[WATCH] Abela apologises to Labourites side-lined by newcomers, insists party must remain open

Prime Minister Robert Abela addresses his first Labour general conference, launching a party reform process on its 100th anniversary

Robert Abela addressed Labour Party delegates for the first time in an extraordinary general conference that marks the start of a renewal process
Robert Abela addressed Labour Party delegates for the first time in an extraordinary general conference that marks the start of a renewal process

Robert Abela has apologised to Labourites side-lined over the past few years as the party opened up to newcomers but insisted the party had to remain open.

The Prime Minister was addressing Labour delegates at the extraordinary general conference held on Sunday that kicked off a reform process as part of the 100th anniversary celebrations.

Abela commended the PL’s transformation into a movement by ditching its siege mentality and opening its doors but acknowledged the anxiety this caused to long-time activists and supporters.

“People inside the party feared that newcomers would come and take their place. For every circumstance when this happened, I apologise, but we have to remain an open party. We have to be open to diversity, without having people side-lined,” Abela said to applause.

He was hitting on a raw nerve for many PL activists, who felt that Joseph Muscat’s administration was too accommodating to ex-Nationalist supporters who warmed up to the Labour movement.

But Abela made it clear that there was no turning back for a party that thrived by bringing people together.

Lessons were learnt

The Prime Minister admitted the party made mistakes, including some serious ones, but insisted lessons were learnt. He pledged that good governance will remain a priority for his government “to ensure that what happened, does not happen again”.

He stressed that his will be a disciplined leadership. “We will make mistakes because it is only those who do nothing that are faultless but there are mistakes which cross certain lines and everyone knows what the consequences of these mistakes are,” he insisted.

Abela expressed his disappointment at the abuse uncovered in the police force.

“My government will not tolerate such behaviour,” Abela said, insisting that he expected tangible and effective decisions by the police.

However, he also criticised unjustified delays in the courts of law. “I will not interfere in judicial decisions but I will insist that every member of the judiciary take the necessary decisions in an expedient way when they are called to do so,” he said.

Civil liberties: Malta will remain a beacon of hope

Abela insisted that civil liberties will remain a principle focus for the PL, hitting out at the Opposition for wanting to impose their conservative views on the rest.

“Malta is today a beacon of hope in civil liberties. We will remain so,” he pledged.

Abela did not elaborate but indicated that more changes were necessary in the law regulating in-vitro fertilisation that was liberalised a couple of years ago.

He pitched affordable housing and better wages as other priorities for his government, insisting on a transformation from a pro-business philosophy to a pro-market approach that would seek to diversify the economy further.

Investment in infrastructure

He insisted that investment in infrastructure had to continue, mentioning by name Transport Minister Ian Borg and applauding his good work.

Abela said the government will focus on urban greening and will intensify efforts to reduce air pollution, mentioning the shore-to-ship electricity project as an example.

“People know we can get the country ready for the future,” he said.

Focussing on the Nationalist Party’s troubles, Abela said the country needed a strong Opposition.

However, he cautioned that the PN infighting uncovered the true nature of the party.

“If they are ready to undermine their own in this way, just imagine what they are ready to do to those who do not agree with them. This is why we have to remain united,” Abela said..

More in National