Not only weekend-breaks: OPM says Abela ‘working relentlessly’ in COVID-19

Prime Minister Robert Abela made Chris Fearne acting PM at least six times, always on a weekend, since May

Boating fun: Robert Abela gets ready to plough the waves for another weekend break
Boating fun: Robert Abela gets ready to plough the waves for another weekend break

Prime Minister Robert Abela has conferred acting powers to his deputy PM on six occasions since the end of May for weekends during which he was out of the country. Four of these were not for official duties, the Office of the Prime Minister has told MaltaToday.

Information from the Government Gazette shows deputy PM and health minister Chris Fearne was entrusted as acting Prime Minister six times, due to Abela being away from the island. Most of the dates fall on Friday-Monday breaks, partly confirming the prime minister’s passion for boating as recent videos of him on his recent Azimut acquisition in Sicily show.

One of these occasions was however an official visit to Libyan GNA leader Fayez al Sarraj on Thursday 28 May.

On the other occasions, Abela left the country on Friday 3 July, and returned Sunday after airports reopened on 1 July with the lifting of the COVID-19 lockdown. A planned departure on Saturday 11 July, and again on Friday 24 July, appear to have been cancelled.

He went away again on Thursday 16 July, to return on Tuesday 21. The Office of the Prime Minister however said Abela was in Brussels for the MFF negotiations in this weekend.

Abela left again on Friday 31 July, returning on Sunday 2 August.

According to last week’s Victory Day programme, Chris Fearne was installed as acting prime minister on Friday 4 September after Abela was scheduled to meet Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa in Portugal, but the meeting was cancelled. Abela gave an interview on Sunday morning on Labour TV One.

Abela’s recent boating trip in August happened to coincide with a rising spike in COVID-19 cases: he left on Wednesday 12 August, and was later photographed and filmed at the Marina di Ragusa in Sicily, exercising in an outdoors spinning class.

Second wave hols: Abela’s Ragusa boating trip coincided with a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases
Second wave hols: Abela’s Ragusa boating trip coincided with a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases

When MaltaToday requested information on the PM’s trip in Sicily that same week on Saturday 14 August, a party official called MaltaToday editor Matthew Vella a mere 10 minutes after filing his request, requesting a journalist to interview Abela on Labour channel One the next day on Sunday. No official reply from the OPM was forthcoming as requested.

When Abela returned briefly to Malta on Sunday for his interview, he remarked that journalists had been invited to interview him “in full transparency” but had made their excuses about not working on Sunday. He returned that same day to Ragusa where his family was still on holiday to return with his family back to Malta.

The OPM said in a statement that on that day, Abela drafted laws on COVID-19 related measures together with the State Advocate

The OPM accused MaltaToday of “entertaining the fake impression of a Prime Minister who abdicates from his national responsibilities or official duties.”

“Away from such newspaper stories which do not reflect the sacred facts but rely on sensationalism, the Prime Minister is committed to continue working relentlessly, day and night, for Maltese families and businesses during an unprecedented pandemic, and beyond,” the OPM said.

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