Speaker ruling 'a threat to freedom of speech' - PN
PN is part of 'establishment' - Labour hits back
Updated 12pm with PL statement
Speaker Anglu Farrugia's recent ruling on a claim that an MP had lied was a threat to freedom of speech, Opposition deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami said today.
The Speaker on Monday ordered Shadow Minister Jason Azzopardi to retract a statement in which he alleged that Justice Minister Owen Bonnici had lied to the Public Accounts Committee.
Addressing the press moments after presenting the Clerk of the House with a motion challenging the Speaker's ruling, Dr Fenech Adami said MPs were duty bound to seek out the truth.
Dr Azzopardi has claimed the Justice Minister lied when he told the Public Accounts Committee that Henley and Partners, the company contracted to oversee the controversial cash-for-citizenship scheme, was only receiving a four per cent commission from the initial €650,000 required to buy Maltese citizenship.
Henley and Partners, he insists, were also being granted an additional four per cent commission on government stocks they sold to applicants. He claims the minister purposely omitted this information.
Having repeatedly said that Dr Bonnici “lied” to Parliament, the Justice Minister asked the Speaker to investigate what he claims to be a breach of parliamentary privilege by Dr Azzopardi.
Dr Fenech Adami, however, said that Dr Azzopardi was duty bound to raise concerns about the matter.
Asked if he had discussed the matter with the speaker, Dr Fenech Adami said he had not but hoped the House Business Committee would review the Opposition’s motion immediately.
Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil has since said that if the Speaker felt Dr Azzopardi had breached privilege, the same applied for him as he too felt Dr Bonnici had been dishonest.
'Arrogant Opposition' - PL
The Opposition's decision to challenge the Speaker is symptomatic of a party rife with arrogance, the Labour Party charged back.
In a statement, the PL said the move came after the Speaker found Dr Azzopardi guilty of lying about Dr Bonnici.
"Every day, the Opposition is showing it wants to turn the clock back to prior the 2013 general election, when it only agrees with institutions when it benefits their cause.
"The Opposition leader and the people around him are part of the political elite, and part of the establishment anchored to the past."