[WATCH] No apology from Zammit Lewis over ‘Ġaħan Laburist’ comment

Justice Minister refuses to resign despite WhatsApp exchanges with murder mastermind: ‘Nothing new was revealed, I always declared my relationship with Yorgen Fenech’

Updated at noon with PN statement

Edward Zammit Lewis has offered no apology for referring to Labour Party voters with the derogatory term ‘Ġaħan Laburist’ in a WhatsApp exchange with Yorgen Fenech.

The Justice Minister insisted the comment had to be taken in the context it was said and refuted suggestions that his position in Cabinet was no longer tenable.

Over the weekend, WhatsApp chats from 2019 between Zammit Lewis and the alleged Daphne Caruana Galizia murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech were published that showed the two mocking attempts for justice over Fenech’s 17 Black company.

One of the exchanges happened just after Zammit Lewis, then a backbench MP, had addressed a press conference with Robert Abela, also a backbench MP, in which the justice minister criticised former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil over attempts to initiate an inquiry into Fenech’s offshore company.

The Opposition is tabling a motion of no confidence in Zammit Lewis, following the revelation.

But on Monday, Zammit Lewis was unrepentant when confronted just before entering a Cabinet meeting at Castille.

On his derogatory reference to Labourites, he insisted that the context was in relation to the electoral system and how it needed to better encourage the politics of service. Asked whether he should apologise, Zammit Lewis said he was a born and bred Labourite and supporters knew this. “I have been a Labourite from the womb, I worked and sacrificed my profession and my family, and Labourites know this,” he said, offering no apology.

Zammit Lewis insisted his position in Cabinet is still tenable despite the familiarity displayed in the exchanges with Fenech, even after it was known that he owned 17 Black. 

“Nothing new was revealed over the weekend, I always declared that I knew Yorgen Fenech, and Bernard Grech, instead of filing a motion, should take a look around him and see which of his MPs were close to Yorgen Fenech,” Zammit Lewis replied. 

He said that his work over the past 18 months showed how he always carried out his job with integrity. 

“I changed the Constitution and the institutions of this country to have more prosecutions,” he said. 

In a statement the Opposition said that instead of supporting the efforts of former PN leader Simon Busuttil “to secure an investigation into Fenech's corrupt company 17 Black, Zammit Lewis laughed at him and described him as a ‘threat to the rule of law’ while sending secret messages to Fenech seeking his approval”.

PN calls for Edward Zammit Lewis’ resignation

In a statement on Monday, the Nationalist Party has insisted that Zammit Lewis’s position as Justice Minister is no longer tenable.

“It is clear for everyone that Edward Zammit Lewis is not capable of choosing right from wrong, and is no suitable to occupy the post of government minister,” it said.

It said this was reflected in a motion filed by Opposition Whip Robert Cutajar earlier on Monday.

“Our country deserves that the justice minister post be occupied by someone who is not associated with individuals who have serious allegations against them,” it said.