Edward Zammit Lewis on Monday said he was following the party line in a January 2019 Labour press conference mocking attempts to seek justice in the 17 Black case. 

The justice minister is facing a no-confidence motion moved by the Nationalist Party after Times of Malta revealed how he communicated with 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech after the press conference. 

Edward Zammit Lewis speaks in Valletta on Monday. Video: Jonathan Borg/Matthew Mirabelli

Speaking to Times of Malta, Zammit Lewis, who was a backbench MP at the time, said it was no secret that he was friends with Fenech and communicated with him in a friendly manner. 

The minister, who is also under fire for disparagingly describing Labour voters as ‘Ġaħan’ in a Whatsapp conversation with Fenech, said he “did not discuss politics” with the businessman.

'We take directions from the party'

Zammit Lewis justified his mockery of attempts by former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil to trigger an inquiry into 17 Black by saying: “we take directions from the party.”

Shortly after the press conference,  Zammit Lewis asked Fenech if he was OK and sent him a link to an online news report detailing his mockery of Busuttil’s 17 Black justice attempts.

Zammit Lewis refused on Monday to say why he felt the need to communicate with Fenech directly after the press conference.

The justice minister insisted he always carried out his duties in the best way possible, pointing in particular to justice reforms over the past year-and-a-half.

Zammit Lewis did not say whether his possible resignation was discussed during a cabinet meeting on Monday. 

Fenech is facing murder charges over his alleged masterminding of the Daphne Caruana Galizia car bombing. 

He denies the charges. 

The PN on Monday formally requested the summoning of parliament to debate the no-confidence motion. It said that Zammit Lewis is unable to distinguish between right and wrong and should not, therefore, be a minister.

The country should have a justice minister who had not associated himself with a person who was known to be facing serious allegations.

It should not have a minister who had contributed to the culture of impunity that led to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the PN said. 

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