Updated 8.26pm with Robert Abela reaction 

PN supporters loudly jeered and chanted "mafia, mafia" at Labour MPs as they left parliament on Monday.

The crowd gathered for a protest called over the damning public hospitals' inquiry and the subsequent filing of criminal charges against several top officials, including former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

The MPs exited parliament behind police barriers and made their way up a side street away from the crowd. No incidents were reported.

Ministers and Labour MPs walking out of parliament. (Chris Sant Fournier)

It was the preamble to a speech by leader Bernard Grech who told protesters that Robert Abela is attacking the “bastions” of democracy as the country is, once again, being dragged through the mud internationally.

“Let us understand what the prime minister is doing. He has been attacking three institutions at once - journalists, the parliamentary process and the judiciary,” he said.

“For the prime minister and the speaker, parliament is not the country’s highest institution but a bunker from where they cannot hear the democratic cries.”

The protest was called after Grech said his party would resort to "parliamentary disobedience" after two rulings by the speaker denying requests for urgent debate on issues stemming from the inquiry and the charges. 

“Abela’s attack on journalists is an attack on freedom of democracy and freedom of expression. His attempt to stop Chris Fearne from resigning is another attempt at defending his interests, not even the interest of the PL,” he said. 

“But on June 8 it is not Abela who will tell you what to do. Rather, you can tell him what he should do,” the PN leader said.

If it were up to the government, the hospitals deal would have never been annulled. It was thanks to the Nationalist Party that the government was forced to pull out of the deal and it was thanks to NGO Repubblika that a magisterial inquiry was carried out, he said.

Protesters waved fake notes. Photo: Chris Sant FournierProtesters waved fake notes. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

“If you are so sure you did nothing wrong, what are you afraid of? Robert Abela, what else do you know? What in the inquiry is scaring you?” he asked.

“The truth remains that today we have the highest government officials accused with serious crimes.”

Bernard Grech addressing supporters. Photo: Chris Sant FournierBernard Grech addressing supporters. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Protesters carries Maltese and EU flags and holding placards lambasting the "theft" of the public hospitals.  

The PN called its protest Nagħtu s-saħħa lill Maltin (Giving power to the Maltese), a play on Labour's European Parliament and local councils electoral slogan Saħħa lill-Maltin.

Flyers put a price to the money allegedly embezzled in the deal. Photo: Chris Sant FournierFlyers put a price to the money allegedly embezzled in the deal. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Grech said this was an “unprecedented time in our country’s history”, with top public officials both past and present facing charges of money laundering, corruption and fraud.

Former PN leader and MP Adrian Delia reminded supporters that two judgments last year had already found the Vitals deal to be fraudulent and hit out at Edward Scicluna for failing to stop the concession when he was finance minister.

Photo: Chris Sant FournierPhoto: Chris Sant Fournier

The Vitals case has dominated headlines since the magistrate concluded her four-year inquiry into the government's grant of a concession for the management of three state hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare in 2015.

Vitals later transferred the concession to Steward Healthcare and the concession was declared null by Malta's highest court in February after finding fraud. 

Adrian Delia addressing the crowd. Photo: Chris Sant FournierAdrian Delia addressing the crowd. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Change your tone, prime minister tells Grech

Prime Minister Robert Abela, speaking in Għargħur shortly after the PN activity, said the Nationalist Party was resorting to confrontational politics.

This was the political style of yesteryear, the sort the people had repeatedly rejected.

“I appeal to you all not to fall for any provocation,” he told his supporters during an interview by a One TV journalist.

“We need a sense of unity, cordiality. We can have different political views but we should be able to sit around a table to discuss them to get the best result.” 

The prime minister said Grech’s address, as well as the Opposition’s attitude in parliament, sent out a mistaken and dangerous message and Grech would have to shoulder responsibility for it.

“I invite the leader of the opposition to change his tone, people are showing what they want,” Abela said, while urging supporters to go out and vote on June 8.

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