[WATCH] Labour leadership hopefuls Robert Abela and Chris Fearne promise better governance

Labour leadership election nominees Robert Abela and Chris Fearne interviewed by Saviour Balzan on TVM’s Xtra

Robert Abela and Chris Fearne are gunning for the seat that Joseph Muscat will vacate
Robert Abela and Chris Fearne are gunning for the seat that Joseph Muscat will vacate

Labour Party leadership hopefuls Robert Abela and Chris Fearne were guests on TVM’s Xtra. They were interviewed by Saviour Balzan on their vision and future direction for the party and country.

Robert Abela: ‘My legal background instrumental for necessary institutional reform’  

Robert Abela insisted he is the right man at this “decisive moment”, and stressed the importance of “independent and autonomous institutions”.

The Labour Party MP praised the work carried out by the current administration and said that he is committed to building upon it. 

However, Abela also expressed his concern that the government may have “distanced itself from certain values which are common to a majority of the Maltese people”.

“I believe I represent these basic principles and values, and am committed to strengthening them,” Abela said. 

He argued there is urgent need for institutional reforms, and said his legal background will be instrumental in helping him strengthen public institutions if elected leader. 

Asked by Saviour Balzan on his future Cabinet decisions, Abela said that he will either reduce the size of the Cabinet, or keep it as it is, adding that he will pay particular attention to the Home Affairs Ministry, without however, interfering in the work of the police. Abela hinted that as prime minister he would retain the portfolio under his wing.

Furthermore, Abela stressed that “the highest level of ethical behaviour should be expected of members of parliament”, with the MP expressing his support for the implementation of a register keeping a record of official meetings of politicians.

“If there are even allegations against an individual, he himself should step down. If he doesn’t, it’s in the prime minister’s hands to take the decision”, Abela insisted. 

The MP signed off by expressing his belief that he can win over the hearts of the Maltese voters. 

“I have a good vision for the country […] which should appeal to people of all political persuasions,” Abela said.

Chris Fearne: ‘Good governance and the environment are my priorities’

Chris Fearne has pitched his tent on the need for “mature leadership” at this crucial juncture for the country. The deputy prime minister said good governance and the environment will be his priorities if elected leader.

Fearne insisted the current climate required a “no-nonsense” leader, as he touted his political experience on both a local and European level. 

“I can make tough decisions for the good of the party and the good of the country,” Fearne said, pointing to his track record as Health Minister as proof of his abilities.

Fearne stressed the importance of good governance and said he will increase funding for public institutions such as the police corps and the FIAU, and will ensure that they can work independently from the government.

Asked by Saviour Balzan about the police, Fearne said the Police Commissioner should be chosen by a two-thirds parliamentary majority, so as not to be associated with any one party.

“The Commissioner needs to enjoy the trust of as large a portion of the Maltese population as possible,” he argued.

Additionally, the deputy prime minister said it was important that the country’s economy continued to gain strength. He added that restoring Malta’s good reputation abroad was a central concern of his and a priority.

On the Individual Investment Programme, Fearne said that by the next election the agreed capping of applications would have been reached and by that point there will be no need to extend the sale-of-citizenship programme.

“We need to put the environment on a pedestal,” Fearne declared, adding it was a priority for him.

On government’s relationship with big business, the Deputy Prime Minister said a government led by him “will work with businessmen, not be led by businessmen”.

Fearne praised what he labelled as “the best Cabinet this country has ever seen”, insisting that there are solid foundations in place to build on, and that Malta’s – and the Labour Party’s – future is bright.

The opinionists

Lawyer Alex Sciberras, a former Labour mayor and government adviser, said that while Muscat’s project has come to an end, it is clear that the Labour party has the tools to move forward.

Sciberras said both Fearne and Abela acknowledged the seriousness of the current situation and were ready to tackle it. 

Lawyer Bernard Grech agreed but insisted that there is need for everybody to be on board, including the Opposition, in order for the country to truly move forward