Dr Marlene Farrugia resigned from the Labour Party Parliamentary Group last Monday, and also gave up her Chairmanship of the House Environmental Committee. Since this new Chair is up for grabs, I am wondering whether the government will use this opportunity to give it to someone that will benefit its hidden environmental agenda…Deborah Schembri instantly comes to mind.
Marlene Farrugia voted with the Opposition on amendments to the Environment Protection Bill at committee stage, which will see the setting up of the two authorities formerly merged into the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.
Dr Farrugia also voted in favour of another amendment by shadow environment minister Dr Portelli, which proposed that the nomination of the chairman of the Environment Authority should be approved by Parliament after a hearing at the Standing Committee on Environment and Development Planning. Dr Farrugia supported this as she said that “it was time for the government to move away from past practices and increase parliamentary scrutiny”.
Since her resignation, the chairmanship is up for grabs, and only a representative from the Labour Party can fill the void according to the current standing orders.
The Standing Orders say that: “There shall be a Standing Committee on Environment and Development Planning which shall consist of five members appointed by the House, of whom three shall be members supporting the Government, one of whom shall be appointed as Chairman, and the other two shall be members from the Opposition.
As such, there needs to be another labour MP alongside Charles Buhagiar and Franco Mercieca. Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said today that he will nominate Marlene Farrugia to continue to serve as chair of the Parliamentary Environment Committee, but this can only be done if the law is amended to allow a non-government representative to serve as chair. In any case, the appointment of the chairman, can only be approved by the government.
Front Harsien ODZ has already stated that it would like to see Dr Farrugia to continue to chair the committee, but I would not hold my breath.
I have a certain feeling of trepidation that Dr Farrugia’s justifiable resignation will serve as the perfect pretext to elect a new chair that does not care about the environment, such as Deborah Schembri.
Deborah Schembri has been suspiciously omnipresent in the public debates revolving around the (fake) American University of Malta, where she even filled in for the non-existing Environment Minister Leo Brincat on Xarabank to defend the (fake) AUM project. In addition, there was also a very heated exchange between Schembri and Farrugia back in May on the same House Environment and Planning Committee regarding the issue of improving the SPED.
Schembri enraged Farrugia by comments that ultimately hinted at NGOs being given a special privilege by attending an environmental committee to put forward their proposals.
Deborah Schembri would be the perfect fit as chairperson of the Environment and Planning Committee; she follows the hidden environmental agenda of the current government, has no qualms with excluding NGOs and alienating other parts of civil society from democratic procedures, and she REALLY loves the hunting lobby (or their votes anyway).
I pray that for once, I will be surprised and have to say that I was wrong. But Marlene Farrugia was an obstacle in the government’s side that has voluntarily vacated her seat to the detriment of all the Maltese citizens that value their environment.