[WATCH] New standards commissioner will have team within two months

George Hyzler acknowledged that he would most likely have to decide cases involving former colleagues but said his experience so far has prepared him well for such situations • MEP candidates Cyrus Engerer and Peter Agius discuss why they are running in next May's elections

Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler
Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler

The newly appointed Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler intends to have recruited all the members of his team over the next two months.

Speaking during an interview on Xtra, Hyzler said he was conscious of the fact that he is the first person to be occupying such a role and that as a result, he was consulting with foreign counterparts in order to learn from their experience. 

“I have already reached out to my British counterpart,” he said. “I am not going to be trying to reinvent the wheel, but I hope to create a solid foundation for those who will come after me."

A former member of parliament who served as parliamentary secretary for economic services during former Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami’s tenure, he was most recently legal counsel to a number of local and international firms.

Asked whether his work will be influenced by the fact that he will have to be overseeing the actions of former colleagues, Hyzler said that his experience as the president of the Chamber of Advocates had taught him to look beyond personal ties and to focus on the case at hand. 

“I will be faced with difficult situations but my experience has trained me to overcome them and present a fair and legally sound decision,” he said.

Through his work, Hyzler said he hopes to eliminate bad practices that currently plague Malta’s political climate, in order to create a political landscape that is more welcoming to the younger generations. 

“I’m fed up of the same old statements of people shying away from public service because of bad practices employed by some politicians,” he added.

Asked about whether he had thought twice before accepting the role, Hyzler said he could not refuse the position given that both sides of the House had agreed that he was the man for the job.

Hyzler reiterated that the law establishing his office was clear in that only acts which took place after the 31 October can be investigated, meaning that the scandals like the 17 Black case could not be investigated.

MEP candidates with different views on country’s reputation abroad

The second part of the program featured a debate between Labour MEP candidate Cyrus Engerer and PN candidate Peter Agius, with both men attacking each other’s party from the outset.

Agius said that his motivation for contesting the election was rooted in his experience working at the European Parliament in Brussels, where he said the narrative about Malta has gone one of Malta being an island of sun and culture to one of corruption and murder.

PL candidate Cyrus Engerer (left) and PN candidate Peter Agius (right)
PL candidate Cyrus Engerer (left) and PN candidate Peter Agius (right)

He also accused the current administration of misusing EU funds.

On the other hand, Engerer said that in his experience in Brussels, people and members of parliament talk to him about the growing economy and positive budgetary measures proposed by the government. 

“Criticising is one thing, bringing down a country’s reputation is another,” Engerer said in response to Agius’ comments. 

Engerer said that his motivation to once again forward his candidature for the European Parliament election was rooted in his desire to give Maltese citizens more rights through the European Parliament. 

“Look at what Miriam Dalli has done in the emissions sector, look at what Alfred Sant has done in the SMEs sector. We have the potential to bring so much more to this county,” he said. 

Agius was asked whether he believed he stood a chance of being elected given the gap between the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party in trust surveys.

“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t confident that our party could overcome our current challenges,” he said. 

On the 17 Black scandal, Engerer said that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had always been consistent when faced with allegations of improper conduct, and this is what helped him not only to retain, but also increase his credibility with people.  

“Joseph Muscat has credibility because he awaits the decisions taken by the court. Once the investigation is over, only then can a decision can be taken,” he said. 

Agius however responded by saying that the current situation in Malta had resulted in Muscat and the Labour Party losing support within the European socialists’ group. He pointed to S&D MEP Ana Gomes as an example, with Engerer insisting that Gomes’ position was due to a “grudge” she had against Muscat over disagreements on the abortion debate.

Agius concluded by saying that “despite the government’s monopoly over the country’s communication outlets and institutions”, the PN remained a “united party” that was prepared to face challenges head on.

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