The only purpose of ongoing civil society protests is provocation, Labour leadership hopeful Robert Abela has said.

Speaking in the context of successive protests in Valletta calling for the prime minister to resign immediately,  Dr Abela said he "tolerated" peaceful protest, but he would not tolerate anyone who was  violent and tried to "destroy" the country. 

“I will not tolerate anyone going beyond the limits,” he stressed in a One TV interview. 

Dr Abela is one of two men vying to take over from Joseph Muscat as Labour leader and prime minister next month, contesting the post with Chris Fearne. 

Robert Abela speaking on ONE TV.

Civil society groups have been protesting for more than two weeks, demanding accountability for fallout from the investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder. 

“I now believe that the only purpose of the current protests in provocation,” he insisted, saying that protesters were just waiting for authorities to "make a mistake" for them to have "achieved their purpose". 

He backed calls for calm and order and said those protesting should not, however, think they could do whatever they wished.

Those who succeeded in harming the country would ultimately pay the price, he said, as they would inherit a country that was destroyed.

Changes needed in the Labour Party

Dr Abela said changes were needed within the Labour Party and the government, but such change had to be carried out gradually and with care.

The priority, he said, was to maintain unity, because it was only through unity which this change could be brought about.

He praised the strength of the Labour parliamentary group, saying every individual was good at something.  

“We are united and ready to bring about change while also restoring serenity in the country,” Dr Abela said. 

Daphne Caruana Galizia's sister, Corinne Vella told Dr Abela it is not up to him to tolerate protest.

"People have a right to protest, media have a right to access a protest and the state is obliged to protect those rights, not shore up the people who violate them," she said in a Facebook post. 

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