[WATCH] PM won’t apologise for government’s defence of Schembri: ‘I can only answer for what I did’

Prime Minister Robert Abela distances himself from Keith Schembri, insisting he is no longer an integral part of the Labour Party  

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

The Prime Minister Robert Abela has said that he will not apologise on behalf of the Labour government's persistent defence of Keith Schembri.  

“I can only answer to what I did,” he said.  

Abela was fielding questions from journalists hailing from different media houses on Labour Party television station ONE TV.  

On Saturday evening, the Chief of Staff to former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was denied bail following charges of corruption, false testimony and forgery.  

Abela said that yesterday’s development show how the country’s institutions are truly working, insisting his administration has made big strides forward in rule of law.  

“Institutions are working independently without looking at faces, and government has showed strong will in strengthening these institutions,” he said.  

Prior to him being charged, Schembri broke the news of his impending arraignment in a lengthy Facebook post on Thursday. He attempted to seek sympathy from Labour supporters by blaming the issue on the Nationalist establishment. 

Abela said that while Schembri has the right to defend himself in a court of law, he denied the former chief of staff is still an integral part of the party.  

Abela did insist that yesterday’s developments are not the end of the saga, but rather the beginning of proceedings.  

“What I appeal for is a swift judicial process,” he said.  

In court proceedings surrounding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, state-witness Vince Muscat ‘il-Kohhu’ claimed a sitting minister was involved the 2010 HSBC heist.

Muscat fell short of naming the individual, even when interrogated by the police, instead requesting another presidential pardon to divulge the information.  

Abela said that he will take action when either Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi or the Vince Muscat mention the minister in question. 

“The witness has yet to name the alleged minister. When he mentions someone, I will be in a position to take action. If Azzopardi knows any minister, he has the duty to substantiate his allegations and name him or her,” he said.  

On rule of law, Abela said that the situation of malfunctioning institutions was not created in the last eight years, but had present from the time of Nationalist administrations.  

“During a 1990’s administration, a presidential pardon, by approval of the cabinet, overturned a 25-year drug trafficking sentence. We had a PM who in the middle of the night went to meet with a criminal. This has changed and no one enjoys impunity anymore,” he said.  

COVID-19 pandemic  

On the pandemic, Abela said that government has always strived to strike a balance between health and the economy. This he said, has helped in government decisions to roll out financial aid and procure the vaccine.  

“This has led to European countries calling us out for taking a determined approach when procuring vaccines. But we will continue to insist that everything we did was in line with European regulation,” he said.  

Asked what restrictions will be lifted should Malta reduce the number of new cases, Abela said government will sit down with scientists and experts to discuss the best way forward.  

The PM also hit out against the opposition for “failing to come up with a single good proposal.” 

“All we have received is negative criticism, not once did the opposition come with a constructive approach," he said.