17 Black: ‘Let rule of law take its course’, Muscat says

After gushing tribute to his administration’s successes, Prime Minister thanks his Cabinet and MPs for their work 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat today fended off reports on new 17 Black revelations by standing by the ongoing police investigations into the information forwarded them by the FIAU, but also by giving thanks to all his MPs and staff. 

Just two days since a connection was clearly drawn between the Panama companies opened by chief of staff Keith Schembri and tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, with his government’s power plant operators, Muscat gave short shrift to the Reuters and Times reports. 

“This version was just one version of the many versions of this story.... the serious way of doing things is to allow the rule of law to take its course. After all, there were many things which were said which turned out to be untrue, including the story that I owned Egrant,” Muscat said, rekindling the conclusions of the inquiry that absolved him of having opened a Panama offshore company. 

Throughout his speech at the Msida Labour Party club, Muscat thanked all his party MPs for having worked endlessly to take Malta to top-tier positions in the European economy and health standards. “I thank them... we’re all friends here.” 

Muscat mocked Opposition figures who used their European soapbox to criticise his administration “and Malta” while ignoring its achievements. “If the opposition believes that once there is an allegation, resignations should be tendered, MEP David Casa should resign today. Even Opposition leader Adrian Delia should resign since he was accused of laundering money from criminal businesses.” 

He jokingly suggested that he wouldn’t want Delia to resign. “There are plenty of members of Delia’s own party who want him gone themselves.” 

Muscat also hit out at personal attacks against his family, referring to anonymous tweets shared by Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi claiming his children would be sent to Stonyhurst private school in the UK. “There’s a very fine line between public and private life. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t care less about the private lives of others and if there's a problem in someone’s private life, we will be there to help him out." 

Malta ‘envy of the world’ 

Muscat spent the first half of his speech glorifying the many successes of Malta during his tenure, referring to a €10 million EU grant for the Valletta MUZA art museum. “Culture and art does not belong to snobs but to everyone. Museums shouldn’t just be attractions for foreigners but to locals as well.” 

He paid tribute to a Budget proposal for free access to children to public museums. “It is through the hard work of my friends here that Valletta has become a magnet of cultural importance... 20 hotels in Valletta alone, relatively small but expensive, attracting high-class tourists.” 

With regards to the Health Sector, Muscat mentioned the new Mater Dei cardiac catheterisation suite. New technology, involving optic fibres and robotics will aid surgeons in operations involving the heart. "For the first time ever, Malta is in the top 10 countries for having the best ever healthcare systems. We are at number nine in The Lancet international health journal. And, what's more, this technology that is not easily found everywhere else will be available to Maltese citizens for free." This was, he said, thanks to the funds of the Malta Citizenship Investment Programme.

An 'unworthy' opposition

Muscat took aim at the opposition, claiming that "it cannot get its act together", liking the members of the shadow cabinet to a group of self-employed, unable to agree on a single issue. Muscat said that he was worried about this situation. "Some might say that this is good for the government but it's not good for democracy. I cannot tell you what the opposition believes in."

Muscat attacked the opposition for disseminating "hate" towards its own country, plunging it into a bad reputation abroad. He said that countries like Estonia, Denmark and Latvia were getting the attention of the European Commission with the Commission even taking Luxembourg to court since they were not applying the stipulated laws against money laundering responsibly.

"Why do we not hear about these countries in the EU but we hear about Malta all the time? What's the difference between Malta and these countries? The opposition," he said. "These countries' opposition act for the benefit of their country and they act cautiously and sensibly. In Malta, the opposition foams at the bit for an opportunity to attack its own country."

The only response, Muscat claimed, is the European Parliamentary elections in May of 2019. "There we can show the opposition that we are ready to choose people who will serve the country, to improve the country and not destroy its successes and reputation."