Wednesday evening’s civil society protest was “unnecessary” and “out of place” according to Prime Minister Robert Abela.

“At this moment in time I believe the protest is unnecessary but I respect the right of those attending and organising it. However, I also believe that the protest is out of place,” Dr Abela said when asked about the first protest being organised since he took over as Prime Minister. 

The protest was called by civil society groups after Times of Malta revealed on Monday evening the lucrative two-year deal to former minister Konrad Mizzi just two weeks after he was forced to quit.

The story about an €80,000-a-year Malta Tourism Authority job given to the former minister generated shock and anger including within the government ranks on Tuesday and the contract was eventually terminated.

Civil Society group Repubblika reacted to the revelations about the contract by announcing a protest outside parliament on Wednesday evening.

In a Facebook post, the group said: "Honeymoon Over, Robert Abela. You may be ok with covering for Konrad Mizzi and the rest of Joseph Muscat’s gang. But we're not going to cover up with you. We're coming to Parliament on Wednesday 29th January 6pm and we're going to tell you exactly what we think," the group said.

In another post, Occupy Justice said: "The gloves are off. Today Robert Abela showed us just what he meant by 'continuity'. No difference from the disgraced ex-prime minister."

In December, during the Labour leadership campaign, Dr Abela had said that the only purpose of civil society protests at the time was “provocation”.

Speaking in the context of successive protests in Valletta calling for former prime minister Joseph Muscat to resign, Dr Abela said he "tolerated" peaceful protests, 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.

NGOs call for people participation in Wednesday's protest

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

Meanwhile, civil society groups Repubblika, Occupy Justice and blogger Manuel Delia said in a statement Dr Abela had “no intention of doing what is right” but simply wanted to “give an impression that he is less bad than his predecessor”. 

The NGOs said that a Prime Minister who “knew his job” would have never consented to the appointment of Dr Mizzi to represent Malta at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The groups also took issue with the appointment of Justyne Caruana to an official position quickly after her resignation as minister, and the continued presence in the Labour parliamentary group of “individuals against whom there are clear allegations of corruption”. 

“We cannot understand how Keith Schembri is still allowed to roam free and leave the country frequently, despite the serious allegations that have been made against him and despite the fact that he has clearly hidden and continues to hide crucial evidence from the police,” the statement said. 

The NGOs encouraged people to join them in protest in front of Parliament at 6pm this evening.

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