A difficult week for the PM who has the opportunity to leave the country due to an official visit to South Korea. Image: António Pedro Santos/ Lusa
A difficult week for the PM who has the opportunity to leave the country due to an official visit to South Korea. Image: António Pedro Santos/ Lusa

PM breaks silence over compromising TAP revelations

Labels former secretary of State’s email calling on airline to reschedule flight “extremely serious”

Portugal’s prime minister António Costa has broken his silence over compromising revelations in the TAP inquiry, admitting that the email sent by a former secretary of state calling on TAP’s CEO to reschedule a flight to accommodate President Marcelo’s timetable, was “extremely serious”.

If he had known about it at the time, the mail would have forced secretary of state for infrastructure Hugo Mendes’ resignation “on the spot”, he told Lusa as he prepared for a two-day visit to South Korea.

In other words, the official line has returned to ‘those in ultimate command’ not knowing ‘x’ or ‘y’ – very much in the way that the TAP golden handshake scandal – which prompted the ongoing inquiry – began.

In his habitual Sunday evening slot on SIC television news, State advisor and political commentator Luís Marques Mendes referred to the state of Portugal’s current government as having reached ‘ground zero’, such has been the level of ineptitude and perceived negligence in recent months.

In ‘normal times’, this would be the last week of the absolute majority government, he told news anchor Clara de Sousa. “But these are not normal times: we have a serious economic crisis, a grave social crisis and an international crisis, in terms of the war with Ukraine. In such a panorama of uncertainty, to add a political crisis” to the mix “would lead to a ‘swamp’, an impasse.

“But something has to be said”, he went on. “There has to be a clear ‘yellow card’ given to the government of António Costa, who is running out of time…”

Marques Mendes was particularly scathing of the PM’s silence up till this morning. “When things are going well, he is the first to appear,” he said.

Thus this morning’s short intervention with reporters.

Will it be enough? Marques Mendes says he still sees the spectre of early elections next year.

For now the TAP inquiry is due to hear from former TAP president Manuel Beja – also dismissed via television last month – who is expected to ‘attack the government’, according to media reports today.

Manuel Beja will be the 6th personality called to the inquiry in a list of 60 people MPs have said they want to hear.

As for Mr Costa, now focused on drumming up investment opportunities with South Korea, “this is the time for parliament to find out the truth, the whole truth, as I have said, no matter who it hurts”.

And referring again to the compromising email sent by Hugo Mendes – a man Luís Marques Mendes considers “should never have been made a secretary of State” – his actions do not “in any way” correspond to the pattern of (Mr Costa’s) government’s relationship with state-owned companies.

“I do not confuse the public nature with political management”, the PM told Lusa. “The shareholder defines strategic guidelines and evaluates the management in the appreciation of the accounts. (The government) cannot interfere in the day-to-day management of the company”.

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