The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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Speaker turns down PN motion for urgent debate on Edward Scicluna

Albert Galea Monday, 13 May 2024, 19:12 Last update: about 12 days ago

Speaker Anglu Farrugia has turned down a Nationalist Party motion for an urgent debate focusing on the position of Central Bank governor Edward Scicluna and Economy Ministry Permanent Secretary Ronald Mizzi.

The decision came after the Speaker spent almost an hour and a half deliberating on the request, which was the PN’s third such request related to the hospitals inquiry which has rocked the country in recent weeks.

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Edward Scicluna is among those to be charged with fraud and misappropriation in connection with the hospitals deal. 

He was Finance Minister between 2013, when the Labour Party came to power, and November 2020 when he stepped down.  He was appointed Governor of the Central Bank in January 2021, a post he still holds.

Since being charged he has faced calls to step down, but unlike Chris Fearne – who on Friday stepped down from Deputy Prime Minister and EU Funds Minister – he has held onto his post.  Scicluna is yet to comment publicly about the charges against him.

Permanent Secretary Ronald Mizzi is another facing charges in connection with the hospitals deal.  He continues to hold his post as Permanent Secretary of Silvio Schembri’s Economy Ministry.  He had previously served as the Permanent Secretary in ministries which Konrad Mizzi – who is charged with money laundering, fraud and corruption – led.

The PN’s motion sought to discuss the lack of a resignation of both Scicluna and Ronald Mizzi, with Grech telling Parliament that the Maltese and Gozitan people have the right to not have people accused of very serious criminal offences occupying the post of Central Bank governor and Permanent Secretary.

A request for an urgent debate under Parliament’s Standing Order 13 must be deemed to be defined, urgent, and of national importance.  In his ruling on the matter, the Speaker said that there was no doubt that the matter was defined and of national importance, but debated on its urgency.

He particularly noted that because the subject matter of the motion is treating persons who are now facing legal proceedings and have yet to file a claim on the charges they face, there could be issues which may prejudice those proceedings.

Farrugia said that as Speaker he had no guarantee that the debate can be controlled from not prejudicing the judicial process, any ongoing investigations, and the right to fair hearing of the accused.

He cited a Constitutional Case dating back to 2003, where former chief justice Noel Arrigo and former judge Patrick Vella  who at the time were facing charges of receiving bribes were found to have had their rights breached by words used by the then Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami in a news conference on the case.

“While understanding the need to debate this matter, the Speaker doesn’t see how the House can discuss this matter while it is still pending and while the two people in question have not even pronounced themselves on the case,” Farrugia said as he rejected the motion.

PN leader Bernard Grech “noted with displeasure” that once again the Maltese and Gozitan people “who own the three hospitals and who have been robbed of 400 million” are not being given the opportunity to hear a debate on this matter.

“What is the Prime Minister afraid of?  He is afraid of discussion, of the people, of the truth, and this Parliament cannot discuss the truth which is affecting our country,” Grech said.

Prime Minister Robert Abela was not in the House when the ruling was handed down.

This was the third motion in connection with the hospitals scandal that the PN filed in a week: the party has already tried to get an urgent discussion on the publication of the hospitals inquiry, and has also tried to get an urgent debate on Chris Fearne’s position – prior to his resignation on Friday.

Both times, the Speaker denied the request. Grech went as far as alleging that the former denial had been done on the instruction of the Prime Minister, a charge which the Speaker vehemently denied.

Responding to the PN’s motion prior to the House being adjourned, Abela said that the PN was trying to turn Parliament into a forum to discuss pending legal proceedings, which may jeopardise the cases and the rights of the accused.

He blasted Grech, saying that after a week accusing him of attacking the institutions, the PN leader was now doing the exact same by attacking the Speaker.

Abela was interrupted by shouts from the opposition benches, and he then accused an unnamed person from the PN’s side, saying that this MP had alleged that Abela was part of a criminal organisation.  He demanded that the remark be withdrawn, but Farrugia suspended the sitting to take a decision on the motion.

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