The Malta Independent 14 April 2021, Wednesday

PL MPs say Hyzler went beyond legal remit, shouldn’t have probed journalist lock-up complaint

Jake Aquilina Monday, 1 March 2021, 18:19 Last update: about 2 months ago

Standards Czar George Hyzler went beyond his legal remit when he investigated a complaint about the 2019 journalist lock-up at Castille, two government MPs have claimed.

During a meeting of Parliament’s standards committee, ministers Byron Camilleri and Edward Zammit Lewis said Hyzler could not have investigated a complaint that was already under investigation by the police. They requested a ruling from the Speaker, asking him to declare the commissioner’s report to be invalid.

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They also said, in their request for a ruling, that the investigation was pointless since Muscat is no longer an MP.

During the same session, Speaker Anglu Farrugia also decided, using his casting vote, that Hyzler’s report will not be published for now.

The report, which concluded that the Office of the Prime Minister had breached ethics when it briefly blocked journalists from leaving after a 3am press conference, was handed over to the Speaker over two weeks ago. While the report has not yet been published, the fact that it was sent to the Speaker means that a breach of ethics has been found.

Last week, PN MP Karol Aquilina, one of the Opposition members on the ethics committee, accused his government counterparts of trying to delay the debate.

At the start of Monday’s sitting, Aquilina said the report should be published. A vote was taken, with both Aquilina and Therese Comodini Cachia voting in favour, and the two government MPs voting against.

The Home Affairs Minister, Byron Camilleri, argued that the report has already been “leaked” to the media.

The MPs then turned to the Speaker, who had the casting vote. Farrugia said that the committee will discuss the report before deciding whether to publish it, prompting complaints from the PN MPs.

Minister Camilleri then requested a ruling, saying that Hyzler’s report went ‘ultra vires’ since the case had been under investigation by the police. “No one believes in the Standards Commissioner as much as we do, but the commissioner has to act within the parameters of the law,” he argued.

The PN MPs argued that this ruling would render the function of the committee useless. The government, they said, wanted a situation where the committee would not even get to discuss the report. The Speaker said he will deliver a ruling at a later stage. The discussion continued behind closed doors.

In a statment, the Nationalist Party said the government is still defending Joseph Muscat.

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