No, no con­fi­dence at all

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - NEWS -

There are very few peo­ple on ei­ther side of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, it seems, who have ab­so­lute con­fi­dence in Min­is­ter Kon­rad Mizzi. But, strangely, that does not mean, by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion, that Par­lia­ment will pass a no con­fi­dence mo­tion in Mizzi when push comes to shove.

Now if the Prime Min­is­ter were to grant his MPs a free vote on the is­sue, that would be a dif­fer­ent story al­to­gether. The last time around, in the 2016 no con­fi­dence mo­tion against the same Mizzi, the Prime Min­is­ter had re­fused to grant that free vote to his MPs.

Back then, the Prime Min­is­ter had tied his MPs hands. In Malta’s par­lia­men­tary democ­racy, MPs are obliged to toe the party line in each and ev­ery vote taken in Par­lia­ment. The only ex­cep­tions are when they are given a free vote by their party leader, through the party’s par­lia­men­tary Whip.

Labour MPs were given no such free vote when it came to the no con­fi­dence mo­tion against Mizzi the last time around, and there ap­pears to be lit­tle rea­son, apart from sim­ple logic and rea­son it­self of course, that would have him change his stance: that MPs are al­lowed free votes only when the sub­ject at hand is a mat­ter of con­science.

Now if the rev­e­la­tions and the very se­ri­ous charges that Mizzi is fac­ing are not a mat­ter of con­science for the Labour Party’s par­lia­men­tary group, and for the coun­try at large, then we do not know what a mat­ter of con­science would be.

The Prime Min­is­ter is known to have an iron fist when it comes to deal­ing with his par­lia­men­tary group, but does he have the iron prover­bials to al­low a free vote on Mizzi? If he did, the re­sults of that vote would be very in­ter­est­ing in­deed.

This news­pa­per had re­cently re­ported how the Prime Min­is­ter has faced ex­treme pres­sure from lead­ing ex­po­nents of his par­lia­men­tary group – from se­nior min­is­ters, Labour Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and close friends – to fi­nally take ac­tion against Mizzi, and his chief of staff Keith Schem­bri, in the wake of the lat­est 17 Black graft al­le­ga­tions - to sim­ply cut the pair loose like so much dead wood.

They in­sisted that Prime Min­is­ter takes ur­gent ac­tion on Mizzi and Schem­bri – to have them sus­pend them­selves, or pos­si­bly even step down, from their du­ties un­til on­go­ing in­quiries and in­ves­ti­ga­tions are con­cluded. That did not hap­pen.

It would ap­pear, from those who had spo­ken to this news­pa­per at the time, that the num­bers would not favour Mizzi should a free vote be given this time around, if the Labour MPs who spoke to this news­pa­per on con­di­tion of anonymity were to ex­press those same views with their par­lia­men­tary vote.

Although the sub­ject mat­ter is def­i­nitely linked, these are now dif­fer­ent times from that first no con­fi­dence mo­tion against Mizzi back in 2016. The case against Mizzi has now so­lid­i­fied and has be­come in­dis­putable af­ter the lat­est 17 Black rev­e­la­tions, af­ter the once-se­cret com­pany was named in leaked e-mails as one of two com­pa­nies that would pay at least $2 mil­lion to Mizzi and Schem­bri’s Pana­ma­nian com­pa­nies and af­ter the owner of that com­pany was named as a party in­volved in the power sta­tion.

Things re­ally could not be much clearer. The 2016 mo­tion had been filed by then in­de­pen­dent MP Mar­lene Far­ru­gia; this lat­est one was filed by her and God­frey Far­ru­gia, with the lat­ter hav­ing dras­ti­cally changed his stance from sup­port­ing Mizzi, when he was a Labour MP and min­is­ter, to fil­ing the mo­tion along with Mar­lene Far­ru­gia.

God­frey Far­ru­gia, now the leader of Par­tit Demokratiku af­ter he fa­mously crossed the floor be­fore the last elec­tion, said this week that what had started as doubts at the be­gin­ning of en­ergy sup­ply and power sta­tion de­ba­cle of cor­rup­tion had now grown into an ‘ex­tremely sus­pi­cious’ ques­tion-rais­ing se­ries of events.

He could not be more right and while we still be­grudge him – as we never har­boured any such doubts – for not hav­ing stood up and done the right thing back in the 2016 vote, now on the other side of the aisle, he has seen the er­ror of his previous ways.

Con­fi­dence in Mizzi, and Schem­bri, was lost a long time ago in ac­tual fact. Now is a chance for any real So­cial­ists left in the House to take a stand and show that they in­deed have a con­science, through a vote of con­science, whether their Whip al­lows it or not.

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