Hundreds of students packed Sir Temi Zammit Hall at University of Malta today for the traditional pre-election political debate – this year hosted by The Third Eye and the Malta University Debating Union (MUDU). And if you can’t get yourself to watch a three hour Facebook live video, here are some of the highlights from this afternoon’s event.
1. Arnold Cassola’s photo game
The Green Party leader seemed to be best prepared for the debate. He brought with him printouts of the more dodgy representatives of both PN and PL, and got lots of laughter from the crowd whenever he unveiled a new photo and added a good one-liner. He got even more laughs when he accused both parties of playing Babbo Natale with their electoral pledges and when he blamed everything on the parents of everyone in the auditorium for voting for the same two parties for 25 years.
2. Simon Busuttil promise on White Rocks
Six months ago, Lovin Malta began campaigning for White Rocks not to end up as another commercial development. So we’re obviously thrilled to hear that PN has committed to give this land back to the public.
3. Henry Battistino’s charming opener
Besides having lost his voice and being a bit extra in the entire debate, the leader of the Maltese Patriots opened his debate with a pretty sweet apology: “Sorry I’m not a skinhead with big tattoos and a Swastika.” He said his party is often labelled as far right but he’s just a hard-working nannu who wants to preserve Malta’s traditional Catholic values.
4. Muscat’s guarantees on Egrant
Joseph Muscat said he’d resign as Prime Minister or Opposition leader – but also as an MP – if any connection between him and Egrant is found. He also scoffed at Busuttil’s refusal to give the same promise if his claims on Egrant proved unfounded.
5. And the on-point rebuttal to Muscat
First Simon Busuttil responded by saying that Muscat’s confidence confirmed that the evidence had been destroyed. Busuttil also got a standing ovation when he pointed out that despite being prepared to resign, Muscat did not get rid of two of his closest aides who admitted to having Panama accounts.
Later, a student asked the Prime Minister: “If you’re so prepared to resign if you have a company in Panama, then you agree that it’s wrong. So why didn’t you get rid of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri?”
Muscat’s response was that in his own case, he never declared a company in Panama so that would be his failing, whereas Konrad Mizzi did declare his company. (Fact check: Mizzi did in fact declare his company but only after he was under pressure to do so. The structures began to be set up some days after the general election but were officially transferred to him in July 2015, according to documents in Panama Papers.)
5. Cassola’s allegations of what sounds like slave labour in Malta
Cassola claimed that on May 1st a whistleblower told him that workers at a top local factory are being paid €3.99 per hour and in some instances even less.
6. And Muscat’s pretty spot on response
If you learnt about this on May 1st, you’ve already wasted three weeks, Muscat told Cassola.
Cassola’s reply was a bit weak: “I wanted to look you in the eyes when telling you.”
7. Marlene Farrugia’s pronunciation of Freudian slip
Farrugia got a great response from the audience and generally had some poignant things to say. But at one point she accused Muscat of making a Freudian slip but people spent more time trying to decipher her pronunciation of the word. Froodgian?
8. The mention of Franco Debono #Vintage2013
At one point, Arnold Cassola’s phone rang on stage and Muscat immediately compared him to former PN MP Franco Debono – who famously left his phone on in 2013 during a TV programme. Cassola then accused Muscat of receiving messages from his PR man Kurt Farrugia all debate long.
9. That awkward moment when Marlene Farrugia clapped for Joseph Muscat
Less than 30 seconds after launching a harsh tirade against the Prime Minister for creating “PanamaLabour”, Marlene Farrugia found herself clapping for Joseph Muscat when he said that with a few exceptions the campaign was being kept away from “personal” issues.