The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Updated: Cassola asks Standards Commissioner to investigate Muscat’s diplomatic passport

Thursday, 16 March 2023, 07:55 Last update: about 13 months ago

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola has asked the Standards Commissioner to investigate why Prime Minister Robert Abela chose to allow his predecessor Joseph Muscat to retain and use his diplomatic passport when he is no longer an public official or a government representative.

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was allowed to retain his diplomatic passport under the terms of the severance package which he received when he resigned from the post of Prime Minister.

In his letter to the newly-appointed commissioner Joseph Azzopardi, Cassola described this as “an unheard of misuse of power”. A diplomatic passport is retained and used by officers of the Maltese state or persons working on diplomatic missions for the Maltese authorities. Joseph Muscat is neither of the two, Cassola contended. 

It is also objectionable that Joseph Muscat who is now in private business, should benefit from the continued use of that diplomatic passport (a public "good") to benefit privately and individually.

In view of this I would ask you to investigate whether the Prime Minister Robert Abela is breaching the Code of Ethics by not withdrawing the use of the diplomatic passport by Joseph Muscat

Allowing this retention and use to this day is in breach of law and the duty of objectivity and accountability, Cassola said.

He said there is a breach of Paragraph 7.9 of the Code of Ethics (which has been allowed by Prime Minister Abela to this day). This states: 7.9 When a Minister terminates his appointment, he shall return to the Cabinet Secretary all the documents, material and resources that were given and entrusted to him in order to perform his duties. As customary, it is within the Prime Minister’s discretion to permit to ex-Ministers reasonable access to documents and material concerning the period during which they held ministerial office.   

It is questionable whether a diplomatic passport falls under the definition of  "documents and material" in this Paragraph, but even if it were - it is not "reasonable" for Prime Minister Abela to allow a former Prime Minister to retain access of a diplomatic passport for more than 3 years after he has left office. This is a continuing breach of this paragraph and therefore not time barred, Cassola said.

 In a statement later in the day, Cassola said that he then found out that Joseph Muscat had himself granted Lawrence Gonzi a diplomatic passport. 

He was reacting to a MaltaToday article which read that former prime minister Lawrence Gonzi also has a diplomatic passport.  "My wife and I hold a diplomatic passport at the pleasure of the Malta government - not part of the severance package. It proves useful especially when on official business such as when I was on official assignments on behalf of the Commonwealth Secretariat, or participation at EPP summits or at other international group meetings of which I am an active member. I am presently in London attending such a meeting," he told MaltaToday.

"Pleasure of the Malta government, my foot," Cassola said. "Granted that Gonzi, unlike Muscat, has not frequented assiduously a person he knew to be a suspected assassin, he is abusing of his past position. In democratic countries only those travelling on official government business can hold Diplomatic passports. And wives holding it too...is preposterous. Muscat, Abela and Gonzi are three prime ministers who are abusing of the power they hold or held," Cassola said.


 

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