Speaker Anġlu Farrugia on Monday evening rejected a request by Opposition leader Adrian Delia for an urgent debate on the political implications of developments in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation.
Mr Farrugia said that while the Opposition’s motion was of public interest, holding the debate at this stage of the police investigation would risk jeopardising the case and possibly the rights of the suspects involved.
Since the chair had no control the content of the debate, it felt the Opposition’s request should not be upheld, amid remarks of “obscene” from Opposition MPs.
He said discussions about the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri being made to resign were already the subject of a separate motion tabled on November 13. Consequently, debating the subject under the provisions of an urgent motion would go against the standing orders, he said.
Invoking Standing Order 13, Dr Delia had called for the House to adjourn in the wake of the “grave, unprecedented, circumstances” which happened since the arrest of Yorgen Fenech on November 20.
The matter was raised through a motion by Dr Delia following question time, just two days after the Opposition’s request for an urgent sitting was shot down.
Dr Delia said the debate should take place following Mr Fenech’s arrest - the same man who had been caught red-handed trying to give bribes to Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Minister Konrad Mizzi in connection with the new Delimara power plant.
The situation was even more urgent because the Prime Minister has been doggedly defending them, the Opposition motion read.
Dr Delia also pointed out that Economy Minister Chris Cardona and members of his secretariat had been questioned by the police in connection with the murder.
“These shocking events show that criminality has infiltrated the highest echelons of power.
"This is a constitutional and institutional crisis, with no precedent, and which has already caused irreparable harm to Malta’s reputation,” he told the House.
Reacting, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat reiterated that he would be dedicating a full sitting to the matter and answer all questions once investigations were closed. Holding the debate today could jeopardise the case, he said.
“I am not in a position to share all the information at this moment,” Dr Muscat said.
The Prime Minister said that there was no need for an urgent debate, given that according to the Opposition’s motion, “developments were still under way”.
He backed his argument by saying he had just been informed by President George Vella that immunity had been granted to Melvin Theuma, and there was also another pardon request.
“Since investigations are hours or days away from a conclusion, we should wait for the debate,” he insisted.
However, Dr Delia insisted that the matter was of an urgent nature.
“If we do not decide today, it will be too late. We are not here to hinder investigations. We do not have the guarantee that institutions are being allowed to do their work,” he said.
'Environment of kickbacks'
The Speaker suspended parliament while he decided on how to rule on Dr Delia’s motion.
Having rejected it, the House proceeded to its normal agenda, which was the continuation of the amendments to the Eco-Contributions Act.
Yet Dr Delia, who was the first speaker, stuck to the subject of the debate which had just been rejected by the chair, prompting objections from government whip Byron Camilleri.
Urged by the Speaker to stick to the subject, Dr Delia said he was speaking on the “environment” – the environment concerning kickbacks and the new Delimara power plant.
Dr Delia accused the Prime Minister of adopting double standards.
He recounted how in 2011, when Dr Muscat was Opposition leader, the latter had asked for the resignation of Edgar Galea Curmi, who was the head of the Prime Minister’s secretariat, over a “innocuous” phone call to the police commissioner.
Back then he had branded Mr Galea Curmi’s conduct “unacceptable for a democratic country”. Eight years later, Dr Delia said, Dr Muscat has turned the commissioner of police into a puppet, he said.
Citing a report in The Sunday Times of Malta, he said the Prime Minister’s role in the Caruana Galizia investigation was “bizarre and unprecedented”. Dr Delia said Dr Muscat’s only roadmap was to take over the country’s main institutions.
“People have a right to know what you [Joseph Muscat] knew in the last two years on this case, and if you had informed the police,” the Opposition leader remarked.
His address ended in controversial fashion, when he was alerted by the Speaker that the time for debate was up. Dr Delia asked the government whip for an extension. But his call was not even considered by the Speaker, who proceeded to instruct Joe Mizzi to adjourn the House.
This prompted fierce objections from the Opposition, including deputy leader David Agius who yelled “shame on you” towards the chair.
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