Politicians and conflict of interest – Arnold Cassola

When the PANA committee came to Malta last year, one of the things which shocked the MEPs was the ease with which Maltese-elected politicians can continue practising their normal profession, with all the risks of conflict of interest tied to this habit.

The excuse given by Maltese MPs is that the Maltese parliament is a part-time one and therefore they need to have another job in order to make ends meet.

I admit they are right about the salary: Maltese MPs are paid quite a pittance for their parliamentary work.

What they fail to say, however, is that it is they themselves who, for the past 97 years, have refused to reform our parliament into a full-time one, in order to be able to carry out properly the duties expected from them in a modern day Malta, forming part of a modern day EU structure.

The MPs practising a profession, in particular, have basically held Malta back from coming up with the necessary reforms.

They prefer working in parliament part time so that they can keep going to their office or the law courts in the morning and then meet their clients (voters) in the afternoon. What easier way of having votes coming up to you… rather than you having to run after the votes?

This can lead to serious conflict of interest and to dangerous double standards. Imagine how much worse the situation is when it is politicians who are involved in hypocritical double standards.

Do you remember the election campaign one year ago? We had PN’s Toni Bezzina busy drafting the mother of all position paper against building in ODZ land… and then he was caught applying himself as a private architect for an ODZ building on the Mdina slopes.

And do you remember the just and honourable PN crusade against the giving away for peanuts of the ITS building in St George’s Bay to Silvio Debono of DB?

Who, in his or her good senses, could not support such initiative against the despoliation of Maltese public land? And then what happened?

We find out that the lawyer aiding Debono in the drafting of the contract for this rip off at the expense of the Maltese people was …. Mario Demarco!

This double dealing mentality is quite common amongst PN politicians. Do you remember Ann Fenech raving against the sale of our citizenship, our passports, our blood?

She was so right, but then you have a look at the list of Henley and Partners sub-agents selling Maltese citizenship, and who do you find? None other than a firm of which Fenech is the managing partner.

But such venial double standard mentality is not limited just to PN politicians. Labour politicians and/or their families also try to make ends meet and to feed the hungry mouths of their offspring by selling passports.

I will ignore the sons of politicians since, after all, they are not politicians themselves, but Lydia Abela, wife of Labour MP Robert Abela and, most important, the Executive Secretary of the Labour Party, certainly deserves a mention.

The practice of giving MPs a second job has now been institutionalised. Lawrence Gonzi started it off by appointing MPs as parliamentary assistants and Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando as Chairman at MCST. Joseph Muscat then stretched it to its limits, by inventing second jobs for all his back benchers, who thus do not dare utter a word of criticism against their political master.

Little do all these people realise that the “taqla’ lira” mentality does not fit in with politics.

And the situation becomes tragic, when it comes to Maltese criminal lawyers who do not give up their practice on becoming elected politicians.

The Daphne assassination has uncovered a system which was known to many of us, but which seems to have been tacitly acceptable to all.

And now we have the pot calling the kettle black. The Labour Party accuses Mario Demarco of having been the lawyer of “Ic-Ciniz” in the past, when he was already an MP while the PN accuses Chris Cardona of having been the lawyer of “Il-Kohhu” in the past, when an MP.

What both camps strangely fail to point out is that the defence lawyer today of “Il-Fulu” is a lawyer coming from the legal office of Adrian Delia.

After all, “kulhadd irid jaqla’ lira”, no?

Arnold Cassola
Published on the Maltatoday​ – 3 May 2018