Alex Muscat walks back on claim PN MP sent brother ‘to threaten us’

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat withdrew his claim that Nationalist Party MP Karol Aquilina sent his brother to threaten him and fellow Labour MPs during anti-government protests late last year after Speaker Anġlu Farrugia asked him to do so.

However, the parliamentary secretary nevertheless insisted that Aquilina’s brother threatened MPs, though not necessarily at his brother’s behest.

Muscat had made his claim in a Public Accounts Committee meeting on 18 February, after Aquilina said that he would not take any lessons on rule of law from someone “who defended corrupt ministers.” He insisted that Aquilina had sent his brother to threaten him and fellow MPs on 2 December, when protesters had blocked MPs from leaving parliament.

Though he did not identify which of Aquilina’s brothers he referred to, it was evident that Muscat had in mind Karol’s brother Robert, the president-elect of NGO Repubblika.

Karol Aquilina asked the Speaker to issue a ruling the following day, and as he read out his ruling today, Farrugia emphasised that the complaint should have been made on the first possible opportunity – which would have been the previous day’s plenary sitting. However, Farrugia added that he could nevertheless proceed with a ruling since Muscat reiterated that he stood by his comments on the same day.

On his part, Robert Aquilina strongly denied Muscat’s claims in a blogpost published on Newsbook.com.mt.

Muscat adamant Aquilina’s brother followed directions, threatened MPs

Farrugia said that he could not verify what exactly had happened during the protests, not least because no MP had raised a breach of privilege complaints in their wake, and that consequently, he had to ask Muscat to either clarify his statement or walk back from it.

He cited article 60 of the Standing Orders, which state that “no bad motive shall be attributed to any member,” and said that by that measure, Aquilina’s assertion that Muscat defended corrupt ministers could be considered to be in breach. However, Muscat had not asked for a ruling over that statement.

Muscat then made a half-retraction, noting that on the day of the protest, the Nationalist MP had taken part in the demonstration, as had his brother.

Aquilina’s brother, he said, “was wearing an earpiece and appeared to be taking instructions from someone. By association, I assumed that this someone was his brother.”

“I understand that (Aquilina) has disassociated himself, so in the circumstances, I will state that someone sent his brother to threaten MPs, but not him.”