[WATCH] Abela says Labour will ‘consider positively’ requests from ousted MPs

Labour PM Robert Abela continues in charm campaign for reintegration for former MPs ousted on misdemeanours

Labour leader Robert Abela has made yet another clear overture at the rehabilitation of former Labour MPs who had fallen foul of political ethics and standards.

Addressing the press following a price standardisation announcement, Abela said he had been in consistent communication with both former MPs and independents who had been ousted from the parliamentary group.

He added that should they request to be reintegrated to the party, he would not ignore such requests. “Communication with anyone who in the past had to pay the price for their actions has been consistent… I do not exclude that when their requests come in, we will consider them positively in the party structures.”

Abela this week reached out to Justyne Caruana in an attempt to rehabilitate the former minister who resigned after a damning ethics probe in December 2021. He doubled down on comments last week when he opened the door for Rosianne Cutajar’s return, in an interview on TVM’s Xtra on Monday evening. The reference to Caruana was unprompted with Abela insisting that not every misdemeanour should result in perpetual exile from politics.

Abela said enough time had passed for Cutajar and Caruana to be reconsidered for their political contribution. Former Gozitan MP Justyne Caruana resigned from education minister in December 2021 after a job-for-a-friend scandal investigated by the Standards Commissioner. She did not contest the 2022 general election.

His remarks are a continuation of his contentious outreach to Labour MPs, who were involved in serious controversies.

Abela insisted Caruana had paid the highest political price and enough time had passed to reconsider her standing in the public sphere.

“Didn’t the Maltese political scene lose her? She had imperfections; who doesn’t have? Months have passed after she paid the highest political price… a good leader uses all available talents and does not throw anyone away,” Abela said.

He then referred to Rosianne Cutajar, who was forced to leave the Labour Party parliamentary group last year after private chats she had with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech were leaked. Among the more contentious chats was her justification to be given a phantom job as a consultant with the tourism school because ‘everyone was pigging out’.

A subsequent investigation by the National Audit Office published late last year found that the job offering was abusive.

Cutajar has been removed from parliamentary secretary by Abela in the previous legislature following a MaltaToday story that revealed her involvement in a property sale between Yorgen Fenech and a third party.

But on Monday, Abela was unfazed by the potentially ensuing controversy, even giving Cutajar a way back into the party.

“Rosianne Cutajar paid the price by first resigning from her executive role and then by resigning from the parliamentary group. If she asks to be reintegrated into the PL parliamentary group, it will be the party executive that decides but we will keep in mind the price she has paid and from which I believe she has learnt her lessons,” Abela said, adding the same holds for Justyne Caruana.

Only a fortnight ago, Abela also reached out to his predecessor Joseph Muscat, going as far as calling him “my friend”, in what is a clear but controversial attempt at mending burnt bridges with Labour exponents.