Robert Abela heaps praise on Chris Fearne: ‘Country has lost a person of integrity’

Prime Minister Robert Abela blames ‘establishment’ for Chris Fearne’s resignation, reiterates ‘full trust’ in former deputy prime minister

Robert Abela addressing supporters at an event in Santa Venera
Robert Abela addressing supporters at an event in Santa Venera

Robert Abela praised Chris Fearne and reiterated his “full trust” in the former health minister, who resigned from Cabinet earlier today.

The Prime Minister said the “country had lost a person of integrity”, blaming the anonymous ‘establishment’ of wanting to get back at those who denied it power.

Addressing Labour supporters in Santa Venera this evening as part of the European and local council elections campaign, Abela heaped praise on Fearne, describing him as a shoulder he could lean on during the difficult period of the pandemic.

“I had, I have, and I will always have full trust in Chris Fearne, a man of integrity and a person whose capabilities and expertise in the health sector are recognised internationally,” Abela said.

Fearne tendered his resignation from deputy prime minister and the Cabinet on Friday after he was one of many people charged in the Vitals hospitals case. He also relinquished his nomination to be Malta’s next European Commissioner.

He is being charged with misappropriation and defrauding the government in his capacity as health minister between 2016 and 2024.

The charges were issued after a magistrate concluded a four-year investigation into the hospitals deal, which was struck down by the civil court last year. Former prime minister Joseph Muscat and former minister Konrad Mizzi face much more serious charges, while the Governor of the Central Bank of Malta Edward Scicluna faces charges similar to Fearne's for his role as finance minister until 2020.

The criminal charges against Fearne came as a surprise to many since the Auditor General found nothing unbecoming in his regard in three separate investigations.

Fearne’s resignation has shocked people in the Labour Party. Abela had asked him to reconsider the decision to resign to no avail.

In Santa Venera, Abela sustained his criticism of the hospitals inquiry and insisted he will keep on defending those who were loyal to the country.

The reference was also to former and current permanent secretaries who face criminal charges as a result of the inquiry findings.

“I feel a sense of sadness today but I also look forward to the time when the procedures against Chris are closed but by then we would have realised what we lost as a country,” Abela said to applause.