Updated 7pm, adds Speaker's ruling

Parliament was briefly suspended on Tuesday afternoon amid chaotic scenes and shouts of “robbers, thieves, mafia”.

Foreign minister Carmelo Abela and parliamentary secretary for the elderly Anthony Agius Decelis had to be restrained by fellow Labour MPs after they crossed the floor.

They had been riled by opposition Nationalist MPs shouting “robbers, thieves, mafia”. The most vocal were Karol Aquilina and Marlene Farrugia.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat attempted to calm MPs as the chaotic scenes escalated when he entered parliament.

It happened hours after Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi resigned, Economy Minister Chris Cardona 'suspended himself' and the prime minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri also quit. 

The political crisis followed the arrest of Yorgen Fenech over journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder in October 2017. 

The disorder began shortly after speaker Anglu Farrugia left the chamber following  prayers. Proceedings were suspended for 35 minutes. 

Amid the chaos, security officers tried to confiscate a Times of Malta mobile phone and accused the reporter of taking photographs, which was not the case.

For the second day running Opposition leader Adrian Delia called for an urgent debate in the wake of the resignations of Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi and the suspension of deputy leader Chris Cardona, saying the Prime Minister’s position had become “compromised”.

Dr Delia made the request, by once again invoking Standing Order 13, under which parliament can be adjourned to debate an urgent matter.

“This is a constitutional and institutional crisis in the wake of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder and all the related criminal matters,” he said.

He added that no Western democratic country allow the government to be hijacked by organised crime. Consequently, the Prime Minister should resign, he said.

Government Whip Byron Camilleri reacted saying, the motion was out of order as it constituted a vote of confidence.

In a ruling delivered after nearly two hours, Dr Farrugia reiterated that such debate could prejudice the ongoing investigations and the rights of the suspects with respect to the right to a fair hearing.

Moreover, the motion was not in line with standing orders, as a formal request for a prime minister to resign could not be tabled through such procedure. A confidence motion had to be submitted with at least three days notice, he said. 

“While the chair subscribes to the concerns of the Opposition, the motion cannot be upheld,” the Speaker said. He called on all sides to reach an agreement for a debate to be held without risking to compromise the investigation. 

At this point the Opposition leader and the Prime Minister asked for a brief suspension, saying they wanted to “verbalise an agreement”. The announcement took MPs by surprise, and the two leaders re-entered the chamber after a few seconds. However, there was no mention of the agreement and the Prime Minister left the chamber. 

Consequently, the House proceeded with the set agenda, a debate on amendments to the Eco-Contributions Act. 

Dr Delia who is in possession of the House after taking the time originally allocated for Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi, spoke on the latest developments saying the fact that the Prime Minister thanked his chief of staff for his services was "baffling".

This, he said, was a case of “institutionalised murder.

At the end of the sitting, Opposition whip Robert Cutajar said Nationalist MPs were giving up the time allocated to them for the adjournment to join the protest .

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