I’m not happy being associated with The Marigold Foundation – cancer NGO president

The president of a Maltese NGO working with cancer patients said that in her personal capacity she’s not happy about Europa Donna Malta associating itself with The Marigold Foundation.

Gertrude Abela, President of Europa Donna Malta, told The Lens that despite her personal opinion, other members of the organisation’s committee are split on whether or not to continue partnering up with the controversial foundation. Abela says decisions are based on a majority vote.

The Marigold Foundation (TMF) is currently chaired by Michelle Muscat – the wife of Malta’s disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Maltese taxpayers continue to fund initiatives organised by TMF.

On Wednesday, Malta’s Education Minister Justyne Caruana said that entities under the ministry’s control approved a €10,000 sponsorship for the foundation and also donated 190 reading books in 2020. Caruana was replying to a parliamentary question submitted by opposition MP Claudette Buttigieg.

MP Claudette Buttigieg (top), Education Minister Justyne Caruana (bottom)

For months, Buttigieg has been asking various MPs about what kind of financial aid they give to TMF. Buttigieg told The Lens that years ago her daughter told her that the government school she was attending was collecting money for TMF.

Between 2014 and 2019, government schools collected over €40,000 in donations for the Marigold Foundation, according to replies the former education minister gave Buttigieg.

Buttigieg became sceptical about where TMF gets its money from. She also believes Malta isn’t getting back enough from the foundation. Buttigieg alleges that organisations who work in the area of cancer claim that unless they collaborate with the Marigold Foundation, they risk losing out on crucial funding.

Gertrude Abela from Europa Donna told The Lens that recently the organisation collected €11,500 and passed the money on to TMF. Abela says that the foundation will be doubling it. She doesn’t explain how this works but adds that usually TMF organises a press event and hands them a cheque.

She says that some people who donate money to Europa Donna specifically request that their donations never reach The Marigold Foundation.

Abela says Europa Donna doesn’t feel as though it would lose out on funds if it doesn’t collaborate with the foundation. However, she says that without the foundation’s help they wouldn’t get certain media coverage. “It’s a bit of a dilemma what to do,” says Abela. “Unfortunately in Malta you know how it is…two parties…either with one or the other,” she adds.

TMF told The Lens that in its role as coordinator of the Maltese Pink October Movember Campaign it donates collected funds to NGOs that participate directly in the campaign and also to other NGOS that “militate in the field of cancer”. It said that it complies with Maltese laws and has its accounts audited.

According to The Shift News, TMF’s 2018 audited accounts showed net assets close to €1 million and that its largest donor is the Maltese government. The Lens sent questions to Minister Evarist Bartolo asking whether or not ministers are pressured to approve donations to TMF, but received no reply. In a 2020 interview Bartolo said that in Malta, the rule of family is stronger than the rule of law.

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