Chaos in the House
What we witnessed in Parliament on Wednesday evening was shocking on many counts.
The sitting turned out to be one of the rowdiest and rudest we have seen in years, with MPs behaving more like bullies than dignified representatives of the people. The commotion was sparked by comments made by former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, who again said he believes, along with “many thousands,” that Egrant was owned by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. This time round, he went one step further and actually accused the prime minister of tampering with evidence.
He was, in part, getting revenge for the previous day, when a red-faced Muscat accused him of being a liar, fraudster and forger. Many were shocked when Busuttil said on Tuesday that he still believes the prime minister to be the owner of Egrant. When we learned that Busuttil would speak during adjournment time on Wednesday, we did not think that he would actually take things further.
What Busuttil is saying jars heavily with what his leader stated when the Egrant conclusions came out – that the PN has full faith in the inquiring magistrate and that he respects the conclusions of the inquiry. It is almost certain that Busuttil’s parliamentary
speech was not sanctioned by the party leadership.
The former leader is repeating his previous mistake – that of leveling wild claims against the prime minister without being able to back them up with evidence. While parts of his argument might make sense, the fact remains that the inquiry did not find any proof that the elusive Panama company belonged to Joseph and Michelle Muscat. Without proof, claims remain just that – claims.
The Egrant inquiry conclusions were a great embarrassment for Busuttil and the Nationalist Party in general, and harping on about the subject will only make Busuttil look like a stubborn politician who refuses to accept the result of a protracted inquiry headed by a respected magistrate.
When Busuttil first made the claim on Tuesday, Adrian Delia, sitting a few feet away, looked bewildered and embarrassed. He defended Busuttil – he simply did not have any other choice.
Delia was not in the chamber when Busuttil spoke again on Wednesday – in fact most MPs were absent – but a Nationalist MP who is close to the Delia clan, Hermann Schiavone, came out on Facebook to distance the party from Busuttil’s claims. What happened in Parliament on Wednesday further exposed the huge rift within the Nationalist Party. Now let us turn to the tense atmosphere that has gripped the House over the past couple of days. MPs who spoke to this newspaper said that they had never experienced this level of aggression in Parliament. One MP noted that, on Tuesday, a police officer had to be stationed outside the chamber at one point. The situation on Wednesday was even worse. Government MPs used shameful tactics to stop Busuttil from speaking, raising points of order every couple of minutes and hurling insults from across the room. At one point, government MP Glenn Bedingfield was sent out for swearing. He later justified his action by saying that Busuttil had “made him lose it.”
One might not agree with what Busuttil was saying, and the former leader did make some very serious accusations against the prime minister, but MPs should be allowed to express themselves and face the consequences later. The rules are there for this reason, and not to be used and bent to serve as a muzzle.
The funny thing is that, earlier in the day, the Labour Party had, in a press conference, referred to Busuttil as “irrelevant.” One wonders, then, why such a coordinated effort would be mounted to keep an ‘irrelevant’ MP from speaking.