Robert Abela has lost his first minister in record time, with Justyne Caruana stepping down after her husband’s intimate relationship with Yorgen Fenech was revealed.
However, it is worth noting how different the situation was just 16 months ago.
On 1st September 2018, Abela actually defended Caruana’s husband Silvio Valletta, back then deputy police commissioner, as Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family fought a legal battle to remove him from the investigation into the assassination.
In a Facebook post, he derided the Caruana Galizias after two British law firms working for them warned that Malta was violating the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to ensure the independence of the investigations.
“Advice given by a private British law firm that is naturally dancing to the tune of their clients, Caruana Galizia’s children,” Abela said. “My response to them is that we don’t need their prejudiced advice and that the people who paid for this advice can keep it for themselves.”
“It would have been better had they spoken about the mission of the Caruana Galizia children to hinder the investigations. Instead, they have the gall to say that the government is being hostile towards them.”
Daphne Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew Caruana Galizia posted a screenshot of Abela’s post to refresh the new Prime Minister’s memory.
“Do you remember, Mr Abela? Now bow your head,” he said.
The British law firms, Doughty Street Chambers and Bhatt Murphy, had specifically flagged as a major concern how the government had appealed a court decision to remove Valletta from the investigation due to conflict of interest.
“Of grave concern is the involvement in the investigation of Deputy Commissioner Valletta, which appears to us to be in clear breach of Article 2’s guarantees,” the law firms wrote. “It is surprising and regrettable that this officer failed to recuse himself or be removed from the investigation at the earliest opportunity, requiring the Family to issue proceedings in the Maltese courts.”
“Although it is understood that Deputy Commissioner Valletta has now finally been removed from the investigation, it is clearly concerning that the matter remains unresolved as a matter of principle given the Attorney General’s appeal.”
On 29th September, Valletta and Fenech accompanied each other to Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea take on Liverpool in the Premier League. A few days later, on 5th October, Malta’s Constitutional Court dismissed the government’s appeal and ruled that Valletta’s involvement in the investigation breached the rights of the Caruana Galizias.
Just over a year later, Fenech was arrested as he tried to escape from Malta and charged with conspiring to assassinate the journalist. After Fenech implicated the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri in the murder, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced his resignation, paving the way for Abela to succeed him.