Author and former PL delegate Mark Camilleri has named six PL MPs, including four current Cabinet members, as “rebels” during former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s administration.
Interviewed on Il-Podcast ta’ Jon, the Rent Seeker’s Paradise author said the “rebels”, who he counted himself as being close to, included Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo, Health Minister Chris Fearne, Culture Minister Jose Herrera, Sports Parliamentary Secretary Clifton Grima, and PL MP Joe Mizzi.
Former Finance Minister and current Central Bank Governor Edward Scicluna also fell in this category, Camilleri said.
He said the rebels were angered at the Panama Papers, so much so that the likes of Bartolo were even openly discussing whether to vote in favour of no-confidence motions in former minister Konrad Mizzi and former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
“There was genuine discussion by Varist [Evarist Bartolo] and his people and other rebels MPs about whether to vote in favour of the motion or not,” Camilleri said. “It was a dilemma, not just ‘viva l-Labour and Muscat’. The rebels were trying to see what to do.”
Camilleri, who was chairman of the National Book Council at the time, said that the “rebels” were reluctant to resign in protest as that would have meant abandoning projects they were working on and potentially letting corrupt people fill in the vacuum they’d have left behind.
As Muscat was so popular among the electorate, challenging him was not an option as he’d have easily crushed them.
“On an emotional level, it’s awful to leave power in the hands of corrupt people,” he said. “We were in politics because we genuinely believed in what we were doing.”
Meanwhile, PL voters were questioning why such a fuss was being made about Muscat and Schembri when PN politicians had enjoyed “so much impunity” under Nationalist administrations.
Camilleri said that although he disagrees with this line of thought, such arguments are “kind of valid”, and that this was the political situation the “rebels” were operating under ahead of the 2017 election.
Camilleri said the “rebels” were envisaging a post-election scenario whereby Mizzi would no longer be a minister and Schembri would no longer be chief of staff. In fact, he said Muscat had promised them not to retain Schembri as his right-hand man.
They were also planning to “kick Muscat upstairs” to the European Commission as the former PN government had done with John Dalli.
Ultimately, he said the decision of “rebel” MPs to remain in power proved crucial during the 2019 political crisis as they successfully pressured Muscat to resign.
“The rebels were crucial in getting him to resign during the 2019 crisis,” Camilleri said. “Joseph Muscat didn’t resign because of the protests; in fact he wanted to hold a mass meeting.”
Camilleri said that after Muscat resigned, the “rebels” threw their weight behind Fearne as Prime Minister and were stunned when he was defeated by Robert Abela.
“After Abela’s election, the morale among the rebels was devastating,” he recounted. “Fearne’s cockiness messed up his leadership chances, but it was genuine cockiness because we truly didn’t believe that such an idiot [Abela] could become Prime Minister,” he said.
“It was laughable. We seriously couldn’t comprehend a reality where someone who was called It-Tuba at secondary school could become Prime Minister.”
Camilleri said Muscat was clearly lobbying for Abela’s election, evidenced by his own admission that his wife Michelle Muscat had campaign for the current Prime Minister.
“We had just come out of the 2019 crisis and kicked Muscat out only to have his successor take over. It was unacceptable for us. We were either going to start a new page or stick with the same regime of rent-seeking, impunity and corruption.”
The first part of Camilleri’s interview is currently only available to subscribers of Jon Mallia’s podcast but will be available for the general public in the coming days.
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