[WATCH] Justice Minister refutes claims that Joseph Muscat’s protracted resignation could taint murder investigation

Owen Bonnici says the Prime Minister’s decision to resign in January was to ensure a smooth transition in the shortest time possible

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici

Criticism that Joseph Muscat’s protracted resignation could prejudice the ongoing investigation into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia is unfounded, Owen Bonnici insisted.

The Justice Minister defended the Prime Minister’s decision to step down in January rather than now, as many activists and Labour Party exponents are demanding, adding this was to ensure continuity.

“Under our legal system, serious cases like these [murder investigations], an inquiring magistrate is always involved to preserve evidence. The criticism towards the Prime Minister is thus not founded because there is full trust in the inquiring magistrate,” Bonnici said.

He was taking questions from journalists after the launch of a privately-funded scheme to purchase new books for local councils in Malta and Gozo.

Thousands of people have marched in protest demanding Muscat’s immediate resignation after one of the accused in the Caruana Galizia murder case claimed the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri was an accomplice.

Bonnici said the Prime Minister’s decision to resign in January was in the country’s best interest.

“I know Joseph Muscat and how he does things for the national interest. His resignation in January was in the best interest of the country to ensure a smooth transition in the shortest timeframe possible and avoid any negative consequences on the country if the transition is not smooth,” Bonnici said.

Asked whether he was comfortable with the situation, Bonnici said that had the PL been in Opposition he would have had a different opinion.

“But the party is in government and I agree with the decision because it ensures a smooth transition for the country. Mind you, I think the country will lose with the Prime Minister’s resignation,” the minister added.

Muscat will be stepping down on 12 January by when the PL is expected to have a new leader.

So far, Chris Fearne and Robert Abela have signalled their intention to run for the post and become Malta’s next prime minister.

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