[LIVE] Muscat sacks Manuel Mallia, Carmelo Abela sworn in as minister

Simon Busuttil: PM is weak and has lost moral authority • New police commissioner will be Michael Cassar • No political involvement in cover-up • Inquiry board says Inspector Gabriel Micallef, whose sister is the partner of PC Paul Sheehan, played role in cover-up on shooting incident

Joseph Muscat has asked home affairs minister Manuel Mallia to resign
Joseph Muscat has asked home affairs minister Manuel Mallia to resign
Michael Cassar will be the new police commissioner
Michael Cassar will be the new police commissioner
Ray Zammit will no longer be acting Police Commissioner
Ray Zammit will no longer be acting Police Commissioner
15:54 Even though the no confidence motion against Mallia is now redundant, the government is asking the opposition to hold a parliamentary debate, tomorrow, on the recent developments: “In a democratic society, when a minister and the police chief are removed, based on an inquiry, such things should not be taken lightly. We should discuss the challenges ahead.” Miriam Dalli
15:51 Amid rumours that Mallia has refused to speak to Joseph Muscat today, the Prime Minister said that yesterday there was a meeting between Mallia and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and a meeting between Muscat and Mallia.

Muscat says that the inquiry did not find anything wrong in the way how Silvio Scerri acted: “I don’t discard people and I even wish for Mallia to hold a different role. Mallia has paid the ultimate political price: he was not found guilty of a cover-up, but he must carry other responsibilities.” Miriam Dalli

15:48 In reply to a series of questions, Muscat said that Manuel Mallia was given a choice: to resign or to be sacked. “I didn’t ask him to decide whether he wanted to stay or to go. I gave a choice as to whether he wanted to resign or whether I should sack him. A choice, as pure courtesy. My relationship Mallia is good. He is currently passing through a difficult time, because he is hurt.

“I am sure he will continue to give his input in parliament. I know how his mind works…it is the prerogative of a Prime Minister to choose his ministers. I gave him a choice. He chose not to resign, and I respect that, so I also took my decision.” Miriam Dalli

15:42 Carmelo Abela to remain whip until Christmas recess. Miriam Dalli
15:37 First question: “Shouldn’t you shoulder responsibility too? Mallia resigned because someone made a mistake, doesn’t that apply to you as well?”

“Going by your argument, Tonio Fenech should have shouldered responsibility. The inquiry determined what happened and I acted on it,” Muscat says. He also gave a list of his telephone logs on the night of Wednesday 19 November. He denied that he knew that shots fired were “not warning shots”. Miriam Dalli

15:35 Muscat thanks Mallia: “I still respect him both personally and professionally, as a friend.” Miriam Dalli
15:33 Muscat says Simon Busuttil should take “a good look around him”, pointing out that a tender was based on a false documents: “If Busuttil believes that the bar of standards increased only for the government, he is mistaken. It has also been set for the Opposition.” Miriam Dalli
15:29 “I cannot not comment about the fact that the Opposition leader manipulated a recording…dishonesty at its best. If we want to talk about honesty and resignations, how acceptable is it that an Opposition leader accuses the inquiry as a ‘cover-up of a cover-up’.

“If this happened abroad, with the judges themselves commenting that this was ‘undue political pressure’, a politician would have to seriously consider his actions. The board of inquiry was appointed according to Maltese laws, with powers equal to a court of a law.” Miriam Dalli

15:26 Muscat says this morning he asked all ministers to read the independent board of inquiry’s report because there are conclusions which all ministers have to shoulder. “Most evident is the inquiry’s comments that ‘accountability’ is lost once people are in government. And this is what we want to change.” Miriam Dalli
15:24 “Politically, this is not a happy episode. But differently from the past, I ordered an inquiry, it took place and I even invited the Opposition leader to nominate the chair. Within 15 days, this report was concluded and made public. We have introduced a new culture: an independent evaluation of allegations and a prime minister which acted on it.

“I did give the benefit of the doubt, but now that the inquiry was concluded, the decisions that needed to be taken, have been taken. This is accountability. Today we gave a strong sign of a change in culture where one has to shoulder responsibility for their action.” Miriam Dalli

15:22 Muscat says that what happened and an analysis of the facts confirms that “humility” is an important value: “While people appreciate the economic growth and we help improving their standard of the living, we cannot ignore that there are issues which worry them.

“The priority is now for the new minister and the new police commissioner is to start working on building once again the trust between the people and the police force. This case [Sheehan incident] is of grave concern but it also flags the issues which exist within the force. These problems vary from a culture of hiding, strengthened by the inquiry’s finding of an attempted cover-up by police officers. This is a culture we have to eliminate.” Miriam Dalli

15:18 Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is flanked by Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela and Police Commissioner Michael Cassar. Miriam Dalli
15:16 Journalists are now waiting at Castille for the Prime Minister's press conference which is set to start any minute. Miriam Dalli
14:21 Matthew Vella
14:12 The ceremony is now over and the Prime Minister informs journalists that a press conference will soon be held at Castille. Miriam Dalli
14:10 President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca appoints Carmelo Abela as Minister. Abela's family is also present, with his two kids standing proudly. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri, OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and principal permanent secretary Mario Cutajar are also present. Miriam Dalli
14:02 Members of the media are now gathered at the President's Palace for the swearing in of Carmelo Abela as the new Minister for Home Affairs and National Security. Miriam Dalli
13:58 It is official: Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has sigend the official document to formalise the removal of home affairs minister Manuel Mallia. Matthew Vella
13:19 Updates on the forthcoming 2pm swearing in: Carmelo Abela, government Whip, to be home affairs minister; justice and culture minister Owen Bonnici will be given the Public Broadcasting Services; tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis will be responsible for film industry. Matthew Vella
12:53 Matthew Vella
12:40 There's some minor fireworks about the fact that Busuttil is taking only two rounds of Qs, to which he replies that even Muscat has held press conferences without even taking questions. Which is true. On our part, I have asked Matthew Bonett, the PN's communications chief, to reconsider this unwise practice. Matthew Vella
12:37 Simon Busuttil is asked about the edited police recordings that the PN issued. He instead accuses Kurt Farrugia of having not issued the right statement when he knew they were not warning shots. Matthew Vella
12:34 Busuttil says the inquiry still leaves unanswered questions, especially since it did not ask the Prime Minister to testify. Matthew Vella
12:32 "The new Commissioner has a big responsibility on him, to see that the police force is run as it should be, and charge people in court as required. We wait and see if Cassar will rise to this occasion." Matthew Vella
12:32 Busuttil on Michael Cassar - does he trust him, we asked? Matthew Vella
12:31 "The Prime Minister is unable to sack Mallia..." Matthew Vella
12:29 Q&A time now... Matthew Vella
12:24 He also says that the annexes of the witness statements have not been published. "We want them published in full transparency." Matthew Vella
12:24 Busuttil says that PM chief of staff Keith Schembri was not even summoned to testify in the inquiry. Matthew Vella
12:23 "The inquiry was useless: it came to the conclusion that was obvious from the very start. Political responsibility had to be carried. The inquiry served only to waste three weeks. And today we don't know whether there's someone who is ready to carry political responsibility." Matthew Vella
12:22 Busuttil is also questioning whether Ray Zammit should even be placed back as Assistant Commissioner, a de facto second-in-command in the police force. Matthew Vella
12:22 Busuttil claims that Farrugia should be held responsible for drafting the statement. Matthew Vella
12:21 Simon Busuttil says that the inquiry board's gymmnastics in defending government communications chief Kurt Farrugia "makes no sense". Matthew Vella
12:19 "For the Opposition, it was clear from day one that Mallia had to resign, while it took the PM three weeks to take this decision. Does the PM have good political judgement?" Matthew Vella
12:18 Busuttil says that Muscat has not yet accepted his challenge to publish his call logs on the night of the incident. Matthew Vella
12:18 Matthew Vella
12:17 "How could the Prime Minister go to sleep after having asked his communications chief to assert that the facts as carried in the government statement were correct?" Matthew Vella
12:16 Matthew Vella
12:16 "If the PM is so weak not to take the most crucial decision a PM has to take, how capable is he to take more obvious decisions? How much can you trust the PM after all this cover-up? How much can you trust the PM to take strong decisions to represent you here and abroad?" Matthew Vella
12:15 "While Mallia has not yet resigned, a new minister is about to be sworn in: a total confusion. A country in total confusion, for a simple reason - a prime minister who should have acted like one three weeks ago." Matthew Vella
12:14 Simon Busuttil is now live on Net TV. Matthew Vella
11:52 Opposition leader Simon Busuttil will be addressing a press conference at 12:00pm. Matthew Vella
11:52 Matthew Vella
11:24 Carmelo Abela is to become new home affairs minister. Matthew Vella
11:06 Here's Opposition leader tweeting it succintly for Joseph Muscat...
Matthew Vella
11:05 We have spotted Labour deputy leader for party affairs Toni Abela ringing the bell at Manuel Mallia's house in Valletta, but no answer. Matthew Vella
11:05 Manuel Mallia will have to be sacked unless he resigns: the government is going ahead with a swearing-in ceremony for a new minister. Matthew Vella
08:38 Good spotting by Nationalist whip David Agius, who finds this timely FB status update by education minister Evarist Bartolo:
Matthew Vella
08:27 Here’s the opinion of Greens’ deputy chairperson Carmel Cacopardo: “To me the main conclusion of the report is the condemnation of a Maltese political system in which people are constantly evading their political responsibility.”
Read the blog here.
Matthew Vella
08:10 Some quick views from what is being said in the press. Here’s the Times’s leader:
“Dr Muscat could have avoided a great deal of this had he acted promptly from the start and sacked the minister – who not just presided over this mess but played a part in it – as well as the police commissioner who, even in the three-way phone call which involved the Prime Minister’s communications chief, was at the very least ambiguous with the information he put forward… “The government will not recover from this issue quickly. Indeed, it may never recover fully at all until people are satisfied that they have been told the whole truth about the incident and everything that took place afterwards.”
Matthew Vella
08:08 Here's the day's press review.
Matthew Vella
08:07 Want to run through the details of the Sheehan inquiry report? Here's the digested read Matthew Vella
08:07 Good morning... expect new developments today since Monday's announcemeny by the Prime Minister that he had asked Manual Mallia to resign. Matthew Vella
23:34 Here's the full inquiry report: LINK Matthew Vella
22:57 In fact, Muscat did not take any questions from the press... Matthew Vella
22:57 There is, justifiably, great criticism over the fact that Media.Link journalists (that's the PN stable) were apparently not invited to the Castille 'briefing'
Matthew Vella
22:42 Matthew Vella
22:41 Looks like Simon Busuttil was Skyping from his house... Matthew Vella
22:40 "Today, the people of Malta and Gozo are disappointed to see that the prime minister has not carried out his duty... to sack Mallia from minister, instead of leaving it up to Mallia." Matthew Vella
22:40 "It is unheard of that a prime minister does not take the decisions he is expected to take, and instead leave it up to the minister." Matthew Vella
22:39 "It is clear that the PM has admitted that this was a case of cover-up, but did not arrive to the logical conclusion this merits: to sack Mallia, and not ask him to resign." Matthew Vella
22:39 "My reaction is that the Prime Minister has lost all moral authority and that he is weak in a case where he had to act like a prime minister." Matthew Vella
22:38 PN leader Simon Busuttil is on Net TV, in a telephonic comment to be made shortly. Matthew Vella
22:37 And here's a snapshot on the micro-aggression taking place on Twitter, with Siggiewi mayor Karol Aquilina taking on former Labour MEP candidate Cyrus Engerer - a former PN deputy mayor.
Matthew Vella
22:36 The official line of the Labour Party is to support Muscat as a leader who takes decisions. Check out former parliamentary secretary Franco Mercieca's tweet:
Matthew Vella
22:33 As MaltaToday colleague James Debono puts it, "in normal circumstances the PM would face the media with the resignation letter already in his hands; it is obvious now that Mallia will have to resign but this latest twist makes things even more surreal." Matthew Vella
22:31 If Mallia is reading the inquiry report now, he gets to enjoy this luxury because unlike Acting Commissioner of Police Ray Zammit, his role in the cover-up of facts was not as "grossly negligent" as his - said the inquiry board's report. Matthew Vella
22:28 Azzopardi says that the situation is "unprecedented, pathetic". Matthew Vella
22:25 On Net TV, shadow home affairs minister Jason Azzopardi says "the Prime Minister is not Joseph Muscat." Matthew Vella
22:23 And a word from Alex Saliba, president of the Labour Youth Forum
Matthew Vella
22:21 A tweet of support for the PM from Labour candidate Aaron Farrugia:
Matthew Vella
22:17 Politically it is unprecedented that a prime minister in Malta actually asks a minister to resign, and declares the intention publicly at the end of a two-week inquiry; of course, ministers have resigned for less in European democracies. Tomorrow's and Wednesday's press are going to be brimming with debate about Muscat's decision and Mallia's next step. Matthew Vella
22:15 Siggiewi mayor Karol Aquilina also tweets:
Matthew Vella
22:14 The #OkSiehbi is the alter-hashtag of this debate... more humorous Matthew Vella
22:13 Here's PN deputy leader for parliamentary affairs Mario de Marco on the Mallia affair:
Matthew Vella
22:12 If you're following the debate on Twitter, it's hard to find a suitable hashtag, but the PN is using #MalliaMustGo Matthew Vella
22:10 AD chairperson Arnold Cassola is also less than thrilled about the way Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has handled the matter:
Matthew Vella
22:10 Michael Cassar now becomes the fourth police commissioner in as little as 20 months: John Rizzo was succeeded by Labour's first appointee, Peter Paul Zammit; who was then succeeded by Ray Zammit as acting Commissioner of Police; and now former Assistant Commissioner and drug squad head Michael Cassar, who will step down from Malta Security Service head. Matthew Vella
22:08 Ray Zammit is evidently the fall guy in the whole affair, although it will be interesting to know the extent to which other members of the police force could have been involved in tampering with the evidence or 'covering up' the affair. Matthew Vella
22:07 While former Labour MEP candidate Cyrus Engerer supports the PM's decision in this:
Matthew Vella
22:07 Here's former AD chairperson Michael Briguglio's instant reaction:
Matthew Vella
22:07 Here's former AD chairperson Michael Briguglio's instant reaction:
Matthew Vella
22:06 You can see the debate unfolding on Twitter as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has now decided to ask Manuel Mallia to resign while saying that no political cover-up was found evident in the Sheehan inquiry report. Matthew Vella
21:59 Matthew Vella
21:58 Muscat says he has given Mallia the inquiry report to consider. "It will be his decision to take." Matthew Vella
21:58 Muscat says he asked Mallia to resign... Matthew Vella
21:57 Inquiry report says that there is nothing to indicate that there was no indication that Silvio Scerri and Kurt Farrugia were involved in any cover-up. Matthew Vella
21:56 Inquiry report said Mallia should have corrected initial statement when it was brought to his attention by government communications staff. Matthew Vella
21:55 But report also says that Mallia should have "ensured that no incorrect information was contained in the government statement" of the incident. Matthew Vella
21:55 Inquiry report concludes that Manuel Mallia "was not involved in the Sheehan case" and that "no proof exists connecting him to a cover-up"... Matthew Vella
21:54 Joseph Bugeja will be Acting head of Malta Security Service. Matthew Vella
21:54 Cassar will no longer be head of the Malta Security Service. Matthew Vella
21:53 Michael Cassar, Security Service head is new Police Commissioner. Matthew Vella
21:53 Ray Zammit will resign. Matthew Vella
21:53 Muscat says board found shortcomings by Acting Commissioner of Police Ray Zammit: "professional shortcomings which, altough not borne out of any malicious intent, were grossly negligent and that he must take responsibility for them." Matthew Vella
21:52 Inspector Gabriel Micallef and other members of the police force have been identified as among those who are part of the "cover-up". Matthew Vella
21:51 "There is however no case of political cover-up." Matthew Vella
21:51 Muscat: there was an attempt at a cover-up on the Sheehan shooting, amomg them people close to Sheehan himself. Matthew Vella
21:50 PM addressing briefing. Matthew Vella
21:33 The full recordings of the Sheehan incident that were recorded at the police control room can be found here. Matthew Vella
21:32 The press is still waiting for a briefing at Castille to start. Matthew Vella
21:30 Matthew Vella

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has arrived at the Auberge de Castille, where an announcement could be imminent on the Sheehan shooting inquiry.

The two-week inquiry, led by retired judge Albert Magri, was to determine whether a cover-up was at hand when the government initially issued a statement saying that two shots fired by home affairs ministry driver Paul Sheehan at the car of Stephen Smith, had been "warning shots".

MORE Latest recordings released by PN media (14 minutes)

Throughout the week, recorded phone calls from Sheehan to the police control room on the night of 19 November, have been played out in instalments by the Nationalist Party's media, building up public pressure on Muscat to bring political responsibility to bear upon home affairs minister Manuel Mallia.

The Opposition said that Mallia, acting Police Commissioner Ray Zammit, as well as government communications coordinator Kurt Farrugia should resign over the statement issued by the government.

But the recordings issued over the weekend clearly show that the shots fired at the car were not warning shots.