In terms of political resignations, 2020 was nothing short of a political bloodbath. From two major leaders to prominent politicians and key law enforcers, many people lost their powerful positions this year.
These are the top resignations of 2020, ranked in terms of how extraordinary they were at the time
17. Heathcliff Farrugia
It flew under the radar somewhat, but this year saw the Malta Gaming Authority’s CEO Heathcliff Farrugia step down, along with the regulator’s chief officer of authorisations Karl Brincat Peplow. His resignation came as Malta’s gaming sector faced increased scrutiny in light of Moneyval’s assessment of Malta’s money laundering regime.
16. Miriam Dalli
Dalli cruised to victory in last year’s European Parliament election, winning more votes than any other candidate. However, her time in Brussels was to be short-lived, as she soon returned to Malta to take on the role of Minister for Energy and Enterprise. With both sectors very much in the limelight, Dalli will be a Minister to look out for in 2021.
15. Michael Zammit Tabona
Renowned businessman Michael Zammit Tabona resigned as Malta’s ambassador to Finland after he wrote a Facebook post comparing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Adolf Hitler in light of the irregular migration situation. With such an undiplomatic comment as that, not even Zammit Tabona’s influence within the Labour Party could save him from the sack.
14. Marthese Portelli
One of the PN’s most vocal and policy-focused MPs, Marthese Portelli suddenly announced her resignation, saying she was tired at how Maltese politics had been reduced to a battleground of insults. A few days later, she took up the new role of director-general at the Malta Developers’ Association, giving the developers’ lobby a fresh look.
13. Neville Gafa
Only a few days into 2020 and Neville Gafa, a friend of former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, resigned from his position of trust at the Office of the Prime Minister. It was seen as the first major decision taken by incoming Prime Minister Robert Abela and, in hindsight, would pave the way for things to come.
12. James Piscopo
In what was to be the last high-profile resignation of 2020, James Piscopo resigned as CEO of the Lands Authority amidst reports that he had hid around €600,000 in an offshore bank account in Jersey. In a dodgy turn of events, it emerged that Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech had tried and failed to get this story published in the press a year earlier.
11. Justyne Caruana
Only a few days after his election as Prime Minister, Robert Abela laid down the law on Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana after it was revealed that her husband, former deputy commissioner Silvio Valletta, had travelled with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech to watch a Premier League football game.
However, Caruana separated from Valletta shortly after her resignation and she was later reinstated to Cabinet as Education Minister.
10. PN councillors
Following the recent PN leadership election, a number of Nationalist councillors loyal to outgoing leader Adrian Delia resigned from the party, although some stayed on as independent councillors.
Notably, Charmaine Aquilina’s resignation left the PN without a single councillor to represent the party in Marsa while Doriana Portelli’s resignation left them with only one councillor in Birżebbuġa.
9. Ian Abdilla
No sooner was Angelo Gafa appointed police commissioner than he removed Ian Abdilla as head of the economic crimes unit and replaced him with Alexandra Mamo. Abdilla would later admit in court to inaction on the Panama Papers and say he would do things differently a second time round.
8. Chris Cardona
Chris Cardona was made to step down as PL deputy leader after he was repeatedly named in court by murder middleman Melvin Theuma in connection to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Vehemently denying Theuma’s allegations, Cardona warned his resignation would only make the middleman’s claims more believable, but Robert Abela showed him the door nevertheless.
7. Joseph Cuschieri
Malta Financial Services Authority CEO Joseph Cuschieri resigned after it emerged that he had traveled to Las Vegas with Yorgen Fenech in 2018, in a trip funded by the businessman. Cuschieri insisted that everything was above board, but this element of closeness between Malta’s chief financial regulator and its most notorious murder suspect saw him forced out of the MFSA’s top job.
6. Edward Scicluna
One of the last remaining bulwarks of Joseph Muscat’s administration, Edward Scicluna resigned as Finance Minister after seven years in charge of the nation’s coffers. His subsequent appointment as Central Bank governor shows he’s still in the government’s good books though.
5. Adrian Delia
After years of political infighting within the Nationalist Party, Adrian Delia resigned as PN leader following a leadership election against Bernard Grech which he lost heavily. By stepping down, Delia became the first-ever leader of a major Maltese political party not to contest a general election.
4. Peter Grech
After ten years as Malta’s Attorney General, Peter Grech resigned a few months ago, a few months after Abela hinted that a change could be in the offing. Grech faced severe criticism for failing to take action on white-collar crime and for advising the police not to seize data from the servers of Nexia BT, the financial firm at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal. His constitutional role was also split, with the role of AG now focused on high-level prosecutions and a new State Advocate in charge of giving the government legal advice.
3. Lawrence Cutajar
Just like Grech, former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar faced strong criticism for failing to prosecute cases of high-level corruption and he became one of the first casualties of the Abela administration this year. He was immediately given a sinecure as consultant to the Home Affairs Ministry, but even this was stripped from him after he was placed under investigation in the wake of revelations that he had been named in tapes recorded by Melvin Theuma.
2. Konrad Mizzi
One of Malta’s most controversial ministers of recent years, Mizzi was left out of Abela’s Cabinet last January and the Prime Minister asked him to resign from the PL in the wake of the Montenegro wind farm scandal, which revealed that Yorgen Fenech had made millions out of Enemalta’s purchase of a wind farm in the Balkans.
However, Mizzi refused to step down and he was made to suffer the embarrassment of watching on as the party’s executive and parliamentary group voted to kick him out.
1. Joseph Muscat
After announcing his intention to resign as Prime Minister last December after his chief of staff was implicated in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Joseph Muscat stepped down from the nation’s top job at the start of the year. He quit Parliament a few months later and has since kept a relatively low profile, testifying at the public inquiry and appearing for a few select interviews.
For good and ill, Muscat has dominated Malta’s political landscape for a decade, and only time will tell what this mean’s for the future of Maltese politics.
What do you make of this list? Do you think 2021 will bring with it more high-profile resignations?