Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar’s gift of oranges to residents of an elderly nursing home was completely legal, Standards Commissioner George Hyzler has argued.
Hyzler was recently asked by independent candidate Arnold Cassola to investigate Cutajar, as well as fellow PL MPs Silvio Schembri, Alex Muscat and Silvio Parnis, alleging that they broke the law prohibiting “treating”.
The law cited by Cassola, and later by NGO Repubblika in a police report, was the following clause within the General Elections Act criminalising the gifting of food for the purpose of corruptly influencing people’s votes.
However, Hyzler noted that this provision only applies “before, during or after an election”, and that the General Elections Act defines the period “before an election” as the span of time between the announcement of an election and the actual vote, or three months before the five-year expiry date of a legislature.
Moreover, Hyzler noted that the law precludes him from investigating alleged crimes in the first place, and said Cassola should have reported the MPs to the police.
In his conclusion, the Commissioner also pointed out that his office has proposed revising the Code of Ethics for MPs to regulate presents given and received by politicians throughout their tenure, and not only during the election period.