The Malta Independent 17 August 2022, Wednesday

The Speaker’s sins

Kevin Cassar Sunday, 5 December 2021, 10:33 Last update: about 10 months ago

“I have no names to give”. This was Speaker Anglu Farrugia committing perjury at the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry.

In an interview he gave to Pierre Portelli in 2017 Anglu Farrugia stated that “big businessmen and contractors who wield power in the country are close to the (Labour) party.”  “I know they are close with people involved in the Labour Party’s finances,” he declared categorically.

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But when he came before the inquiry, under oath, he failed to co-operate. He refused to name names. The inquiry board asked him direct questions - who were the people he claimed he saw going into Labour headquarters’ fourth floor?

“Please identify people,” the board requested. “Can you give us hard facts, can you give us names?”, they asked Farrugia.  But the Speaker evaded their questions every time.  “Answer the question,” he was repeatedly told. Farrugia ignored them.  In desperation the board even offered him the option of revealing names of people he saw on the fourth floor behind closed doors. “There’s no need,” he deviously replied. “I have no names to give”.

Farrugia had taken an oath - to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Instead he broke that oath. He didn’t tell the whole truth. On the contrary, Farrugia was concealing the truth. He was actively perverting the course of justice by withholding information he possessed and by failing to co-operate with the inquiry board. He actively hindered the board from fulfilling its duty.

Why would he do such a thing?

The reason for Anglu Farrugia’s obstruction of justice was revealed in that 2017 interview.  “One of the conditions for my silence was that neither Joseph Muscat nor the Labour Party should speak out”. Farrugia had entered into a pact of secrecy with Joseph Muscat after Muscat forced him to step down as deputy party leader.

When Muscat revealed he had been in touch with Farrugia after his forced resignation, Farrugia was incensed.  He accused Muscat of breaking their secret pact. “Who broke the agreement?”, Farrugia was asked.  “Joseph Muscat,” he replied.

In retaliation for Muscat’s indiscretion, Farrugia gave his damning interview. He was sending Muscat a clear message.  “This cruelty needs to be addressed by the same person who took the decision,” he declared. This was Farrugia warning Muscat - I am ready to uncover more revelations about your lurid deals with “big contractors and business moguls”. At the right price however, I am ready to renew our pact of silence.

So Muscat made Anglu Farrugia Speaker. Within a few short months of publicly announcing that Muscat had metaphorically shot him six times in the back, Farrugia sold his silence once more. That secret deal was not in the nation’s interest. But Farrugia stuck to it. That deal benefitted both Muscat and Farrugia enormously.

The Speaker actively harassed the Leader of the Opposition. He reported his driver to the police on trumped up accusations of abusing fuel entitlement. The police immediately requested a magisterial inquiry.  That inquiry completely exonerated the driver but only after long months of humiliating suspension and negative publicity for the Leader of the Opposition.

Joseph Muscat was well pleased with the Speaker’s performance. He deserved another reward, one that would surely keep him on side.   Before being eligible for the post, Anglu Farrugia’s daughter was nominated Magistrate.

Farrugia was over the moon. But he was now under enormous obligations to Muscat who had faced off critics of his daughter’s magisterial appointment.  Farrugia would return Muscat the favour, a thousand times.

In October 2018, Farrugia prevented Simon Busuttil from asking questions about Keith Schembri - whether he owned a Dubai or Pilatus bank account. The Speaker bizarrely decided this was not in the public interest. “Parliamentary questions must have a factual basis and not seek confirmation of media rumors,” Farrugia daftly commented.

He prevented Karol Aquilina from asking whether Muscat would publish the Egrant report and who had access to the full version. “Such questions are not relevant within parliament,” the Speaker ruled.

In November 2019 Farrugia rejected a request by the leader of the opposition for an urgent debate on political implications of the developments in the Caruana Galizia investigation. Farrugia unbelievably decided that a parliamentary discussion “might jeopardize the case”.

When Muscat held journalists in Castille against their will, Farrugia decided that the parliamentary standards commissioner had exceeded his power by investigating and should not have investigated Muscat. He refused to summon Muscat before the Standards Committee when he was found guilty of breaching ethics when he abusively awarded Konrad Mizzi an 80,000 euro consultancy after he was forced to resign. When Muscat was again found guilty of ethics breaches by accepting lavish gifts from 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech, Farrugia ruled that former MPs should not face sanctions - shielding Muscat from punishment.

He turned down a motion to convene parliament to discuss a no-confidence vote in Justice Minister Zammit Lewis after the content of his chats with Yorgen Fenech were revealed. The Speaker falsely claimed that there was no urgency since “the details reported have been in the public domain for many months”. This was not the case - the existence of those chats was known but their content was not.

When in June 2020 a request was made to name a hall in parliament after Daphne Caruana Galizia, Farrugia spared Muscat further embarrassment by turning it down.  His pathetic excuse was that by refusing the request he was “upholding neutrality” and acceding to it “erodes impartiality”.

What is most shocking is not that Anglu Farrugia sold his silence to Muscat, but that not even a journalist’s brutal murder moved him to speak the truth and break his pact of secrecy. While his daughter benefitted from his sordid deal, somebody else’s daughter was blown up. That woman’s parents face the indignity of watching the Speaker not only disgracing their daughter by refusing to honour her but watch him perjure himself and hinder the inquiry into her assassination.

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