News | Sunday, 31 January 2010

Bookmark and Share

PN backbencher speaks out on Gonzi’s ‘preferential’ treatment for Franco Debono

Philip Mifsud: ‘Dangerous precedent subjects Lawrence Gonzi to blackmail’

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi is facing further unrest in his parliamentary backbench, as appeasing MP Franco Debono has irked other MPs who claim Gonzi has set a precedent for “preferential” treatment.
Accommodating Debono after his stunt in which he missed out on a parliamentary vote in December, forcing the Speaker to cast his vote, has triggered more discontent on the backbench, to the extent that even the most lamblike of MPs are now speaking out.
Zebbug MP Philip Mifsud has come out to publicly question Gonzi’s wisdom in taking the Franco Debono issue “so lightly” and giving him the limelight and attention he was looking for.
“This is a very dangerous precedent. God forbid this attitude continues to spread among the rest of us, because MPs will simply start to subject government and the Prime Minister to blackmail, which is totally unacceptable,” Mifsud said.

The first-time MP expressed disgust at how the PN reacted to Debono’s antics, to the extent, he said, “that rather than interviewing the Home Affairs and Justice Minister over the decision to implement the legal notice that allows suspects to consult with lawyers prior to police interrogation, the PN media gave prominence to Debono.”
Mifsud also questioned the “truth” behind the Prime Minister’s explanation for having taken Franco Debono with him to the UN General Assembly in New York last September.
“To say that Franco was taken to New York because he closely follows issues on climate change was ridiculous,” he said. “The Prime Minister sent me abroad to represent government on numerous conferences on climate change.”
The backbencher went on to reveal that in protest to this kind of appeasing, he refused to participate in the parliamentary debate on climate change.
“It was only after a series of meetings with the PM and the whip that I was persuaded to participate in the debate, and while we were told that the Prime Minister would be taking backbenchers abroad on a roster basis with him, my turn came and he (Gonzi) took me to a meeting of the EPP, which was quite low-profile,” he said.
Philip Mifsud expressed his disappointment at the fact that the government backbench is dysfunctional, practically without a role and impotent to face the concerns and requests of constituents.
“Together with other MPs, I had suggested that backbench members be attached to ministers and parliamentary secretaries, in a bid to lead to specialisation in certain sectors. This suggestion was accepted but never implemented.”
Philip Mifsud – an architect by profession – said that in the last two years, he felt that “backbenchers, including myself, can do so much more. This is what is annoying, because while the Opposition MPs all have specific sectors to shadow and speak about, while we are just there to attend parliament and warm the benches,” he said.
Last week Philip Mifsud confronted both Gonzi and investments minister Austin Gatt about government’s priorities.
“I am totally in favour of government insisting that the main focus should be on safeguarding and creating jobs during this time of crisis, but I honestly cannot understand how things can turn out to be so confusing when a series of new projects just emerge on the to-do list, such as spending €2.5 million on the St Elmo bridge when with that money, the PN could honour its commitment to resurface 450 roads by 2010!”
While stressing his “loyalty to the prime minister”, Mifsud said the PN was running out of time to repair the damage it has done to itself. “Labour today is not the same opposition it was two years ago. The Opposition is present, on ball, and reactive on many fronts, not to mention it has more intelligence than before,” he said. “The PN has a lot of homework to do.”
Mifsud showed his disappointment at so many failed commitments by the PN in government towards the electorate, most especially with the hunting lobby.
“I honestly don’t see why even now that the European Court of Justice has deemed the EU ban on hunting as excessive for Malta, the government does not grant hunters the right to hunt for quail and turtle-dove during March and April.”
The MP stressed that he is totally against illegality, approving government’s decision to suspend the season in 2008. “I guess that served as a good lesson, but being too drastic is counter-productive, and now that the seasons were suspended due to the hearings in Strasbourg, we must respect our pre-electoral, and most of all our pre-referendum, commitments with the hunters,” he said.
Turning on to MEPA, Mifsud – who served on a DCC board from 2002 to 2005 – claimed the prosecution of two former DCC officials over the Mistra case was “a mistake” and that the two men were used as “scapegoats” over a politically motivated issue.
“MEPA benefited so much from the wisdom and expertise of the two men who were prosecuted and justly acquitted of all charges,” he said of the DCC members.
Mifsud said he had recently met with MEPA’s director of environment Martin Seychell to insist with him that the authority is being “totally hostile” to farmers.
“My constituency represents two-thirds of Malta’s agricultural sector, and I am faced with an alarming situation where farmers are being pushed to the brink of collapse: they have no ministry to specifically address their issues since the sector was absorbed into one mega-ministry that tackles almost everything under the sun; and because MEPA has become so hostile to even process applications for farmers, that their delays are making them miss out on millions of euros in EU subsidies,” Mifsud stressed.
“Why should a farmer be faced with more than a year of wait for the processing of an application to build a greenhouse? Why should a farmer’s application be considered just the same as any developer’s applying for a permit in an outside development zone? Why so draconian?”

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.



Download MaltaToday Sunday issue front page in pdf file format


Transparency and procurement procedure

Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email