Mallia stands by ‘right’ decision not to resign over shooting incident

Former home affairs minister Manuel Mallia stands by decision not to resign in the aftermatch of the Sheehan inquiry, remains tight-lipped on possible new post within government.

Former home affairs minister Manuel Mallia has stood by his decision not to resign in the wake of the shooting incident involving his driver, arguing that a resignation would have suggested his involvement in a cover-up.

Mallia, a self-confessed former Nationalist who was personally recruited by Joseph Muscat to become one of Labour’s star candidates, conceded that the incident embarrassed the government and that he was “hurt” and "made a scapegoat" by what happened.

In December, barely two years into his tenure as minister, Mallia's political career took a nosedive, Mallia after Paul Sheehan, his driver and a police constable, shot at an unarmed man following a car chase. The incident, which was initially described as Sheehan firing “warning shots” subsequently saw Manuel Mallia being sacked as home affairs minister – a day after a board of inquiry found that it was Mallia’s duty to ensure that the ministry’s statement was accurate or that it was corrected.

Speaking in an interview with the Sunday Times of Malta, Mallia said his resignation had been discussed the day after the November 19 incident, but at no point did anyone urge him to shoulder political responsibility.

“I wouldn’t say I offered it (his resignation), but I can’t say it was not discussed … As far as this case is concerned people believe that I had absolutely nothing to do with hiding or covering up this incident and I thank them for that because it’s the truth,” Mallia said.

In November, a week before the full report of the inquiry board into the shooting incident was published, Labour MP Marlene Farrugia said that it would have been “the logical decision” for Manuel Mallia to resign until the inquiry was completed.

However, Mallia said that no one within the party though that he should resign, and that the “support” strengthened his resolve to stay on.

The former home affairs minister refused suggestions that his behaviour had left the prime minister “no choice” but to sack him, arguing that he believes he “made the right decision.’

“Initially, had it been felt there was political responsibility to shoulder because I was the home affairs minister and this happened under my watch, then, yes, one would resign,” he explained.

Mallia also stood by his decision not to resign after the inquiry report was concluded in December, as this “had exculpated me and I had nothing to do with covering up the incident.” Conversely, he said, had he resigned, it would have meant that he was involved.

The Labour MP also refuted reports that he will replace George Vella as foreign affairs minister. Mallia was however tight-lipped on whether he was offered a new post within the government, arguing that it is not the right time to comment and that it remains the prerogative of the prime minister.

Mallia also insisted that he had not been “betrayed” by former home affairs chief of staff Silvio Scerri, but nevertheless argued that “certain things could have been done differently.”