GUEST POST: Farrugia & Co. has no place in parliament

Published: April 2, 2013 at 10:56pm

Marlene Farrugia

Godfrey Farrugia

The total behavioural and visual absurdity of the joint press conference given by the Health Minister, Godfrey Farrugia, and his partner, the Labour MP Marlene Farrugia, on the subject of the latter’s involvement in the former’s remit, should have stunned any right-thinking person.

But perhaps the extent of the absurdity has obscured what is so fundamentally wrong with it. For behind this couple’s bizarre body language (and their stilted reference to each other as ‘Onorevoli Ministru’ and ‘Doctor Marlene’, which made the whole thing sound like the preamble to a Benny Hill naughty sketch) is an even more bizarre violation of institutional correctness of the highest order.

In typically Labour fashion, Marlene Farrugia’s ‘appointment’ runs roughshod over a crucial element at the heart of the Westminster model, that is the distinction between parliament and government.

Quite simply, the government is made up only of those members of parliament chosen by the prime minister to run it. All the remaining MPs are there to openly scrutinise, support or oppose government as they see fit. What they cannot do is run it.

This distinction is not some quaint English nicety that should be engulfed by the rough waves of our Mediterranean polity. It serves a very good purpose: since parliament is above government, the two cannot be the same.

Incidentally, as the name suggests, parliamentary assistants, like the ones appointed by the previous government, had a parliamentary, not a governmental remit. And, of course, parliamentary secretaries are part of government. So neither of these posts are an issue.

On the contrary, the questions that Marlene Farrugia’s appointment raise start flying off in all directions. Is she part of the government or isn’t she? Under what auspices does parliament scrutinise her words and deeds – as an MP or as a government member?

If a constituent approaches her with a health issue, would she act directly by using her governmental office or would she go through ‘her’ minister, the one she happens to share a bed with?

Which laws and procedures define her political responsibilities, and therefore accountability, to parliament?

This appointment has given birth to a new, dangerously nebulous, creature which lurks on the terra incognita between government and parliament. And the danger lies precisely in its nebulousness. Our parliament is not designed to be a market in which Farrugia & Co. peddle their political wares.

Now it turns out that that this might not be a one-off affair. Another Labour MP, Tony Agius Decelis, has just been appointed ‘consultant’ for the elderly and will be based at the St Vincent de Paul Home. One would expect that there are other Labour MPs who expect to be given a similar appointment. Government benches might soon very well be so in every sense.

Had this happened in the UK, Italy or Germany, all media hell would have broken loose. But this is post-election Malta. The politically somnambulous – the massive u iva mhux xorta brigade – don’t see what the fuss is all about, staunch Labourites welcome it with glee, sharp switchers nervously turn a blind eye and PN voters are still on a search party for their party.

Yet this is not a minor issue and should not be treated as one. Any infringement on our parliament is worrying, let alone one which calls into question its very raison d’etre, its distinction from government. You have been warned.

25 Comments Comment

  1. nutmeg says:

    Indeed the most disturbing incident in a wave of troubling events. Their barefaced manner is just vulgar.

  2. canon says:

    Donnu li-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat diga tilef il-kontrol tal-ministri tieghu.

  3. Harry Purdie says:

    This excellent post should be a clarion call to warn all on this rock how quickly we are being subjugated into a totalitarian state.

    No response? No wise up? This really sucks.

    • Victor says:

      I totally agree with Harry Purdie.

      Excellent post, Daphne. Your description of the current Maltese mentality could not have been more accurate.

      It is so frustrating being a Maltese with some brains and a clear mind at the moment. Thank God for this blog and the majority of the comments herein.

      [Daphne – I didn’t write this post. It’s a guest post.]

  4. Gahan says:

    I think we can start calling the Ministry of Health a personalised one-stop shop for the “taghna lkoll” movement.

  5. Village says:

    Id-di u d-do fuq l-istess xoghol? A good recipe for collusion in any decision making but also in wrong-doing.

  6. rjc says:

    Unfortunately you’ve hit the nail on the head when you said that ‘PN voters are still on a search party for their party’.

    And seems this is going to take some time. Dr Gonzi is not speaking out, in case he compromises his successor’s views, it seems. So, effectively, there’s no Opposition to speak of. No wonder Joseph Muscat is having a field day dishing out appointments and jobs for the boys.

  7. David Buttigieg says:

    Village politics with an actual village doctor as Minister for Health.


    Incidentally, does ‘Dr Marlene’ actually have a doctorate?

    [Daphne – She’s a dentist; she met her ex husband, JPO, in the dental course.]

    • David Buttigieg says:

      So no.

      The course in Malta leads to a Bachelor’s degree.

      Unless she did her Ph.D (which is not mentioned on her website) she is Mrs Farrugia, or perhaps Ms Marlene.

      [Daphne – Aren’t all dentists ‘dr’? They are, in my experience.]

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        It’s Doctor. Ask Anthony Charles. He’s the resident ivory-puller.

      • David Buttigieg says:

        No, definitely not.

        It’s true that in Malta, most dentists will get all high and mighty if not referred to as such, but dentists, though highly qualified, are not entitled to be called ‘Dr’.

        Some do, of course, read for a Ph.D, in which case they are indeed Dr Whatever, but dentists who don’t only get a Bachelor’s degree.

        From the University of Malta website “Besides the undergraduate course leading to a B.Ch.D., the Faculty also offers postgraduate courses at Masters and Ph.D. level.”

        From Marlene Farrugia’s website: “Marlene embarked on her tertiary education at the University of Malta, from where she obtained her degree as BACHELOR of dental surgery …” no mention of Ph.D.

        But then again, in Malta we even call architects ‘Perit’ instead of Mr\Ms don’t we?

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        Oh for god’s sake. Even I do not begrudge them the title. They’re Doctor.

        Lawyers, on the other hand…

      • David Buttigieg says:

        Here’s a UK ruling on the matter

        Then again, this is Malta.

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        How old are you, David Buttigieg? Do you know what a B.Ch.D. is?

      • Harry Purdie says:

        Don’t get me started on lawyers called Dr. Only in Malta and Italy.

        Check out the US Congress. Full of lawyers, but not called Dr. Obama is a lawyer, does he call himsef Dr.?

        My son is a lawyer in Switzerland. He is entitled to use the term ‘Maitre’, but prefers Mr.

      • Superman says:

        Seems it’s not as clearcut that dentists can’t call themselves dr. In the uk they probably can’t, but in Europe they can. See this

      • David Buttigieg says:

        Well, as old as my gums, a little older than my teeth!

        It stands for Baccalaureus Chirurgiae Dental or Bachelor of Dental Surgery.

      • David Buttigieg says:

        @Harry Purdie

        But we ARE a Sicilian village aren’t we? (Pity our restaurants aren’t)

        In Italy they have other titles too, Ragioniere Ugo Fantozzi anyone?

  8. Manuel says:

    And the PL’s comunication centre announced that the executive approves Anglu Farrugia’s nomination as speaker. Very Korean in style – a party approves a party member for a Parliamentary and Constitutional post. No separation between party and government. Back to the 70s and 80s.

  9. Toyger says:

    They are all listed in the Malta medical register, and they are all Dr.

  10. bob-a-job says:

    Alfred Sant was right. Rebah il-Partnership. Look at them all Farrugia and Farrugia, Cyrus and his beaver, Musumeci, JPO (although now married) and still counting

  11. mrs pollacco says:

    If Marlene Farrugia wants to do voluntary work she can treat dental patients for free, or go to Kenya for a few months.

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