Speaker Anglu Farrugia has voted against the adoption of the report from an ethics probe into Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar by the Standards Commissioner, insisting that the findings were not conclusive while calling for further investigations.
Farrugia said he could not vote for the report to be adopted because he felt that it was premature at this stage.
The Commissioner’s report was concluded last week and was the subject of a discussion in the committee over the past two days.
A sitting this morning was suspended to give Farrugia time to decide on his vote after no agreement could be reached by the committee. The sitting was suspended till this afternoon in order to give Farrugia time to arrive at a decision.
At the start of this afternoon’s sitting Farrugia said that he had received correspondence from Charles Farrugia, known as it-Tikka. Farrugia is a close associate of Cutajar and was involved in brokering a property deal involving Yorgen Fenech.
Further investigation required
The Speaker explained that Farrugia had sent him a copy of his revised income tax return just before the sitting, in which he declared an income of €120,000 in an attempt to prove that he had been the only one to receive the funds.
This prompted Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina to declare that what was happening was obscene, with fellow Nationalist MP Therese Comodini Cachia saying it was obvious that Farrugia had been pressured into taking the fall for Cutajar.
Aquilina rejected an appeal by Farrugia for the document not to be made public, insisting there was nothing preventing him from doing so.
Farrugia said he was calling for further investigations and for the tax commissioner to appear before the committee after looking into the matter.
The sitting started to become more heated with Aquilina telling the Speaker that the investigations should start as quickly as possible.
“If you want an investigation, we’ll have an investigation. I have a list of witnesses I want to call… We can start tomorrow with Charles Farrugia. He can be administered an oath and answer questions,” Aquilina said.
The Speaker’s vote was required after the committee failed to agree on the next steps following a discussion about the report.
Disagreement on way forward
What followed was an argument about the way forward. While there was agreement that the committee should pass on all documentation to the tax commissioner, there was disagreement about whether the committee should continue to investigate the matter itself.
The Speaker said it was his preference for the committee to first hear the tax commissioner before calling other witnesses before it.
Opposition MPs continued to insist that a sitting should be held tomorrow during which the tax commissioner and Farrugia would both be called to testify. They later proposed having both men answer questions before the committee next week but government MPs remained steadfast in their refusal to have Farrugia testify before the committee.
Aquilina requested a vote on the Opposition’s proposal but the Speaker said he would not allow it and continued to insist that the MPs should find an agreement among themselves.
“You can’t suspend the sitting, I have requested a vote,” Aquilina insisted.
Farrugia got up and walked out of the room before the matter could be resolved.
Opposition requests quorum in the House
Addressing Parliament moments later Aquilina said the Speaker walking out of the committee meeting was unacceptable, insisting that Farrugia was obliged to use his casting vote to resolve the dispute.
By walking out, Farrugia had abdicated on his responsibilities as chairman and the committee could not function.
The Opposition called for a quorum in the House in protest of Farrugia’s actions.
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