Bruised Silvio Parnis tells friends: ‘I’m not running in the next election’

The former parliamentary secretary who lost his job in a Cabinet reshuffle texts colleagues and friends he will not contest another election

Silvio Parnis in Cabinet: the former junior minister has lost his role
Silvio Parnis in Cabinet: the former junior minister has lost his role

Silvio Parnis, a popular MP from the fourth district returned to the House every election since 1998, has lost his only job in the government executive eight months in. 

In a reshuffle of his Cabinet members, Robert Abela yesterday demoted Parnis, until Saturday morning the Parliamentary Secretary for Active Ageing and Persons with Disability, and returned him to the backbenches.

When he was appointed in January 2020, the apparently unchallenging portfolio seemed suited for an MP often considered to be amongst the most parochial of the Labour backbench. 

But a COVID-19 outbreak in the homes for the elderly, his inability to respond to the crisis with nothing but a partisan speech, and the Opposition leader’s criticism of the junior minister being ‘invisible’, appear to have finally cost him the job. Perhaps it was the roly-poly confectionary he gifted to all elderly residents, with the words ‘Courage’ printed on its plastic wrapping, that cost him the role in Abela’s snip-tuck reshuffle. 

On Saturday evening, Parnis made his displeasure apparent by claiming he had serious disagreements with Robert Abela himself, in a WhatsApp text to confidants and colleagues. 

“Friends, in many telephone conversations I have had with the Prime Minister, there were disagreements between us. I have lost my Cabinet role. 

“Hand on heart, I did what I always could. Here falls the curtain on my political life. I will not contest any election. 

“I will see that I will help you in your work. My conscience is clear: I did what I could. Serenely and calmly. Thank you for having been with me.” 

Parnis came under fire from the Opposition, where he faced calls to resign after Malta registered the second-highest rate of elderly coronavirus patients for every 100,000 people in Europe. 

Silvio Parnis instead shrugged off calls for him to resign in the wake of a rising number of elderly deaths and infections, by hitting out at Bernard Grech’s “presumptuousness”. And in a speech that totally ignored the problems Parnis faced in his own patch of the ministerial garden, he said it should have been Grech to resign for having not done a full 14 days’ quarantine when his wife was infected with COVID-19. 

In 2013, having made it to the House with just 978 first-count votes in a district then won by Konrad Mizzi, Parnis was appointed as the chairman of the consultative council for the south of Malta. 

For years before he was allowed to host a sob-story TV show on Smash, M’Intix Wahdek where he would use his persona to solicit charity for people in need. He also hosted a similar radio programme in 2006 on One Radio, called Problemi tal-Qalb. In 2006, he declared in Parliament having been bequeathed a small piece of land in St Paul’s Bay from a will drawn up in 1991 by an elderly couple that was childless. He was not in politics at the time. But the story, published in the PN media, forced him to make a statement in the House. “I know you can’t bear to see the son of worker being elected on the first count with the highest number of votes… how did I get these votes? Because I am a thief, as you are trying to depict me?” 

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