The Malta Independent 8 March 2021, Monday

TMIS Editorial: A Parliamentary travesty

Sunday, 17 January 2021, 11:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

What we witnessed on Wednesday with Gavin Gulia’s lightning-fast resignation from Parliament was a slap in the face of our democratic system.

It was a devious chess game played by the Labour Party to save face and avoid having a former PL Mayor-turned Nationalist and, indeed, one of its own members, from taking one of its seats in the House.

Gulia chose to relinquish the privilege of representing the people in the highest political forum to retain his lucrative Malta Tourism Authority Chairmanship. He said he was asked to stay on at the MTA by Prime Minister Robert Abela in a communication that, he would have us believe, took place just minutes before he took the oath.

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Soon after he was elected on Tuesday, Gulia said he would give up his MTA chairmanship and that he would strive to be a good Member of Parliament. A little over 24 hours later, he did the exact opposite.

The resignation happened so fast that even the Department of Information got confused. In fact, it announced Gulia’s resignation from the MTA a full hour after he said he was staying on. The entire thing was a farce.

So why did he contest in the first place?

The answer is simple. As this newsroom revealed, Prime Minister Robert Abela made him contest the casual election in a bid to keep Charles Azzopardi and Jeffrey Pullicino out of Parliament.

That much is understandable because the Labour Party did not want someone who now holds a lifetime PN membership to take its vacant seat in the House.

But once Gulia was elected as a representative of the people, he should have retained his seat and served as an MP.

If he wanted to retain his MTA job, which comes with a hefty salary and a chauffeur-driven car, he should have refused to contest the casual election.

Furthermore, he should never have told the media at the counting hall that he intended to resign from the MTA if he really did not mean it.

Gulia said, during the short timeframe in-between his swearing in and resignation from Parliament, that the PM had, at the last minute told him to stay on at the MTA. But this newsroom was informed by Labour insiders that this was a done deal and an agreement had been reached before the actual vote-counting had started.

Whatever the case, Parliament and our democratic electoral system cannot and should not be used in a way that suits an individual’s, or a political party’s agenda. Gulia’s resignation and the manoeuvres employed by the PL are a betrayal of all those who voted for this particular candidate.

Some might say that such things happened in the past, like when PN MP Peter Micallef resigned minutes after being sworn in to cede his seat to Adrian Delia in 2017. But the circumstances then were different. For a start, Micallef had made his intentions clear before he was actually elected. And secondly, he gave up his seat so that the newly elected PN Leader could become and MP and take up his constitutional role of Leader of the Opposition.

What happened on Wednesday was a very different story. The PL did this to keep someone OUT of Parliament, and to give the seat to someone who did not even contest the election. We have since learnt that the seat will go to Oliver Scicluna but, with all due respect to him and without doubting his integrity and abilities, that seat should go to someone the people actually voted for.

This seems to be the style of Abela’s Labour. The PL has already co-opted two people to Parliament – Clyde Caruana and Miriam Dalli – after asking the eligible candidates not to contest the casual elections in October.

We all remember how harshly the PL had attacked Therese Comodini Cachia when, upon being elected to Parliament in the 2017 election she declared that she would rather stay on as an MEP. She was targeted then for choosing to retain the higher-paid option. And that criticism was justified.

But Comodini Cachia understood that her choice was hurting the people who voted for her and had the courage to reverse her decision and join the Maltese House of Representatives. The Labour Party, however, does not work in the same way.

Prime Minister Abela should not have used Gulia and thrown him away soon after as part of his scheming. He should stop taking us for fools and insult our intelligence by trying to convince us that he suddenly realised – after the election had taken place – that Gulia was much more needed at the tourism authority.

And Gulia should never have allowed himself to be used in this way.

What happened on Wednesday was very sad day for Maltese politics. It was truly a Parliamentary travesty.

 

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