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‘Michelle Muscat's award is an insult to volunteers’

Controversy spreads over award to Prime Minister's wife

Michelle Muscat was this week named national volunteer of the year. Photo: Darrin Zammit LupiMichelle Muscat was this week named national volunteer of the year. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The Prime Minister’s wife is not a volunteer, but a prominent figure who carries out charitable work, or a fundraiser at most, people close to the philanthropic sector are protesting.

Michelle Muscat was this week named national volunteer of the year by the government-appointed Council for the Voluntary Sector, but the news did not go down well with all.

“When I saw the news on social media, I thought it was a joke,” said one person who spoke on condition of anonymity in fear of reprisal.

Those who vented their frustration insisted it was not directed at Ms Muscat – although she could have refused the nomination – but at the council itself.

The award’s nomination form has to be signed by both the nominee and the nominator.

Without underestimating her philanthropic work, it was incomparable to the endless hours and stress of volunteers who worked in the shadows, one person said.

“She does not represent volunteers, but prominent figures who carry out charitable work.

“It is absurd and shameful that a council, which is meant to understand the volunteering sector, does something like this,” he said, adding it was upsetting that a key political figure took over an event dedicated to the civil society sector.

Moreover, the foundation that Ms Muscat chaired already had good exposure, and will even be benefitting from a planned public concert by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra about her husband’s music playlist, he said.

Another person noted that there were thousands of volunteers who worked out of the limelight, who would have benefitted from the exposure afforded by the award.

“Had this happened during the years that I spent as a volunteer, I would have been very disillusioned, and it has nothing to do with partisan politics.

“This award will not help her inspire others into taking up volunteering, because she already has exposure elsewhere to inspire people. Couldn’t they have chosen someone who was not among the rich and famous to inspire others,” he asked.

While noting that he admired her efforts, including her swimming initiatives, common decency should have prevailed and the award should have shed a light on people who worked in the shadows.

This summer Ms Muscat completed a 10-kilometre swim in aid of charity – her third one in three years.

However, a charity project she endorsed last year came under scrutiny when this newspaper reported that prison inmates employed to make curtains for it were owed thousands of euros.

Ms Muscat has also been implicated in the Panama Papers.

Questions sent to the council remained unanswered. The council was asked who nominated Ms Muscat and what justification was provided for the questions in the application form that required a brief description of her voluntary work, what volunteerism meant for her, what motivated her work and what where the concrete results achieved.

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