Rosianne Cutajar told the prime minister she was “offering her resignation pending the process” of the investigation into her allegedly unethical conduct by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life.
There is no way a minister can qualify their resignation as temporary. When one resigns, they have resigned. End of. It is then entirely in the gift of the prime minister whether to call the former minister back to their government.
Take Justyne Caruana. She resigned after the scandal her husband was embroiled in. Then the prime minister, some months later, exercised his prerogative of appointing any Member of Parliament as a Minister in his government. It wasn’t up to her. It was up to him.
Now take Chris Said. When he was a Minister in Lawrence Gonzi’s government he faced allegations concerning his former legal practice that he needed to address. He resigned. That wasn’t a resignation pending something. It was a resignation. He worked on clearing his name and when he did and Lawrence Gonzi decided he wanted him back, the prime minister hired Chris Said as a Minister again.
Where did this qualified resignation notion emerge from? It’s a creature of the febrile mind of one Chris Cardona. In November 2019, he was named in a letter purportedly written by Keith Schembri that implicated him in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Chris Cardona said he was “suspending himself” from the position of Minister until some 3 days later he felt satisfied his name was clear and walked back into his old office.
That of course was a farce. It was due to the fact that Joseph Muscat had lost control of his government which was in any case deep in the paroxysm of its collapse.
So, what do we have here with Rosianne Cutajar’s “resignation pending the process” which Prime Minister Robert Abela published with a note of gratitude for her initiative? Are Rosianne Cutajar and Robert Abela unaware of the rules about Ministerial resignations and appointments? Do neither of them understand that hiring and firing Ministers is, in our Constitution, the exclusive and unhindered purview of the prime minister?
Or is this situation even closer to what happened between Chris Cardona and Joseph Muscat in November 2019 than it at first appears? Is Robert Abela in control or do Ministers now decide for themselves when to walk in and out of their jobs?