The government was too busy forming Prime Minister Robert Abela’s new Cabinet to send someone to an urgent Council of Europe Monitoring Committee on the critical situation in Malta, with the country still coming to grips with a political crisis.
Not a single MP or government representative was sent to the meeting in Paris. A government spokesperson told Lovin Malta that logistical problems brought on by the formation and swearing-in of the new Cabinet meant it was impossible to send someone.
MP Manuel Mallia, who has remained a backbencher, serves as the government’s chief representative in the CoE but did not turn up. The same applies to his substitutes Etienne Grech, Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, and recently made Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms and Equality Rosianne Cutajar.
Instead, a written statement was sent. The government declined to provide the document, but Lovin Malta was told it was “nothing grand”.
Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi was present for the meeting.
The meeting was called to see if the country was meeting its obligations and commitments following reports from the Venice Commission, GRECO, and MoneyVal.
However, it was even more urgent given the current state of play in the country, following the political crisis in Malta brought on by the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and its links to the highest levels of the state.
The government’s absence was noted by the Committee, who were reportedly furious with their decision not to attend.
“The Government reiterates its commitment to continue extending its full co-operation to the Monitoring Committee and all other Council of Europe institutions,” the spokespersons said.
The Council of Europe has applied ever-increasing pressure on the Maltese government to act, forcing the state to launch a public inquiry in the murder.
However, the situation in Malta has threatened to spiral out of control ever since the arrest and charge of Yorgen Fenech in connection with the assassination.
The crisis has even reached the highest level of government, with the office of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat linked to the death of Caruana Galizia, with his former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri a spectre over the case.
Robert Abela has since replaced Muscat as Prime Minister, but his predecessor will remain an MP, while question marks remain over the state of investigations.
Abela has already attempted to build bridges by ordering that the Caruana Galizia protest memorial at the Great Siege monument not be cleared following vigils.
A more significant presence in crucial official meetings, despite the fanfare of Abela’s election, would have shown his administration really means business.