[WATCH] In last New Year speech, Muscat claims he ‘paid highest price’ in leaving as he did

Extravagantly positive in end-of-year speech, outgoing prime minister Joseph Muscat says ‘Malta has to be proud of its achievements’

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in a still from his New Year speech
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in a still from his New Year speech
In last New Year speech, Muscat claims he ‘paid highest price’ in leaving as he did

Outgoing prime minister Joseph Muscat saw out what many agree has been his annus horribilis with a confident end-of-year speech, the last in his six-year premiership, saying he did “everything to the best of [his] abilities as Labour leader,” but bitterly claimed he had paid the highest price in leaving the way he did.

Muscat announced his impending resignation in early December in the wake of the resignation of his former chief of staff, Keith Schembri, who is now investigated in connection with the homicide of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia as well as for obstruction of justice.

“Ultimately, I paid the highest price possible since I did not wish to leave my role in this manner. Nevertheless, I am reassured by the fact that I did everything I could have done,” he said, without illustrating how and why he was shouldering political responsibility in the wake of some of the largest ever protests calling for his exit.

Referring to the ongoing investigations into the assassination of Caruana Galizia, Muscat said that he was satisified that justice was being carried out, with alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech, the Tumas group magnate and Electrogas investor, charged with the killing.

Unlike the sombre mood of his recorded message in December as he announced his resignation, the typical New Year message from the OPM came peppered with an interpretation of the national anthem and accompanying music throughout Muscat’s narration.

Muscat chose to be extravagantly positive during his last speech of 2019, skirting around the issues that plagued his administration and claiming positive developments in sectors that were neglected under his leadership, namely the environment and good governance. “We began to give a clear and strong signal regarding the environment as we put forward ambitious targets, one of which is the elimination of single-use plastic. We did not stop there. We have also introduced other ambitious targets such as the transition from fuel-powered cars to electric vehicles. This will lead to a significant reduction in pollution levels in our localities,” he said. 

Muscat praised the infrastructure the government invested in over the previous years, the economy, social justice measures and the introduction of civil rights to the LGBTIQ+ community, accomplishments of the dawn of the Labour government elected in 2013 but obscured by the allegations of corruption following the Panama Papers scandal in 2016.

“All the decisions I have made, all the decisions we have made, all the future decisions that need to be made, the decisions that need to be taken by those who will be leading the country for the next two and a half years, need to be based on one thing: the needs of Maltese and Gozitan families. 

“What is politics if not a tool, a means by which we can make a difference to people’s lives? I am proud that, over the past seven years, I led a government that worked to make this difference in people’s lives. Looking back at where we were, in economic terms, we can see how far we have come. Today, we have a thriving economy, one that is not a burden on its people but rather one that is generating wealth for the benefit of our citizens, especially those who need it most,” Muscat said.

He added that 2019 was a year of results, a year of tough decisions and a year full of challenges. Starting his speech on this note, Muscat said that, importantly, it was a year for Maltese families, the elderly, students and children and chose to speak about the government's success story, starting from a strong economy that could be distributed to all sectors of society.

“It is of great satisfaction for me that we are fighting for those who are most vulnerable in our country. We are helping young couples purchase their first property. And those young people, and other couples, who for one reason or another did not have the chance to hold a baby in their arms to call their own, today can do so because of the provision of free IVF services,” Muscat said.

Muscat promised a continuation of Labour's investments, he promised that the next leader, be it Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne or Labour MP Robert Abela, would continue to invest in education, the health services, the youths, the women and technology. “We must remain positive and optimistic and, above all, proud to be Maltese. We have to be proud of our Malta. Malta belongs to all Maltese and Gozitan people,” he said.