Former health minister Joe Cassar has resigned from Parliament in the wake of his revelations about his connection with the Gaffarena family.
In a rare move in Maltese politics, Dr Cassar said he was giving up his parliamentary seat because of the ferocious attack on his character which put pressure on him and his family.
“If politics has plummeted to these levels, I am not willing to be part of it. I entered politics to help others and not to face character assassination,” he said.
Dr Cassar categorically denied doing anything wrong or illegal but said he was taking steps because he did not want to continue to be used as an excuse to damage the Nationalist Party and leader Simon Busuttil.
“While I am leaving political life, I will defend my name against all accusations made, through all the legal means.”
If politics has plummeted to these levels, I am not willing to be part of it
In his reply, Dr Busuttil said he understood Dr Cassar’s decision which was respectful and admirable. He thanked him for his work in public life along the years.
Dr Cassar allegedly permitted works at his home to be paid for by businessman Joe Gaffarena. Mr Gaffarena allegedly paid €8,150 for the works including the construction of a staircase and garden landscaping. Dr Cassar was also allegedly given a car as a gift by Mr Gaffarena for his 18-year-old daughter. Dr Cassar said he had paid for the car by donating €1,000 to the PN.
The former minister resigned as Opposition spokesman for culture last Sunday after Malta Today reported the story.
Dr Busuttil held a press conference yesterday to throw down the gauntlet to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to dismiss Michael Falzon over the parliamentary secretary’s role in the controversial expropriation of half a building in Valletta from Joe Gaffarena’s son.
The Nationalist Party published three letters (see pdf link below) from Dr Cassar to the House of Representatives and to Opposition leader Simon Busuttil. It also published a letter sent from Dr Busuttil to Dr Cassar.
PN SAYS IT IS SETTING STANDARDS IN POLITICS
In a statement, the Nationalist Party said it was again setting standards in politics.
The party thanked Dr Cassar for his service and for setting new standards through his decision.
While the Nationalist Party took action in a matter of days, the Labour Party had been dragging its feel for months to take action against Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon.
RESIGNATION CONFIRMS SIMON BUSUTTIL'S WEAKNESS - PL
The Labour Party said the resignation confirmed Dr Busuttil's weakness in not taking the decision he should have taken over the past weeks.
Dr Busuttil, the PL said, was still defending Dr Cassar who, as a minister, had accepted a gift from businessman Joe Gaffarena.
This, the PL said, was another case in which Dr Busuttil was defending a blatant breach of the code of ethics by the people around him.
It was the tip of the iceberg when one saw the type of people surrounding Dr Busuttil, the PL said.
THE ONLY HONOURABLE WAY OUT - AD
Alternattiva chairman Arnold Cassola said Dr Cassar took the only possible honourable way out.
"He did well to stop trying to justify himself in what was definitely totally unacceptable behaviour when he accepted payment by others for works in his house which amount to nearly €8,000.
"We are often getting stories about Maltese politicians from both parties in Parliament who were or are still involved in deals with certain big business people whose philosophy is 'make hay while the sun shines' and who, in fact, are ending up influencing political decisions, even of national importance.
"The time has come for a real clean up in Maltese politics," Prof. Cassola said.
Speaker Anglu Farrugia this evening tabled Dr Cassar’s resignation letter. He called on the clerk to inform the President of the resignation so that the procedure for a casual election to fill the seat Dr Cassar had vacated would be embarked up.
During the adjournment, Nationalist MPs George Pullicino and Antoine Borg also referred to Dr Cassar’s resignation.
Mr Pullicino said that without going into the merit of the case, Dr Cassar was clear, he did not do anything illegal and would be taking action to defend his name.
He thanked Dr Cassar on behalf of the Nationalist parliamentary group and genuine Maltese people for his work as a minister and an MP.
Mr Borg said Dr Cassar and his family had gone through a difficult time in the past days.