The Malta Independent 26 June 2022, Sunday

TMID Editorial: Rosianne Cutajar’s package

Friday, 18 March 2022, 09:27 Last update: about 4 months ago

When politicians make mistakes and are forced to resign in shame, they should not be given a termination package.

This, in a nutshell, is what should happen in a normal country.

But this is not what is happening today, and arguments that we are not living in a normal country are therefore more than justified.

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Rosianne Cutajar resigned from parliamentary secretary in February 2021 after an investigation by the Standards Commissioner over a failed property deal involving Yorgen Fenech, who is now accused of being a mastermind in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The commissioner had ruled that Cutajar had breached ethics when she acted as a broker and had “more likely than not” received a €46,000 fee. The commissioner had also found that she had failed to declare a €9,000 gift from Fenech.

A few days ago we learned that, after her resignation, she had received €28,000 as a terminal package, as per practice for ministers and parliamentary secretaries who resign.

So, to say it bluntly, she was rewarded for her breach of ethics. She resigned in shame, an embarrassment to herself and her political party, and yet she pockets €28,000 for this.

She was not even “punished”, as one will remember that after Parliament’s Standards Committee had voted in favour of a reprimand, the letter she had received from the Speaker of the House of Representatives was one that informed her about the committee’s decision, but did not actually include a harshly-worded reprimand. To make matters worse, two months later she was appointed as president of Parliament’s health committee.

No punishment, but a reward and an appointment for breaching ethics.

It must also be recalled that former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat also received a termination package, more lucrative than Cutajar’s (€120,000), and this after being forced to resign after his office was linked to Caruana Galizia’s murder.

And then some people wonder why we complain about the culture of impunity that exists on these islands.

Prime Minister Robert Abela now tells us that he is not happy with this situation. On Wednesday, he indicated that such termination packages should not be given to ministers and parliamentary secretaries who resign in circumstances similar to those of Cutajar – that is, after being found guilty of a breach, whatever that may be.

Abela blamed the Nationalist Party, saying that such a practice was introduced when the PN was in power. What is wrong, is wrong whoever introduced it.

But now we hold Abela to his word, and expect him to take action to stop all this. It is more than likely that Abela will still be Prime Minister in the next legislature, and so we expect him to put the change he is promising among his priorities.

“We must see how to make things better,” Abela said when asked about this on Wednesday.

Making them better, for us, means that no politician should be given a termination package if he or she resigns after a breach.

More than this, any such politicians should face the consequences of their mistakes, not get appointments.

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