Joseph Muscat struck an emotional tone as he delivered his last speech in Parliament as Prime Minister of Malta.
“Today was the first day of the rest of my life and I felt much more at ease,” Muscat said, a day after announcing his plan to step down next month. “No matter who the Labour Party chooses as its next leader, it will be someone capable of leading. Everyone knows who is interested in the position and, if I decide to stay on as an MP, I assure the next leader that they will have my unconditional loyalty as a backbencher. Perhaps I’ll ask a few parliamentary questions too. Not that I intend to contest another election but I’ll try to do the best I can.”
“However, I haven’t yet decided whether that is part of my future or whether I should leave the world of politics for good. What is certain is that, as a citizen, my vote will go to the Labour Party in the next election.”
“This government had and still has a historic majority, and I believe that this majority isn’t tied down to Joseph Muscat but to the thoughts of a movement.”
“If my successor wishes, I will help them to the best of my abilities. I started out in politics filing newspapers with Evarist Bartolo [back when the Education Minister was editor of the Labour Party’s media] and if needs be I’ll go back to filing newspapers, because the issue isn’t about who is greater and who is smaller but about what we believe in.”
“I’d like to write a book one day, but after all I passed through, I might have to write an encyclopaedia instead.”
Muscat said he was disappointed that he won’t get to oversee a reform of Malta’s Constitution and urged his successor to oversee the planned gender quota system and to kickstart a debate on potential term limits for MPs and Prime Ministers.
“My plan has always been to leave during this legislature and I admit that I had a number of dates in my mind, some of which have already passed. I started the year thinking that I’d leave in the summer, but then there was the Budget so I thought I’d leave after the Budget. Then I thought I might leave at the end of the year or the start of the next year; circumstances kept taking place that changed my mind.”
“When a journalist recently asked me whether the last Budget would be my last one, I honestly didn’t know whether it would be so I said ‘no’ and the media all led with that answer. Imagine what would have happened had I said I didn’t know, imagine the uncertainty that would have sparked.”
“I’d be lying if I said I wanted to depart this way but that it is what was needed and I must shoulder this responsibility.”
“People have asked me whether I regret entering politics in light of these past few days. Of course I have regrets, but honestly I feel that it was a lovely adventure that I learnt a lot from and I felt proud to represent our people. Beyond the political divide, I believe that all Prime Ministers did the best they could for the country and I’m convinced that the future Prime Minister will do the same.”
Muscat started his final parliamentary speech by mapping out the work carried out by the police and the Malta Security Services, which led to the prosecution of three suspected assassins and, more recently, of major businessman Yorgen Fenech.
In particular, he said his decision to request the FBI’s resources from the start proved crucial in apprehending the three suspects in December 2017.
He also said the government gave the Security Services the necessary resources to set up an entire unit focused entirely on investigating the assassination.
“As a Prime Minister, I was given general and sometimes even detailed briefings about progress on the investigation. Throughout the past 25 months, I couldn’t comment on media reports or statements that weren’t helping to solve the case, even though I was aware that they weren’t true.”
Muscat didn’t say exactly what convinced him to step down and whether his decision was in any way linked to how Fenech had implicated his now-former chief of staff Keith Schembri.
“Ultimately, we need to see that justice is served and that we move to a state of unity. Part of unity means that someone must shoulder responsibility, not only for what they have done but for what, in the general context, could have been shortcomings.”
“I believe I should use this measuring scale on myself, which is why I took this decision. I had promised myself to close this case while I was Prime Minister because I didn’t want to be like my predecessors who never solved a large case. The investigators can keep on working and prosecuting as they please, but there was a substantial breakthrough.”