Two Cabinet ministers speak up on stormy Castille debrief: ‘We were shocked’

Angry ministers expected police to give clear explanations as to why Keith Schembri was released from custody

The Prime Minister addressed journalists at 3am after Cabinet rejected a pardon for Yorgen Fenech
The Prime Minister addressed journalists at 3am after Cabinet rejected a pardon for Yorgen Fenech

Joseph Muscat’s final hours in a decisive Cabinet meeting held on Thursday evening edged his government close to breakdown as “disgusted” ministers indicated they could step down.

Ministers were debriefed by the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner on Yorgen Fenech’s request for a pardon before deciding on the matter.

A Cabinet member told MaltaToday that the debrief left them “bewildered, shocked and disgusted” as the meeting dragged on deep into the night.

“It left us with no doubt that no presidential pardon should be given to Fenech, but we were concerned that Schembri's release should have been accompanied with clear explanations about all the points raised in the media leaks,” the source said.

The police put out a short statement yesterday evening to say that Schembri was released from custody after investigations found nothing to link him to the Caruana Galizia murder.

Schembri’s release came while Cabinet was in session, a decision that angered protesters gathered outside Castille.

“It was a stormy meeting. We could not comprehend why the police had simply released two sentences to announce the release of Keith Schembri. The police should have addressed questions that were raised including the allegation that was denied by Schembri that he allegedly passed on a note to Fenech through his doctor when on police bail.”

Another Cabinet member told MaltaToday that there was a lot of anger at the manner by which Schembri had been allowed to throw his weight around in government.

“Today, every member of Cabinet is ruing those occasions when they bowed to pressure from Schembri in the discharge of their duties.”

Disappointed at how the government’s success has been tainted by the actions of one person, the source added: “This is not what we entered politics for. People are angry at us and we don’t feel safe.”

The sources said ministers counselled against holding a mass meeting on Sunday.  "What message can we tell our people in this moment? What is there to celebrate?"

The Labour Party had announced plans for a mass meeting in Fgura on Sunday but has since cancelled the event.

Just after Cabinet, Muscat claimed he would stay on as prime minister, but sources said the Prime Minister received Labour Party officials in the morning who expressed concern over the political crisis.

Muscat is now expected in the next 24 hours to announce that he will be stepping down.

Meanwhile, in a statement released this evening, the government denied reports that Cabinet, or some ministers, voiced their lack of trust in the Prime Minister.

Earlier in the day Newsbook reported that half of the Cabinet had expressed mistrust in Joseph Muscat.

This was described as “a total invention” with the government saying that at no point during the meeting was this matter raised.

The statement said the Cabinet meeting was called to discuss a request for pardon by Yorgen Fenech in the light of advice given by the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner.

“Dr Muscat will remain focussed on the country’s priority to resolve one of the biggest criminal cases in this country’s history, and, as he promised, it will be only at that moment that he will answer and talk about the road ahead,” the government said.