I met Rosianne Cutajar in March 2019 when I was a Labour delegate and secretary of the Labour local committee of my hometown, Senglea. I was introduced to her by Norbert Bugeja who was canvassing for her. Yes, a bit weird that a Labour intellectual rooted for one of the most vacuous Labour MPs available back then, but Rosianne had other features which made her appealing, mainly that she was beautiful. Labour top-brass and activists flocked around her because of her physical appeal and this was common practice in the misogynist culture of the Labour Party where attractive women are sent to propagandise for the Party at ONE, potentially in preparation for their political career. Indeed, Rosianne Cutajar had a lot of support and friends in the Labour Party and it comes as no surprise that her main backer and facilitator in the Party was in fact Keith Schembri, then the chief of staff of the Prime Minister who was caught red-handed conducting flagrant corrupt deals with the alleged mastermind of the killer of Daphne Caruana Galizia: Tumas Group CEO Yorgen Fenech.
We met at the annual Labour evening reception of Freedom Day on the first floor of Birgu’s Labour club. The reception held a day prior to Freedom Day and after the Labour Party’s commemorations, is an annual gathering of Labour top-brass. Our conversation was very brief as there was very little that we could say to impress each other. “Yes, I know who you are, and nice to meet you.” or something of that sort. Just an informal hello. After this brief introduction, I turned back to Chris Fearne and his wife, Astrid, who are both charming and intelligent people with whom I could find many things to speak about. Yet, back then, most of us had no idea how Rosianne was so deeply involved in the inner circle of Joseph Muscat’s cabal.
At this stage, the story is already very bizarre to me, because who really is Rosianne Cutajar? She is my age. Born in the same year in 1988 and had probably the same educational progression in the public education system up to University. Yet, I don’t remember her. And I don’t remember her name either in College or University. I had many friends in Pulse back then, the pro-Labour student group but she never featured amongst them. Maybe she was there, and I didn’t notice her, or maybe she was somewhere else. Surely, I don’t remember her in the Labour youth war-room of 2013 in Ħamrun, but then again, she was already a step ahead of us. Her rapid rise as Qormi mayor in 2012, a rare feat for women, had carved her out as a distinguished and promising politician. Daphne mocked her youthful foolishness and brought up her “hostess” past. In my book, A Rent-Seekers Paradise, I argue how back then we found this to be unfair to Rosianne. Doing harmless foolish things as a youth or having a past which included sex work should not disqualify anyone from politics. As a socialist, I was aware of the stigma that sex-workers experience and back then we also felt, that by shaming Rosianne in that way, Daphne was also shaming sex workers. I also suspect, especially after having listened extensively to sex-worker friends and acquaintances, that the shaming of sex-work comes often from privileged backgrounds. This is not to say that the lower classes don’t hold misogynist attitudes toward sex workers, but misogyny also comes in different forms and projections. In the Labour Party, attractive women like Rosianne were celebrated and pushed forward, however for the wrong reasons.
From ONE propagandist to Qormi mayor and then as a member of parliament in 2017, Rosianne was making political headway. She spoke about the decriminalisation of marijuana, women’s issues and also regulating sex work: you know, the typical issues young, open-minded women would bring up in parliament amongst older and probably more conservative men. Politically, she had something going on. Nothing special in particular, but on the right track of liberal issues. Unlike Daphne, we found nothing suspicious in her except that she had Keith’s backing which a minority of people like me found extremely objectionable. But then Keith backed many young politicians in his pursuit of allies and his networking web of connections and associates ran deep in the Party. We did not assume that all of Keith’s associates, friends or allies were literally corrupt, although the opportunism behind such association was clear. Being friends with the de-facto deputy-boss of the Party and the government, opened many doors. Keith’s power was over-arching and anyone who wanted a political career could have great advantages with his friendship. I was never Keith’s friend. I met him once at a cabinet meeting when I presented the anti-censorship laws. He was also elusive and unassuming although we were aware of his power. I have many friends who worked in the government and the party who had meetings with him and I also have friends in the printing and book industry who worked and did business with him extensively. Keith was Malta’s biggest supplier of paper so he was an important component in the supply chain of the book and publishing industry. Of course, I knew who he was and what his private business did. Keith did a lot of legitimate business and was involved in so many things that it could not even be mathematically possible that anyone who remotely had any connection with him was necessarily corrupt.
On the other hand, those who were involved with Keith in corrupt schemes were balls deep in large-scale corruption. Keith was not the kind of guy who would waste his time picking up a garage or an apartment by tender or something of that sort. He dreamed big and acted like a greedy pig, playing high-stakes in massive corrupt schemes. One of his first heists was the Progress printing press: an infamous corrupt deal with Adrian Hillman which broke the Progress Press. As someone coming from the publishing industry, I knew of what Keith and Hillman had done, but as a young naive socialist, I saw it as daring. The young socialist kid from Bormla, had basically taken over the Stricklandian imperialist relic by corrupting its CEO. Not even Mintoff could have dreamed of such schemes. Then the Panama Papers changed that. For many of us in Labour, Keith was no longer considered an asset, but a liability. A corrupt pig who got greedy on his own excess. The line was crossed. What Keith did with Progress Press he did during a time when the Nationalist Party had entrenched its own rent-seeking elite: then Labour had one of its own, so fair game. But we took over the government to supposedly change the game not to rig even it further. After the Panama Papers a minority of Labour MPs were pushing for Keith and Konrad Mizzi’s dismissal and many Labour activists supported this call. For the rebels, Rosianne was just another one of the opportunistic children who remained on the fence out of self-interest. We did not know what she was doing.
Fast-forward to November 2019 the political crisis was a definitive moment when Labour activists had to take a position both for the Party, and especially for the country as a whole. We had come to the realization that not only was Daphne murdered for investigating the government’s corruption in the Electrogas deal, but the government even muddled her investigation and Keith was in cahoots with her alleged killer. Today, some of the back-then Labour rebels are less shocked by what happened, probably due to time’s psychotic sterility. I am still today as equally shocked and angry. Joseph Muscat was forced to resign but the Labour Party was still deeply interwoven with the corrupt networks and deals which were crafted by Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri. Turning over a new leaf would have meant that the Joseph Muscat cabal was isolated from the Party and its corrupt members face justice. However, it happened that Robert Abela won the Labour Party leadership and opted to co-exist with the remnants of Joseph Muscat’s cabal in Party and in the government. I could never accept such a compromise with criminals who broke the country and the Party with their greed and went on even to kill a journalist both literally and figuratively, so eventually, it was I who was ostracised. However, this is not just a Party matter. The Public Inquiry on the Murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has concluded that Joseph Muscat’s government created a regime of impunity whereas powerful members of the government were beyond the law. The result of this impunity is historically clear: a series of large-scale corrupt deals such as the Electrogas, the Enemalta wind farm, and the Vitals hospital deal with money siphoned through banks in Dubai and Panama companies and a murdered journalist. Surely, Daphne and her family members deserve justice and surely, and the progressive ideals of the Labour Party should be invoked to bring justice and change the corrupt landscape of our country.
So, of course, I am indignant at the revelations that Rosianne Cutajar and Edward Zammit-Lewis were active and willing conspirators to the regime of impunity that the Daphne public inquiry mentions. They too, according to the inquiry, have a responsibility to bear on the murder of Daphne. They too actively defended and covered up corruption which directly and indirectly lead to the murder of Daphne. In this case, I am speaking and focusing on Rosianne Cutajar, and the story is mainly on her. Rosianne Cutajar did not only use Keith’s political backing to further her political career, but she also sought him to further her contacts and enrich herself. Rosianne became a rent-seeker and to initiate herself in her new irregular and secret ambitions, as a member of parliament, she was introduced to Yorgen Fenech with whom she had a corrupt and intimate relationship. In the Joseph Muscat cabal, Malta’s own little mafia, Rosianne Cutajar was simply a diligent servant, for relatively a small price, but a price anyway, secret, irregular and illegal. Rosianne was simply a politician who would go on in parliament to defend the corruption of the government with Yorgen Fenech, and de-facto contributing to the atmosphere of impunity that the pubic inquiry mentions. Just like she did on the very significant and important parliamentary sitting of the 12th November 2018, called specifically as an emergency session to discuss the 17 Black revelations. During the sitting, Rosianne goes on the counter-offensive. The Opposition makes a series of allegations of government corruption on the Electrogas deal involving Yorgen Fenech and his secret company based in Dubai called 17 Black which allegedly was aimed to siphon kickbacks to government officials. Rosianne calls the allegations lies. She was one of the prominent speakers during the debate.
But defending Yorgen Fenech and her ally Keith Schembri in the Maltese parliament was not enough for Rosianne. She did it abroad too. During a Parliamentary Assembly session of the Council of Europe, in June 2019 Rosianne Cutajar speaks strongly against a resolution proposing measures in favour of the rule of law and for the Maltese state to ensure that investigation of Daphne is unhampered. She does so by nitpicking on some details such as the postponement of the selection of judges and criminal procedures, but the spirit of the resolution went far much further than that. The resolution specifically mentions 17 Black and refers to the same impunity and unchecked corruption by government officials in Malta’s Daphne’s Public Inquiry. Eventually, the Parliamentary Assembly found that Rosianne Cutajar breached the code of ethics by failing to declare her “business relationship” with Yorgen Fenech. In Malta, we know, that Rosianne Cutajar’s relationship with Yorgen Fenech was not a business relationship. It was a corrupt business relationship, a criminal association, and a rent-seeking arrangement.
Indeed, for defending Yorgen Fenech and the government’s corruption with him, Rosianne was being paid a price. Coincidentally, Rosianne was also an attractive woman who could use her own body to facilitate this corrupt relationship. Rosianne received money from Yorgen while Yorgen had a political ally who could defend him and his interests both locally and abroad. Rosianne was never a businesswoman. She was an Italian teacher who went into politics (excluding her “hostess” past). Rosianne pretended to do business to cover up her deals with Yorgen. Truly an incredible rent-seeking initiation: from doing no business at all to doing business with one of Malta’s richest men. And in the process, they had a lot of fun too. The price? A bag with €46,500 in cash for pretending to broker a property deal.
I mentioned Rosianne’s intimate relationship with Yorgen Fenech in my book A Rent-Seeker’s Paradise. Rosianne didn’t take any offence to my book, probably because she had not read it until she was infuriated when I wrote about her relationship in reference to my book on my Facebook wall. Rosianne took offence at what I said and threatened me with libel if I didn’t remove my Facebook comments. I called her bluff and in response, I released documented evidence of her relationship with Yorgen Fenech and barked back at her. Surprisingly, she doubled down. She instituted libel proceedings against my claim that she had an intimate relationship with Yorgen Fenech and filed a criminal complaint about my reply alleging that it constitutes harassment. On the other hand, the maigstrate presiding over the states’ case against Yorgen Fenech on the murder of Daphne, issued a censorship decree on the evidence of the case. The documents that I had, apparently, were considered as case evidence. No more documents were published after the magistrate issued the decree.
Yet, it is surprising indeed why Rosianne would double down. Here, is a politician who was a member of the Joseph Muscat cabal and has no remorse for perpetuating an atmosphere of impunity. They have learnt nothing from Daphne’s murder and the political crisis of 2019. So obnoxious, arrogant, greedy and self-entitled these people are that even in the face of truth, they do not repent for their corrupt ways. Because and indeed, there exists a mountain of evidence which shows that Rosianne had an intimate relationship with Yorgen Fenech. Long and documented chats between her and Yorgen of explicit sexual content. “I masturbated for you seven times, today,” he tells her while he is in London as she sends him images of herself wearing erotic lingerie. Yorgen even booked a room for them at the Buddha-Bar Hotel in Paris in early 2019, ironically, through Expedia like all of us plebs would do. Maybe, he didn’t think that Rosianne was “worth it”. Maybe none of this is. Rosianne could have chosen to accept her historic responsibility and show at least, remorse for her criminal association and for her contribution to the breakdown of rule of law. She didn’t. So today, I think it is only fair to shame her. And her exit from politics will be good for this country. It will be good for feminism as it will have potentially more exemplary supporters, but especially good for the country which needs to heal from its past wounds. The country can not be led by the same people which broke it with impunity, corruption and murder.
Mark, you are a great man. You follow your ideals like no-one else. When people corrupt your ideals, you dissociate. Few people have the balls to do that.