[WATCH] Daphne, Muscat, Grech and the polls: Labour president and PN MP spar

Xtra on TVM | Labour Party President Ramona Attard and Nationalist MP Mark Anthony Sammut cross swords

Ramona Attard (left) and Mark Anthony Sammut (centre) with Xtra host Saviour Balzan
Ramona Attard (left) and Mark Anthony Sammut (centre) with Xtra host Saviour Balzan

Labour Party President Ramona Attard has avoided criticising Joseph Muscat over the handling of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder, insisting the former PM shouldered political responsibility by resigning.

Attard was taking part in a discussion with Nationalist MP Mark Anthony Sammut on TVM’s Xtra, hosted by Saviour Balzan.

When pressed by Sammut over government interference in the murder investigation – he said people within the Office of the Prime Minister were involved in covering up for the murder mastermind – Attard said the facts are different to what is being stated.

“Government last year pardoned one of the Caruana Galizia hitmen over a separate murder case and this led to the arrest of the Tal-Maksar brothers… three people are now serving jail terms over the Daphne murder and criminal proceedings are ongoing against another three… the facts speak differently from what is being insinuated,” Attard said.

Asked by the programme host why the difficulty for Labour Party exponents to criticise the former leader, Attard said Joseph Muscat won elections and instituted big social and civil rights reforms.

“Ultimately, he shouldered political responsibility and resigned. The Labour Party moved on and elected a new leader, who found a united party,” she said.

Attard said Caruana Galizia’s murder was a wound inflicted on the country and “mostly on her family”.

“The reforms have started and will continue. We have strengthened the institutions and will continue doing so,” she said.

Mark Anthony Sammut, however, was unimpressed. “People in the OPM were involved at least to try and cover up for people involved in the crime… the three guilty men so far knew they were going to be arrested because of a tipoff. What is right and wrong is not measured by the electoral result. Corruption may not be a popular subject to talk about but it remains bad.”

Sammut acknowledged the PN’s inability to convince people despite the momentous events that happened over the past five years.

“This is partly the party’s problem. We have not yet managed to convince people we are an alternative government. But there is also a democratic deficit… we have a government that buys people by illegally allowing them to pass the driving tests, or admitting to the police force someone who failed all his exams,” Sammut said.

Asked why the PN was being punished more strongly than the PL by apathetic voters, Sammut said the party had to understand what was happening.

“Voter apathy may be partly the result of the countless corruption stories, which dishearten people. I worry because instead of finding hope in us [PN] to change things, voters are simply losing hope in politics and the country,” Sammut said.

On Bernard Grech’s leadership, Sammut said the leader had set a clear target for himself – managing to win the third seat at the European Parliament election in 2024. “If he does not reach that target, Bernard Grech has said that he will put his leadership up for scrutiny again.”

In a brief intervention, ADPD Deputy Chairperson Sandra Gauci said the party had to work harder to convince those 60,000 people who did not vote in the last election to support the Greens.

“Our vision is one that offers hope. It is a vision that speaks of change in an honest and courageous way. It is a vision that debates ideas and is not based on confrontation for confrontation’s sake. We speak against contractors and do not shun away from addressing the issue of abortion; issues the two major parties ignore. But we need to do more to speak to people about our vision because there is a ray of hope,” Gauci said.