Standards in Public Life: Labour’s new benchmark

Robert Abela has embarked on an exercise to exorcise his Labour Party from its recent past. His ultimate aim is (most obviously) the rehabilitation of those who have pigged out.

He has already rehabilitated Joseph Cuschieri, former CEO of the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA). Cuschieri had resigned from his post in November 2020 on the eve of the publication of a report investigating his behaviour at MFSA, which report was highly critical of his behaviour.

Cuschieri has now been appointed as CEO of Project Green. We were told that Cuschieri is a doer. As if this, in any way, absolves him of his highly errant behaviour in the public authorities with which he was entrusted over the years.

A clear pattern is now emerging, in that others will probably be absolved of the consequences of their actions. A clear message is being transmitted: accountability is now another dead letter.

Should those who resigned or were fired from their political posts or position of trust be rehabilitated? Definitely, not all misdemeanours necessitate a political death penalty. Everybody is entitled to a second chance. However, where do we draw the line?

Consider the case of Rosianne Cutajar. She is currently an independent Member of Parliament, having resigned from the Labour Party Parliamentary Group, in anticipation of her being dismissed. This came about after the publication of hundreds of chats between Rosianne Cutajar and Yorgen Fenech, currently accused with master-minding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

On the basis of the information in these same chats, the media had reported Rosianne’s Cutajar involvement in facilitating a €3.1 million Mdina property deal and her pocketing slightly under €50,000 for her trouble, curtesy of her friend Yorgen!

The resulting investigation by the Commissioner for Standards in Public life had concluded that Rosianne Cutajar had committed a number of ethical breaches. Cutajar had earlier resigned as Junior Minister, pending the outcome of the investigation.

In addition to all this, at the Council of Europe it was queried whether Rosianne Cutajar’s critical interventions in the Parliamentary Assembly were motivated by undeclared financial interests associated with Yorgen Fenech. This was emphasised by Peter Omtzigt, the Assembly’s Dutch Special Rapporteur into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

If this was not enough, the Auditor General, some weeks ago, concluded an investigation into an employment agreement as a result of which the CEO of the Institute of Tourism Studies had engaged Rosianne Cutajar as his consultant. She was engaged as a management consultant in matters in which she had no known competence. It was therefore not surprising for the Auditor General to conclude that her engagement as a consultant was actually a phantom job.

This was consistent with her aim to pig out, as she confidentially declared to her friend Yorgen in their now public chats.

This behaviour does not merit the consideration of a second chance for Rosianne Cutajar, as Robert Abela is suggesting.

Considering the above behaviour, a political death penalty for Rosianne Cutajar is more than adequate if we are to have the most basic standards in public life.

In contrast, the new benchmark which Robert Abela is suggesting, would transform Parliament’s Code of Ethics into one fit for Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

Carmel Cacopardo
ADPD Deputy Chairperson
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 21 January 2024