Parliament this evening voted against a no confidence motion in Minister without Portfolio Konrad Mizzi following a debate on a motion presented by Independent MP Marlene Farrugia.

Dr Mizzi did not vote. A total of 31 MPs voted in favour of the motion, 36 against.

The vote followed a passionate address by Dr Farrugia who said that if Dr Mizzi really loved the party and the country he would have resigned on his own.

But his hunger for power was bigger than his love for the country, she said.

Dr Farrugia's motion specifically targeted Dr Mizzi for opening a company in Panama while holding public office.

In a Cabinet reshuffle last week, Dr Mizzi was retained as Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office.

In her speech, Dr Farrugia also noted that if Dr Mizzi was not good enough for the Labour Party, he was not good enough for the country and should not form part of Cabinet.

The debate was also addressed by Dr Mizzi who apologised to the people and although there was nothing illicit in what he did, he knew he had a political responsibility and he was shouldering it.

“I accepted all the decisions taken by the Prime Minister… I resigned from party deputy leader, a position I cherished and subjected myself to a full audit, something no other MP had ever done before.

A full report of the debate follows.

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Marthese PortelliMarthese Portelli

Nationalist MP Marthese Portelli said political correctness was everything in politics and when one was a politician one had to be even more careful.

Dr Mizzi, she said, broke the law by failing to declare a trust and was not ethical when he set up a company in Panama and a trust in New Zealand.

When in Opposition, the government had made a series of promises which were not kept. These included that Enemalta would not be privatised.

In Labour's electoral programme, Dr Mizzi had said that industry and businesses were paying among the highest bills and a Labour government would reduce rates to among the cheapest in Europe. This was another lie with the European Commission saying, in its country report on Malta that the business sector was paying among the highest electricity rates.

He had also said he would get fuel prices to be among the cheapest in Europe. Malta had been paying well above the European average in the past two years. Rates were currently the sixth highest in Europe. The cheapest rate for diesel was in fact 28c cheaper than in Malta, that of petrol 31c cheaper.

Dr Mizzi said he did what he did in the best interest of his family but acknowledged this could have thrown a bad light on him and the Labour government.

He said that although there was nothing illicit in what he did, he knew he had a political responsibility he was shouldering.

“I accepted all the decisions taken by the Prime Minister… I resigned from party deputy leader, a position I cherished and subjected myself to a full audit, something no other MP had ever done before.

“I accepted all the Prime Minister’s decision because I do not want those who have an interest to undermine the government to do so,” he said as he apologised to everyone.

Dr Mizzi said that with a sense of political responsibility he was willing to do his duty in whatever project the Prime Minister put his way and work  in collaboration with his colleagues for benefit of Maltese and Gozitans.

He then gave an overview of the sectors for which he was responsible and announced that a new feed in tariff for photovoltaic energy was being issued next week.

Dr Mizzi said he was not a politician but more of a delivery person and would do his utmost to ensure there was unity in the government's parliamentary group, he would ensure that projects started would be carried out and looked forward to facing the people with a list of achievements.

Speaking about Dr Mizzi’s responsibilities in the health sector, shadow minister Claudette Buttigieg said even the union of Maltese doctors was telling the government there was a disaster at Mater Dei, one that workers could not take anymore.

People were still waiting for long hours at accident and emergency department and although patients were still being kept in corridors and store rooms these had now been given a name to hide the fact they were corridors and store rooms. This was one way of deceiving the most vulnerable.

She noted that operations had been carried out on weekends for a long time.
Labour, she said, had promised to retain free health care but thousands of patients were waiting to be seen by consultant. Those who could afford to pay were turning to the private sector.

Labour Whip Godfrey Farrugia said that this motion, presented by the person he would give his life for - his partner Marlene, had placed him in a unique - if not strange - situation.

He had ended up having to leave the room to answer telephone calls but discussions between him and his partner then continued respectfully.

The way situation evolved, he said, had created in him an internal conflict. As government whip, he said, he represented the party he loved and he worked for.

Dr Farrugia's motion, he said, was valid and good could come out of it.

He said that he did not celebrate Worker's Day in public against his wishes. He declared his opinion on social media and while some people had congratulated him, others were disappointed and angered.

The media lens had turned on him, depriving him of his peace. This, he said, was reality in Malta.

He recalled when he had carried flowers on the opening of Parliament a year ago and said he had today carried a stone.

Visibly moved, he said he had always worked to cherish correctness, that was what he was taught.

Dr Farrugia said it was a fact that the Panama Papers had embarrassed Malta and that the people were preoccupied but the Prime Minister had taken action and the government was doing everything to increase prosperity.

He said he had spoken to Dr Mizzi three times in recent days and he could feel his paid, as well as the pain of his family. Dr Mizzi, he said, had already paid a tough emotional price, he had been through a trauma which was already punishment enough.

His decision to vote against the motion, he said, was not easy but it was fair. Members were very often attacking the person and not the argument. And although one had to be harshly critical, one should also not damage the political profession and politicians. 

PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami appealed to the government not to continue to insult the people’s intelligence. Dr Mizzi, he said, knew exactly what he was doing when he opened a company in Panama within five days of the election.

His actions were similar to those of many corrupt politicians including Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, Gaddafi’s children, the Azerbaijani President’s children and the Presidents of Kazakhstan, Algeria and Ecuador, some of the most corrupt presidents in the worlds.

Dr Fenech Adami said that when put in a corner, Dr Mizzi started lying first by saying he had opened the company in Panama to populate with his assets in Sliema and London.

His Sliema property, Dr Fenech Adami said, could have never been put in company because there was a bank loan on it. And no one knew where his London property. However, it was never placed in the company.

He then started saying that the company had been set up for the rental payments from this property. This was an insult to the people’s intelligence. For the structure cost millions to set up and keep.

Dr Mizzi also tried to open a bank account “for brokerage” in nine countries binding himself to deposit a million euros a year.

He had only saying the truth when he said he wanted to open the account for money from recycling, Dr Fenech Adami said.

Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said the people were preoccupied and concerned at the fact that Malta had ended up caught up in the scandal.

This was a shame considering the government’s performance but the Prime Minister took action last week and removed two portfolios from Dr Mizzi. Dr Mizzi had shouldered his political responsibility.

The way he shouldered it was subject for debate and the people could decide at election time. It was now time to move on.

The Opposition, he said, had become a lobby group against the country's reputation.

Mario de Marco said the people expected MPs to safeguard the country’s reputation on which their living depended.

Even if minister Mizzi had apologised, his apology would not bring back the country’s reputation.

All contracts signed by Dr Mizzi were still under wraps so his competence, which the government believed so much in, could not really be measured.

Dr de Marco said that even though Dr Mizzi had initially said that the New Zealand trust was opened for his properties, these were never put in it. The only thing that was placed in the trust was the shares of his Panama secret company.

What Dr Mizzi did, Dr de Marco said, did not damage just the government’s reputation but also the country’s.

People wanted closure on the matter but keeping Dr Mizzi a minister was not offering any. Doing nothing would have actually been better.

Even Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and former Prime Minister Alfred Sant had appealed for the correct decision to be taken.

Dr de Marco also said he was somewhat disappointment with Dr Farrugia's speech. For if there was a vote of conscience, it was that being taken tonight. For it was about the values which MPs wanted to guide them in politics - whether there were those of personal or national interests.

The country needed closure and to move on. The problem today was not Dr Mizzi but the damage suffered by the country. And the only way this could be rectified was to show no confidence in him.

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo admitted that these two months had been tough for him and presented him with an opportunity to reflect and learn from this situation.

For it was easy to preach virtues one was not ready to practice. This was an issue of public morality and sane public morality needed a full ecosystem coming from the people’s social culture.

He said he have like to know how this issue had affected the people’s confidence in the government.

Stating that the Opposition would be voting in favour of Dr Farrugia's motion, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil and noted that the fact that Dr Mizzi was not even in the Chamber during this debate was insulting.

He said that had the Prime Minister done his duty and removed Dr Mizzi and his chief of staff, the motion would not have been necessary. 

Political responsibility, Dr Busuttil said, has to be shouldered factually. Even a poll on asking whether one agreed with the cabinet reshuffle had shown that 78 per cent of the more than 16,500 respondents were against.

Although the poll was not scientific, the result was still significant, Dr Busuttil said.

He noted that Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri had given a bank the go ahead to open the account even when a condition was made that $1 million or at least $800,000 a year had to be deposited in it. 

Was this nothing? Moreover, Monseca's fees for assisting in the opening of account amounted to $1,500.

If this was not a smoking gun what was? How was this person still there, he asked.

The people expect us to vote in favour of this motion for Dr Mizzi to go. Because he lied.

Dr Busuttil said that the law had been broken. Not declaring the opening of a trust with the Commissioner of Inland Revenue was breach of law.

And how could one not suspect corruption in this case? Why have police investigations not yet started, he asked.

He added there were suspicions of money laundering. For where was this money going to come from? Not from the ministerial salary. An a suspicion of a crime was enough for investigations to be launched.

It was not true that this was a minister who delivered - another power station deadline was being missed - but even if he did deliver, he should still have been removed.

Moreover, he should be investigated for every contract signed. He should be dismissed because the Prime Minister was incapable of taking this decision himself.

Dr Busuttil turned on Leo Brincat and said he wanted to ask him if he was willing to vote in favour of Dr Mizzi and then face the European Parliament to become a member of the European Court of Auditors.

"If you are doing so, they will not only grill you but roast you. This is the logical conclusion," he said.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that what the people did not want was the Opposition leader.

He said that there had never been a member of the Opposition to admit that he was wrong and apologise.

The Opposition, Dr Muscat said, had remained as arrogant as it had been when it had a majority of five seats.

The Opposition leader, Dr Muscat said, was undermined by the people surrounding him. He did not act on cases of corruption in Gozo even when proof had been presented to him.

Dr Muscat said that he had taken clear decisions contrary to Dr Busuttil who took absolutely no action against his deputy leader Dr de Marco.

Dr Busuttil, he said, was disgusting in making a veiled treat to Mr Brincat that he was going to undermine his candidature.

The only time he was consulted as leader of the Opposition was when Tonio Borg was going to be nominated for Commission. He had promised his support then and in the future.

Dr Muscat said that contracts would be published in spite of sensitive information. They would be published much quicker than the previous government used to publish its contracts.

Foreign Minister George Vella said that even he had been concerned at the situation and did not approve of some of the things that were done.

The fact was that that the government had faced the people and reflected on what should be done, were it should go and where it should have been. This was a positive thing.

The Opposition, he said, was playing the virgin, ready to ride any carriage as long as it embarrasses the government.

Winding up, Independent MP Marlene Farrugia referred to her partner's moving speech earlier in the debate and said that she had been the person to convince him to contribute to the beautiful new movement that was being built and which the country needed.

That was why he was so moved today, she said.

After what happened with the Panama scandal, the people wanted to know how many millions of euros would be going in someone's piggy bank.

And if Dr Mizzi was not good for the Labour Party, he is not good for the country and he should not form part of Cabinet, she said.

She said that if Dr Mizzi really loved the party and the country he would have resigned on his own. But his hunger for power was bigger than his love for the country.

The Labour Party did not deserve to lose its credibility in such a short time after 25 years in Opposition because of the Panama-Fonseca gang at Castille. This was not strengthening democracy because the people voted for representatives who could be instrumental in implementing what they were promised.

"We are here to defend our country’s honour. I remind the oath we took to defend and safeguard the country... If today do not do what Malta is expecting us to do, we would be making a mistake and if we are not willing to condemn the very bad behaviour which has damaged Malta and the country, history will eventually ask where we were when our country needed us."

Dr Farrugia said there was a stain which would continue to cast doubts on the country and its reputation and this was not acceptable.

"Our leaders’ loyalty has to be first and foremost towards their country and its people," she said.

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