Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was forced to insist that his country was nothing like Malta amid fiery criticism over a welfare scandal that wrongly accused families of fraud.
Pieter Omtzigt, the Council of Europe rapporteur on rule of law in Malta and the Daphne Caruana Galizia investigation, is the man who led the charge against his national government over the scandal, which has seen Rutte’s government resign.
The scandal erupted after an inquiry report found that approximately 10,000 families had been forced to repay tens of thousands of euros of subsidies, in some cases leading to unemployment, bankruptcies and divorces. It has been called an “unprecedented injustice”.
Omtzigt was responsible for uncovering the scandal and bringing it to the national debate.
“For a long time I thought it was impossible to make a comparison between Malta and the Netherlands,” Omztigt told Rutte during a parliamentary debate.
Omztigt said that like Malta, the Netherlands had become a ‘Banana Republic’, damning the lack of transparency within the government.
Rutte, in response, had to categorically deny that the Netherlands was anything like Malta.
When another MP pointed out that Omztigt’s own party leader Wopke Hoekstra was also responsible for the scandal, Omtzigt did not hesitate.
“I am not employed by party leader Hoekstra, I monitor Minister Hoekstra,” he said.
Omtzigt also denounced the independent committee led by his fellow party member and ex-vice president of the Council of State, Piet Hein Donner, who previously investigated the affair.
According to Omtzigt, this committee was only intended to ‘clean up irregularities’.
Omtzigt has become notorious in Malta for his damning criticism of Malta’s rule of law mechanisms and its handling of the investigation into the Caruana Galizia assassination.
Beyond Malta, he’s worked hard to address issues in Poland and led an anti-corruption investigation in the Council of Europe.
Omztigt has shown that he is more than willing to apply the same yardstick at home as he does abroad.
Can Malta’s politicians learn something from Pieter Omztigt? Comment below