One of the last issues that George Hyzler tackled before taking up his new post as Auditor at the EU court is to propose more standards in public life. Thus, together with the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and the European Commission, he held a conference on this subject where he presented his proposals. Hyzler invited members of the Government as well as the Opposition. Those in government did not attend. Nonetheless, he did not invite the Speaker of the House, Angelo Farrugia. Instead, he invited the former MEP Nationalist minister Tonio Borg.
George Hyzler does not agree that the Committee that regulates Parliamentary Members’ ethics is chaired by the Speaker of the House because according to Hyzler this committee has to start being led by former High Court judges. First, I have to declare that I do not agree with Hyzler. Parliament is not a Court of Law and it would be a great tragedy were Parliament turned into one. We already have experienced George Hyzler’s subjectivity in the case of Rosianne Cutajar. Besides, Parliament is already teeming with one too many lawyers; we need wider strata of parliamentarians.
I have already written at length on the Cutajar case. Hyzler, when investigating the case, failed to investigate the husband of Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro, who was implicated in the same case. Now Hyzler wants a former Judge or Madame Justice to chair the committee! Forgive me, but this is already a valid reason to shoot down Hyzler’s proposal. This is a political committee and has to carry on serving this purpose. Moreover, because one is a Judge per se is no guarantee of integrity. Furthermore, a former judge or madame justice should not automatically chair this committee.
I must remind the reader that George Hyzler is a former politician. When in politics, he was involved in many a controversy as was the case of endorsing Transcend Worldwide – a New Zealand Post subsidiary – buying a 35% stake in MaltaPost with the result that Malta lost millions. Thus, I cannot see how he now expects to dictate procedures. It is clear that he was promoted to the Auditors’ Court because he was carrying out selective investigations on members of parliament. He would choose the person he would investigate or otherwise. He had hot cases before him that he ended up never finishing investigating – if indeed he ever even started investigating them!
Therefore, this is another attack on the chair, or let’s speak up loud and clear, this is an attack on Angelo Farrugia because somewhere, someone has sworn, he/her does not want him to remain Speaker of the House. But Angelo Farrugia is Angelo Farrugia. If he is not Speaker, he will not die of hunger because he is a very capable lawyer.
As lawyer and Speaker of the House, Angelo Farrugia has to follow the parliamentary procedures, something that Hyzler simply does not understand or want. Instead, it seems that Hyzler wants an ad hoc committee chaired by a former judge who will act as prosecution lawyer, defence lawyer, and judge – all in one. This holds also for all those who are insisting that the Speaker or this committee has to investigate former members of parliament!! But you tell me, how can a Speaker apply procedures against former members of parliament when the law does not envisage it? The Speaker has no such mandate and his role applies only to serving members of parliament and not those who are former members of parliament.
But the one thing that is most disturbing is that George Hyzler held this conference and, as I have already stated, did not invite the Speaker. He invited Tonio Borg and I have no problem with that. But why not also the Speaker? At this conference, Tonio Borg criticised the Speaker when Angelo Farrugia was not present to defend himself because he had not been invited. And then nobody questioned why the Speaker was not at this meeting? I ask this ethic’s Czar where are his ethics in this instance? All well a good to hold a conference. But that you do not invite the person who is responsible for parliament – meaning the Speaker, who was the subject to be criticized during the conference demonstrates a complete lack of ethics on your part.
Tonio Borg referred to the fact that when the committee was investigating the case of Carmelo Abela, the Speaker refused to cast his vote and this created a deadlock. As a lawyer, Borg ought to know better. There is nothing in the Law and Parliament procedure that authorises the Speaker to cast his vote. The Speaker, in our parliamentary system, which is based on the English system – has a particular and certainly very important but specific role.
But I believe that in Tonio Borg’s political history lies the reason why former judges – not necessarily deserving – should chair this type of committee. I shall here remind the reader of a story when Tonio Borg was Minister. Indeed, he had authorised the deportation of a number of migrants from Eritrea who had come to Malta to seek refuge.
At the time Eritrea was still at war. Thus, any Eritrean fleeing the country was considered a deserter and would be punished with the death penalty. I recall that hell broke loose when questions began being asked regarding what had become of these migrants when the plane carrying them landed at Asmara Airport and these refugees disembarked. There were those who asked whether they had been killed on the runaway or not. What became of them? As a former minister and eventually MEP did he bother to find out? What happened?
So great was the controversy about these Eritreans that a magistrate was assigned to investigate the issue. The magistrate appointed happened to be Magistrate Abigail Lofaro. Shortly afterward, she was appointed judge and the investigation died a natural death! This is the same person whose husband was caught doing business with Yorgen Fenech and George Hyzler did not even bother to speak with him. Is there a need to ask why? Of course not. It is just a matter of being selective.
I do understand that politicians are not saints. But I do believe that there is a need for far more ethical behaviour all round including from he who considers himself the czar of ethics.