on his own proves that his pursuit of power is greater than his drive to help Malta," she said.

In the name of Maltese patriots who built the Labour Party, who built this country, support Malta today. Think of the young people looking for guidance, show them that these new norms are not acceptable. Be clear that you stand by the people,”

"Viva Malta!" she concluded.

20:50 Minister for Foreign Affairs George Vella said that the attitude by the government is apologetic, positive and humble, and how this contrasts with the attitude by the Opposition.

He mentioned Minister Evarist Bartolo and whip Godfrey Farrugia and how their speeches were emotional.

Dr Vella said that political correctness during the government led by Alfred Sant was very strict. "But the Opposition is ready to take any advantage possible to tarnish the government's reputation."

He said that the PN seems to be living in a different world, as they still insist that the utility bills were not lowered by this government.

"In his speech, Beppe Fenech Adami mentioned, more than once, the word corruption. But he failed to give concrete example. I challenge him to mention concrete facts."

20:35 Finance Minister Chris Cardona noted that the motion presented by independent MP Marlene Farrugia is being discussed in the shortest time possible. He said that nationalist MPs such as Tonio Fenech cannot speak about good governance.

"The time when Ministers used to disgrace the country's highest institution is over. Today, the public is getting used to a style of politics which convinces."

He mentioned the American University of Malta project as an example that this government listens to what the public has to say. 

20:25 Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said that the government will always have to face challenges, but it is the way these challenges are addressed which distinguishes one leader from another.

He compared the current Prime Minister with the leaders of previous administrations. "Joseph Muscat is a leader who is not afraid to take necessary decisions."

Dr Bonnici said that the Opposition's claim that attempts to open accounts in Panama could lead to money laundering, is incorrect. "All those who have legitimate accounts abroad, should listen to the speech by Claudette Buttigieg, as she made this allegation." 

20:14 Parliamentary Secretary Deborah Schembri said Konrad Mizzi was humble enough to apologise, something which the local House of Representatives has never seen, she said.

She asked what will the Deputy Leaders of the Labour Party do, now that they saw how the Prime Minister was able to take a decision and now that Konrad Mizzi officially apologised.

"Will they also take the necessary action?" she asked.  

Dr Schembri said she could not understand how Simon Busuttil keeps saying that Konrad Mizzi did not deliver. "Who saved Enemalta? Who managed to lower our utility bills?"

19:56 Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the public wants clean politics but does not want the Leader of the Opposition.

He said that tonight's vote will not only be a sign of the government's political power, but a sign of humility, that this government is willing to listen to the people.

"Konrad Mizzi today did something which, as I can recall, was never done in Parliament," he said while referring to Konrad Mizzi's apology. 

Dr Muscat said that if Simon Busuttil claimed he agreed with the speech made by Minister Bartolo, than he should revoke the PN loan scheme because the Minister criticized it harshly. 

He lambasted the Leader of the Opposition for taking the moral high ground without taking action within his own party.

"The speeches by this side of the House, show our genuine and humble sentiment. We took clear decisions unlike the leader of the Opposition who stayed idle in front of Mario de Marco's case."

Dr Muscat described the reference to Leo Brincat by Simon Busuttil as 'disgusting', while government MPs shouted 'shame, shame.' He said that the Nationalist government did not remove the heavy fuel oil, because there were a lot of commissions involved.  

Referring to the online polls, Dr Muscat said that his leadership was not based on numbers. "If my decision on Civil Union was led by numbers, we would not have filed the bill in Parliament."

Meanwhile, Konrad Mizzi re-entered Parliament. 

19:13 Leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil started his address by declaring that the Opposition will be voting in favour of the vote of no confidence as filed by independent MP Marlene Farrugia.

He criticized Konrad Mizzi for his absence from the House of Representatives this evening. "If Konrad Mizzi had taken the responsible decision, we would not be debating this motion."

Dr Busuttil mentioned a surveys carried out by The Malta Independent and Time of Malta which all show that the public does not think that the government reshuffle provided a closure for the Panama scandal.

"People expect politicians to respect their intelligence. They expect that we do what the Prime Minister failed to do. The Prime Minister, after a long time, decided to take a decision. And he decided to keep Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri."

He said that today's vote can lead to Konrad Mizzi's sacking from Parliament and it's up to the MPs to decide his faith. The PN leader listed 10 reasons why the motion discussed tonight should pass. "The most basic reason is that what Mizzi did was plain and simply wrong. And to do such a thing right after the general election, makes it even worse."  

Dr Busuttil said that the Prime Minister has ignored the suspicions which arose from the correspondences between Mossack Fonseca, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri. "Why does it seem that it's just the Prime Minister who's ignoring all the suspicious signs? How can the Finance Minister ignore all this dirt within his government group?"

He alleged that there are serious suspicions of money laundering. "You cannot get all that money with the salary of Minister," he insisted.

The Leader of the Opposition said that Konrad Mizzi's mistake was only one of the latest in the past three years. He mentioned the employment of Mizzi's wife at a €13,000 salary each month. Busuttil also mentioned the lack of transparency in the contracts signed under his remit.

"The Prime Minister claims that Konrad Mizzi did not lie, but he did. And Muscat also insists that Konrad Mizzi delivers, but that's not true either."

He said he agrees with the speeches made by Minister Evarist Bartolo and government whip Godfrey Farrugia but would not understand how they would be voting against the non-confidence vote. 

18:55 Minister for Education Evarist Bartolo said that the last few months have been the most difficult in his long political career. "This is a very intimate and important moment. An occasion for our country to reflect, because we preach morals which sometimes are not practiced by politicians themselves."

He called on politicians and members of the civil society to reflect on their behaviour. "I am very curious how all of what happened will affect the next barometer on how the public views politics and the authorities," he said. 

Mr Bartolo said that in the last three years, this government already started to introduce a culture of better political responsibility and transparency. He mentioned the whistle blowers' act among other things. "Party financing law, unfortunately, has already been tarnished by the initiative of the PN loan scheme."

18:35 Deputy Leader of the Nationalist Party, Mario de Marco, started his speech by saying that the latest no confidence motion was characterised by speeches by government MPs who failed to mention the Panama scandal. Meanwhile, he said, Konrad Mizzi stayed on as Minister.

"We are members of Parliament because our ultimate loyalty lies with the people of this country."

He said that after all of these weeks and the multiple reasons given for the opening of a company in Panama, Konrad Mizzi is still holding the position as Minister.

"What Konrad Mizzi did does not only affect his reputation or that of the government, but it also affects the reputation of our country. The apology by Konrad Mizzi will not clean our reputation."

Dr de Marco said that his competence is not the issue of tonight's debate, "although his competence is not as top notch as the government likes to portray it", he said. "Somehow, the agreement with Socar is still a mystery. So is the agreement with Shanghai Electric." He said one cannot measure his competence because all of these agreements are not yet public.

De Marco insisted that the government is failing to give closure to the Panama scandal and insisted that the reshuffle was an insult to the public's intelligence. "Maybe, the Prime Minister would have made a better decision by doing nothing, instead of a farce reshuffle."

"Do we really believe that the reputation of our financial services sector is safeguarded by having Konrad Mizzi resigning from Deputy Leader of the Labour Party?"

18:23 Newly appointed Health Minister Chris Fearne spoke of the reductions of waiting-lists, out-of-stock medicines and other positive work undertaken by the Health Department.

“We will be conducting 50 procedures on Sundays, which is how we reduce waiting-lists,” he said.

“We increased the numbers of doctors and nurses in Emergency Departments,” he said, addressing Shadow Minister for Health Claudette Buttigieg and criticising her for getting her information from newspapers.

“I get my sources through facts,” he said, indirectly criticising the press.

He spoke of all the new equipment purchased for Mater Dei, which will improve the service rendered to all patients entering the state hospital.

Mr Fearne also made reference to the newly available medication which benefit all those suffering from diabetes. The patients' charter was also spoken of, which provides for government payment of patients' private medical procedures, after the agreed upon waiting times within state medical services has expired.

 

18:10 Parliamentary Secretary for EU funds and the EU presidency Ian Borg reiterated many of the positive measures undertaken by the current government.

He addressed Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil and said that the prices of energy will continue to remain low even if the international price increases.

He spoke of “the greatest political scandal in Maltese history,” referring to the insider trading oil scandal under the previous administration.

17:55 Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said that he understands the public’s preoccupation with this scandal, and expressed concern for Malta’s reputation within the international sphere.

“It is concerning when one looks at the government’s performance, especially in light of the European Commission of the spring report which speaks of robust growth,” he said.

“The Prime Minister took a decision, as he said he would do. Minister Konrad Mizzi came today – whether you agree or do not agree – and formally apologised to the House. He resigned from his post as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

“Today, it is important that after this debate –which should be dealt with in a serene way – we send the message that the person in question has shouldered political responsibility. We need to send the message that apart from legality, political correctness is also of paramount importance.”

He indirectly slammed Shadow Minister Marthese Portelli for criticising Minister Mizzi’s work in the energy sector, and said that this is not the point of this debate.

Dr Zammit Lewis said that while legal correctness is a priority, the government cannot rely on what is said by the Opposition, in particular PN Leader Simon Busuttil, because he lacks credibility.

He criticised the amount of time spent debating when to set the date for the previous motion of no confidence in Dr Muscat’s government. He added that a day was wasted when Parliament spent 13 hours debating the motion, instead of debating how to increase pensions, for example.

“Sullying Malta’s name abroad is unacceptable. Whatever we say between us in Parliament is acceptable and necessary, however ruining Malta’s reputation abroad is completely unacceptable.”

 

“We need to draw a line after today, and move forward. We need to send a message that in Parliament, seriousness and serenity reigns. We need to send a clear message that every member of Parliament is working for the good of the country.”

 17:35 Nationalist Party Deputy Leader Beppe Fenech Adami slammed Minister Konrad Mizzi for not having the decency of remaining inside the room while a debate regarding the Parliament’s confidence in him is being discussed.

“It is unacceptable that after 25 years in opposition, and after just five days in government, Konrad Mizzi began the process of setting up his Panama account. This is an insult.”

“The Maltese population is convinced that Konrad Mizzi new exactly what he was doing. It is not a coincidence that he opened it in Panama. He is not naïve, and it is no coincidence that he chose Panama out of all the countries in the world. He did this like the families of other corrupt politicians, like the daughters of his friend President Ilham Aliyev.”

He appealed Dr Mizzi not to continue to insult the intelligence of the population, and also appealed the House to stop repeating the same arguments which Malta has heard since this scandal broke.

“He was not naïve, and he knew exactly what he was doing. The same can be said for Keith Schembri [Prime Minister Muscat’s chief of staff].”

They employed a corrupt company, Mossack Fonseca, through Brian Tonna, who also has a desk inside the office of the Prime Minister, he continued.

He referred to the many “lies” said by Dr Mizzi in defence of this scandal, such as his declaration that the Panama company was set up to manage his property in London.

“Eight months after acquiring the company and the property has still not been held by the company.”

His home in Malta cannot be help by the company because of Dr Mizzi’s loan, he added.

Another lie, Dr Fenech Adami said, is that his rental income would be diverted to the Panama company, but this has not happened. 

“Everybody makes mistakes, but the nature of what Konrad Mizzi did shows that there were bad intentions,” he said.

Dr Beppe Fenech Adami made reference to the many reasons given for the acquisition of his Panama company as well as a bank account – which were recycling, igaming, brokerage and consultancy management.

He questioned in particular how Dr Mizzi planned to earn money on recycling and igaming.

He appealed to the government to approve this motion for the good of the country.

17:21 Government Whip Godfrey Farrugia said that this motion is valid and could lead to something positive.

“I am sure that everybody is in conflict with regard to this moment. I am facing a conflict of principles, and I am conflicted in my role as Government Whip.”

He said that everybody knows what he would do, were he to be in Dr Mizzi's situation.

He said that he wants to be nothing but a man for others like the Jesuits of St Aloysius and his parents taught him to be, he said emotionally.

“We all agree about political responsibility, and we also agree that in politics we need more humility. Konrad should have done better, and he has acknowledged this.”

“Do you know what the truth is? We attack the person and not the argument. The message is not that we should not be criticising heavily.”

“I would like to appeal for a new pact in ethical correctness, let us acknowledge the fact that our financial institutions’ credibility should not be called into question on the international stage.”

“I appeal for MPs to retain integrity and to look forward,” he concluded.

 

17:10 Shadow Minister for Health Claudette Buttigieg said that Dr Mizzi’s actions are tantamount to attempted money laundering, a punishable offence under Maltese law.

“Konrad Mizzi is laughing in the face of patients,” she said.  Referring to patients who are suspected to have cancer, she said that under the previous administrations, they would be seen to within two days. “Now they have to wait three weeks, which is time they do not have,” Mrs Buttigieg said.

“Waiting time to be seen by psychiatrists? Months. Waiting time for physiotherapists? Months,” Mrs Buttigieg said.

Mrs Buttigieg said that people are still waiting unacceptably long hours at the accident and emergency departments. She also said that the problem of patients being seen to in corridors has been ‘solved’ because the government had named these halls in order to conceal that they are not in actual fact wards. 

17:01 Minister Konrad Mizzi apologised to the House for the controversy which emerged through his actions.

“I had shouldered political responsibility through my removal of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. I also subjected myself to an independent audit, something nobody else has done.

“I accepted the Prime Minister’s decision as I do not want to be used as a distraction from the good work this government has been carrying out in the interest of Malta.

“I am ready to do my job as a Minister, and work serenely with full collaboration with my friends.”

Turning to Enemalta workers, Dr Mizzi said that while it was necessary to restructure, the government did not leave them high and dry and ensured they continued to work.

He went on to discuss the number of positive measures undertaken in the sectors of Health and Energy.  On sustainable ground water, he said that

“Till the end of this year we will have a 95 MW peak through alternative energy,” adding that EU 2020 goals will be reached – whereas previous administrations failed in this regard.

Out-of-stock medicines, reducing waiting lists, reingenireeng of the processing of patients into the emergency unit and the building of wards are just some of the positive measures he spoke of. 

“I pledge my loyalty to the prime minister, to the parliamentary group, and I will do my best to strengthen the unity within the Parliamentary group,” he concluded.

16:34 “Prime Minister, in politics, political correctness is everything,” Shadow Minister for Energy Marthese Portelli said in her opening address.

“For Minister Konrad Mizzi, political correctness refers to opening up a company in Panama in order to avoid paying tax, it refers to setting up a trust in New Zealand to avoid being traced and it also refers to setting the whole plan in motion just five days after he was elected to government,” she said.

She asserted that political correctness and ethics do not exist in the dictionary of either Minister Mizzi or Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Referring to Dr Mizzi’s pre-electoral presentation, Dr Portelli listed a number of promises which failed to come to fruition.

Starting off with Dr Mizzi’s statement that Enemalta will not be privatized – she pointed out that this is a lie, Shanghai electrics bought a minority stake.

“With regard to the gas power station, Dr Mizzi said that this would be crucial in order to utility bills to be reduced. This is a lie because the power station of Konrad Mizzi is nowhere to be found. You [Minister Mizzi] assured the public that and solid private investor would be brought into the gas power station.

“This is a lie or incompetence, because the leading investor in the consortium, chosen by you, was bankrupt, so much so that it had to leave the consortium and left the other members high and dry.”

She then spoke about how Dr Mizzi promised that the new power station would be fully paid for through private investment, however the Maltese and Gozitan population had to “make good” on this, through a state guarantee of €360 million.

“In the words of the Minister of Finance, this was unique and without precedence,” she continued.

Referring to an exclusive story published by The Malta Independent on Sunday, Dr Portelli said that this newsroom revealed how Gasol, a previous member of the Electrogas consortium has sold its shares on the same day that Dr Mizzi’s Panamanian company was transferred to him. "Gasol themselves said the power station would take five years, why did you [Dr Mizzi] say it would only take two years?"

Turning to the electoral programme, Dr Portelli said that while Dr Mizzi had said that businesses and industry in Malta are paying some of the highest energy bills in Europe, today an EU 2015 country report found that “electricity tariffs for medium-sized industries remain the highest in the EU, despite the reduction.”

“Minister Mizzi said that prices of petrol and diesel will be reduced to the lowest in the EU. This is not true, in the last year and a have we have been paying, on average, some the highest prices in Europe,” she said.

On the controversial hedging agreement, Dr Portelli said that this too is another lie and incompetence.

“In the report penned by the Auditor General, it was said that the involvement of Minister Mizzi cost the public €14 million. In addition to this, we still do not know what is contained within the contract because the government refuses to publish this.”

She questioned why Dr Mizzi has repeatedly refused to publish how much Malta is paying for the electricity bought through the interconnector between Malta and Siciliy.

“Where is the transparency? Is it true that you have purchased electricity for less than 5c/MW per hour?”

Dr Portelli continued by making reference to Dr Mizzi’s declaration that he would be publishing his plan for the EU 2020 objectives in relation to alternative energy. “This is another lie or incompetence because in 2013, Dr Mizzi said that he would be publishing his plan by the end of the year. 2013 has passed, so has 2014 and 2015, but we are still without a plan.”

“The only target dates you hit were your targets for your Panama company. You owe the public an apology, not just because of the legalities but the unethical behavior. It is about time you wake up and smell the coffee.”

She appealed to genuine Labour MPs to do the right thing.

 

  • don't miss