The government’s decision to appoint former police chief Lawrence Cutajar as a government consultant was ‘based on the information we had at the time,” Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said as Tuesday’s parliamentary sitting opened with a rowdy question time.
Cutajar was dismissed yesterday after a magistrate ordered a police investigation into claims that he had leaked information to Daphne Caruana Galizia murder middleman Melvin Theuma, and as expected, Nationalist MPs pressed the minister on the matter.
In reply to a question by PN MP Jason Azzopardi – a lawyer to the Caruana Galizia family – Camilleri denied that he and Prime Minister Robert Abela had been briefed about Cutajar’s conduct when they took office last January and appointed him. In what he described as a Freudian slip, Azzopardi used the name Lawrence Pullicino – the disgraced former police chief who ended up jailed for the murder of Nardu Debono in police custody in 1980 – instead of Cutajar’s.
‘I did my duty’
On his part, Camilleri defended his conduct by reiterating that the contract was suspended as soon as allegations concerning Cutajar were made public, and fired him when the investigation was ordered.
“I took that decision in a matter of minutes. I did my duty,” the minister insisted.
Camilleri said that all that he knew about Cutajar when he appointed him as consultant was in the public domain at the time.
“You may criticise me for offering the contract, but not for deciding to end it,” he said.
PN leader Adrian Delia seized on this, pointing out that Cutajar had long failed to make timely decisions when he headed the police force. But Camilleri responded that he was also criticised for failing to investigate allegations concerning Delia that had been raised by Caruana Galizia.
As has become customary during question time, government MPs Jean-Claude Micallef and Anthony Agius Decelis asked the minister a number of softball questions on policy, allowing Camilleri to run the clock by speaking at length about non-controversial matters. On a couple of occasions, Speaker Anġlu Farrugia reminded him that he was running long: answers should not take any longer than three minutes.
But Delia then highlighted that while Camilleri always answered government MPs, he was evasive when opposition MPs asked him anything. He also noted that he had presented a motion calling for an investigation into all allegations made against him, only for government to vote it down.