OPM aide Neville Gafà, once sacked by Fearne, wants ‘continuity candidate’ to become PM

OPM’s unofficial Libya envoy Neville Gafà says any leadership contender has to deliver on the Labour manifesto approved in 2017

Loyal to the last: Neville Gafà (right) has been at the beck and call of former chief of staff Keith Schembri
Loyal to the last: Neville Gafà (right) has been at the beck and call of former chief of staff Keith Schembri

There is one figure in Maltese politics whose unofficial status has turned him into an eminence grise of the Labour government’s power set-up: Neville Gafà, an unofficial envoy employed by Joseph Muscat’s office to make contact with Libyan leaders and to handle medical visas for Libyans seeking treatment in Malta.

On Facebook, Gafà has pledged unwavering loyalty to the former chief of staff Keith Schembri, whose house he has been visiting frequently since his resignation from the OPM.

Now, Gafà appears to be warning Labour members to vote in a candidate who will deliver on the manifesto on which Labour was elected in 2017, in a reference he made to “many promises being made in this campaign.”

It is no secret that there is no love lost between Gafà and leadership contender Chris Fearne, the deputy prime minister and health minister who sacked Gafà from the Foundation for Medical Services following a controversial trip to Libya to meet government ministers as a special envoy of the PM as well as a notorious Libyan militia leader.

Gafà, whose duties at the OPM included working inside its customer care unit, has previously claimed he was a projects director at the health ministry, but back in 2016 he had been implicated in an alleged medical visas racket when a whistleblower claimed Gafà charged Libyan nationals thousands of euros for a visa to live on the island.

“I have to talk about the many promises being made in this campaign,” Gafà said on Facebook on Monday morning. “Beyond these many promises, the Labour Party led by Muscat won government on the basis of an electoral manifesto approved by the party’s general conference. The people gave its verdict and approved this manifesto in the general election… a new leader is obliged to deliver on this manifest.

“This is no general election. It is an internal race and what interests the people is that the manifesto is delivered. So the people demand continuity… not a new beginning.

“This voyage began in 2008 with Muscat’s vision. We’re halfway there and the people want to move forward and not start again.”

Gafà was careful not to namedrop any of the two contenders, among them Fearne, a candidate who seems intent to present himself as an antidote to the Muscat administration by restoring Malta’s reputation among the international institutions that have berated the island for its institutional shortcomings.

Furthermore, continuity appears to be the mantra adopted by the other contender to the post - Robert Abela. Abela has said that he will not immediately carry out a Cabinet reshuffle and has called for gradual, judicious change to ensure continuity.

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