Owen Bonnici and Mario Demarco don’t want to be full-time politicians unless they are cabinet ministers

Published: March 17, 2017 at 8:56am

Last night on TVM, Saviour Balzan asked Mario Demarco whether he would be a full-time politician if the law changed to make membership of parliament a full-time career. This is how he responded.

Later on in the show, the totally uncultured Minister for Culture and Justice was interviewed, and Balzan asked him the same question: if he had to choose between being a full-time politician and his law career, which would it be?

“Nigi f’dilemma,” Owen Bonnici replied. Balzan appeared taken aback. (Too many of his heroes are turning out to have feet of clay.)

And of course, in both Bonnici’s case and Demarco’s, Balzan missed the blatantly obvious follow-up question that I called out to the television from my sofa, in my irritation at this slow-on-the-uptake journalism.


That’s a full-time position: cabinet ministers are not permitted any form of private practice or business, a sole exception being made for lectures at the university.

Both Mario Demarco and Owen Bonnici are very content to be full-time politicians as long as they get to be cabinet ministers. Saviour Balzan should have pointed out to Bonnici that he’s a full-time politician right now, has been one for the last four years, and is working hard on continuing to be a full-time politician for another six if Labour wins the general election.

He should have pointed out to Mario Demarco that he was a full-time politician for years as a minister in Lawrence Gonzi’s government. And he should have asked him whether, if Busuttil wins the election, Demarco will expect to be made a full-time politician again, in his cabinet.

So obviously, being a cabinet minister is a lot more interesting than their professional practice.

Owen Bonnici isn’t sure whether he wants to be a full-time politician – unless it is as a cabinet minister.


    There really is no solution to this mess. Unless we find that General Reset button and throw everything we’ve got at it.

    If we keep our current political system, we’re always going to end up with more of the same: promises of doing better next time, but they just don’t. The top man may go in with good intentions, fresh politicians may go in with good intentions, but only the very few remain untainted by the corrupt system which is in place, and the man at the top, if not himself corrupt at the very core, will find himself helpless against this corrupt system.

    Our current system needs to go. Parliament needs a good diet. Something like 31 seats would do nicely. Reduce the number of regions, and the number of candidates per region. Elections should elect legislators, not administrators. Administrators should be appointed by the man at the top to implement the manifesto that the people would have voted for, each appointment to be approved by parliament, and parliament should have the power to fire administrators at will – a simple majority by secret ballot should be enough – that way each member can be free to vote as they see fit, without fearing repercussions by the party machinery or putting stability of government at risk.

    And finally, elections should be held on a set date every fixed number of years. No more of this playing with the system to suit and favour the incumbents. And legislatures should never face the possibility of being cut short. If the man at the top screws up, HE should be made to GO. The manifesto that the people vote for should be the last to go.

    This system which is designed to make the common man and woman suffer for the fcukups done by the people at the top MUST GO.

    If we don’t change the system, it won’t change by itself. #scrapthesystem #generalreset

    • Sunshine

      I’ve been saying this for years. Divide the country into 15 or so districts and elect one MP per district. This will reduce polarization as once elected people of all political colours would (hopefully ) consider the local MP as their representative in Parliament. As you said Administrators appointed by the man on top and from anywhere amongst the Maltese diaspora thereby increasing the talent pool tenfold.

      • FP@DISQUS

        The one MP per district may not be such a bad idea. But a parliament of 15 may be too few.

    • Saskia

      I also think that no politician should be allowed a third term.

  • J Sammut

    As far as I know Mario De Marco was never a minister, I’m sure he was a.parliamentary secretary.

  • L.Gatt

    In a sense it is positive that these two politicians state that given the choice they would prefer their job to politics. The worst politicians are those who have no other life or fulfilment outside politics.

    They lose touch with reality and find it impossible to go back to their professions or, worse still, their nine to five jobs consequently becoming firmly glued to their seat in Parliament.

    It also probably means that they consider their profession more lucrative then their political career. This too is a not such a bad thing. Corrupt politicians would surely chose politics over their job.

    Of course, in some jobs (law and medicine in particular) politics helps the professional career and vice versa. Nothing wrong with that either as long as there is no abuse or conflict of interest.

    There is no foolproof system of regulation to curtail or eliminate corruption and abuse of one’s office, it all depends on the individual and on the choice that he or she makes when they find themselves in front of a choice to be righteous or to proceed unperturbed and with no consideration for the public position held.

    In this particular case, I do not for one minute believe that De Marco did not know that Silvio Debono and his company were donating money to the Nationalist Party. Maltese businessmen have always financed political parties – that in itself does not constitute corruption.

    De Marco’s mistake was that he got involved in this particular transaction concerning the transfer of government owned land – he ought to have smelled a rat and a conflict of interest – for some reason he didn’t.

  • NC

    So hopefully paying members of parliament a full time salary will weed out the greedy.

  • Minnie

    Maybe that’s why some ministers are putting on so much weight. It’s their way of making sure that their arses can sit comfortably on two stools.

  • Jonathan Mercieca

    Mario DeMarco must resign with immediate effect because he is a big liability to the Nationalist Party. In case he resists, Dr Busuttil should be courageous and chuck him out if the Nationalist Party still harbours hopes of ridding us of the bunch of thieves running the place at the moment.

    As things stand there is a strong possibility that Demarco will have to shoulder a big chunk of responsibility if Muscat and his clique retain power.

    • WhoamI?

      Why wait until he does the honourable thing? Busuttil should throw him out immediately. And if Busuttil is unable to do it, then he himself should make space for someone who will.

  • Pat1254

    Since when did it ever happen that being a minister and having some kind of profession were mutually exclusive? What usually happens is that ministers simply ask someone to handle their professional office for them during the time they are ministers, which is a bit like Trump passing his business empire over to his children.

  • D.Bonello

    We need to drain the swamp in the next general election.

  • Karl Magri

    Which is a great shame and pity because uppermost in any aspiring politician’s mind is to fight relentlessly for the common good. In an ideal world a politician’s job is a selfless one.

  • Jozef

    Bad optics, darlings. Then it’s all about the rise of populism and how we need to understand the people out there. I see Balzan’s latest positioning is to non-platform popular sentiment implying our fault if we do not express ‘positive’ feelings for these poor politicians. Oh look, they’re human ergo defective and the reductio ad absurdum of today’s society.

    Raphael Vassallo must be pleased, nothing worth living then. No hope, just change.

    No wonder the internet got itself a fascist frog in the US. I mean, that was a litmus test whether MSM dared risk the faux gravitas imbued scripted snippets to discuss a cartoon with an orange comb-over. In the end, yes, the frog was fascist because unmentionable.

    Fact is, we’re told anything they don’t entertain is deplorable, and more specifically, Balzan trumps hate.


    If it’s that obvious, then make the perm secs accountable to the electorate (via their MPs) just as much as their bosses, the ministers, would be.

    Anyone and everyone in the administration can be made accountable to the electorate.


    • H.P. Baxxter

      Do you think CEOs of state bodies should be elected too? Don’t be ridiculous.

      #SmallGovernment for a #Microstate would be a good fucking start. Malta seems to think it’s a fucking continent and global player.


    As we all know only too well, good leaders are no match for a bad system. The system is greater than any one man. Fix the system first.

    • John J Cefai

      There is no ‘system’ as and of itself. People are behind any system. A country needs good people first and foremost.

  • Sally Anne

    If Mario Demarco stays he’s staying for a reason and we know what it is. For the love of your country resign, Mario.


    Now that you’ve had your fun with your ridiculous analogies, let’s look at some facts, shall we?

    Mention one state having a population size similar to Malta’s that has a national parliament with 15 members. The truth is that you won’t find any. Because national parliaments are not local councils or municipalities – thinking in those terms is ridiculous.

    And being national parliaments, the smallest one for a population size of 300,000-600,000 is 31 members (Belize’s, which also has an upper house with 12 members), while the largest is 85 (Maldives’).

    You think Malta is the only micro-state? Whether micro or not, you just can’t have a national parliament proportioned simply by population size. If you want to apply population size proportionality to parliaments, then Malta should have one third of an MEP compared to Germany’s 99.

    • H.P. Baxxter

      Mention one microstate which behaves like it isn’t. So the choice is between your Reset, which doesn’t address the real question, and more of the same.

      • FP@DISQUS

        I’m not sure what your intentions are in this entire argument, what to your mind is “the real question”.

      • H.P. Baxxter

        To what degree Malta should be independent.

    • Quo vadis Malta?

      While you are right, your suggestion can never happen. It would require a Constitutional amendment with MPs voting to reduce their numbers.

      I am afraid we are stuck with this system. It is up to the parties and the electorate to choose the right representatives and not the likes of Mario Demarco, Ann Fenech, Comodini Cachia and all those who stand for election with ulterior motives.

      • Ann Fenech is not standing for election. She is the party president. Therese Comodini Cachia is not standing for election to the national parliament either. She is a member of the European Parliament.

        Your personal opinion about them is one thing (and I’m sure the fact that they are women is a particular problem), but at least get those facts right.

      • FP@DISQUS

        The numbers are simply a detail.

        Without having a system which inherently keeps the government in check (and this can only come about by separating the legislature from the executive), the parties and the electorate have been choosing the “right” representatives ever since democracy was born.

        We ALWAYS choose the right representatives, with a minority swearing that they’re the wrong representatives. So nothing changes.

        Let’s not throw out a relatively much better system on a detail which really and truly only has to do with budgetary constraints.

        The case for fewer numbers can be made further down the line. The important point is to get enough momentum behind the realisation of the fact that the current system is DESIGNED to give us exactly what we’ve been having ever since it’s inception.

  • Antoine Vella

    I don’t know why people think that being a full-time MP ensures that their will be no corruption. Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and all the rest are full-time politicians but they are still the most corrupt ones we’ve ever had the misfortune to see elected.

    Being honest or crooked has nothing to do with how much money one has in the bank.

    • Joe Fenech

      This is not just about money. It is also about influence and professionally confidentiality.

  • H.P. Baxxter

    Most of them were actually created for the CEOs. The jobs mal-gvern were then incidental.

  • Jozef

    Same here. Yesterday’s was deceit live.

  • Tabatha_White

    It would be interesting to know when he was first approached by Silvio Debono with a view to taking this project forward.

  • Joe Fenech

    MP should be able to do part-time jobs but involvement with and commercial or legal business should be strictly forbidden for obvious reasons.

  • Joe Fenech

    All these discussions are distractions and an effort to appear democratic. For Malta to progress it needs drastic changes in the police force, the judicial system, political system and general education.