Bernard Grech has warned against the government calling an early election, saying it will distract from efforts to get Malta off the financial action task force’s grey list

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, the opposition leader said an early election would mean politicians are more concerned with gaining votes rather than getting Malta off the grey list. 

“Robert Abela should place the national interest first. Labour calling an early election, like it has done in the past, will not solve the problem,” Grech said in reply to questions from journalists. 

At such a critical juncture, the national interest trumps all other considerations, he added.

He said the time for government arrogance is over. 

“The prime minister needs to take notice of expert advice, he needs to consult and communicate with all social partners to get where we deserve to be.”

Thousands angered by greylisting

The opposition leader said thousands of Maltese were angered by the greylisting.

He said now was not the time to hit the streets in protest, but rather engage in dialogue to resolve the situation as soon as possible. 

“It is not me or the prime minister who will suffer, all Maltese will. We do not need to say this is the Labour government’s fault. Everyone already knows that. We need to see how we can move forward,” Grech said. 

He slammed the government for ignoring and ridiculing his appeal for a national task force to be set up to coordinate work to limit the damage caused by the greylisting decision and eventually undo it.

Grech quipped that certain politicians or the government should have been greylisted, rather than the entire country. 

The opposition leader accused the prime minister of trying to downplay the true scale of the greylisting problem. 

By contrast, Grech said the Nationalist Party was ready to tackle challenges in a serious manner. 

“It is what our country deserves. We need to be removed from the grey list as fast as possible”. 

Opposition leader reticent on Delia

Questioned why he had not sent his own signal against financial crime by removing his predecessor Adrian Delia, Grech said now was the time for everyone to unite. 

Delia was the subject of a financial intelligence analysis unit report which concluded there was a reasonable suspicion he was involved in money laundering linked to a prostitution ring. 

Grech accused the government of still having a stranglehold on the institutions, and of attacking other institutions, such as the Commissioner for Standards, that did not agree with the government. 

Shadow finance minister Mario de Marco said Robert Abela’s government had failed its first real test. 

He said the government had failed to convince the international community that it was ready to effectively fight financial crime. 

De Marco warned that this would weaken Malta’s hand at the EU negotiating table, seeing that it was the first EU country to be greylisted. 

On the economic front, de Marco said this should impact not only the financial sector, but spill over into real estate, construction and gaming. 

PN MP Kristy Debono pointed out that ever since the FATF was set up in 1980, Malta had never faced any serious risk of grey listing. 

Evaluations by the FATF and Moneyval did not even used to be newsworthy, she said. 

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