Prime Minister Robert Abela has played down fears of a spike in new coronavirus cases, saying he was determined to maintain the level of normality restored since June and keep the country open for business.
“Those fomenting fears whenever there is a new case, stand no chance of creating panic,” Abela said when addressing the Labour general conference at the Rialto Theatre in Cospicua on Sunday.
The prime minister made this remark amid concerns that 14 new COVID-19 cases had been registered overnight. However, Abela insisted there would be no turning back at this point in time.
“We will remain open for business” he said.
“Against all forecasts, in the last five weeks 4,000 new jobs were created and unemployment has gone down,” he said.
Abela insisted Malta was also on the right track for economic recovery, as even the European Commission was forecasting it would be the first member state to come out of the crisis.
The prime minister acknowledged that at the height of the pandemic some even within government had doubts on his pledge that people would still be able to enjoy summer.
“I kept my word”, he said as the Labour delegates burst into applause.
He noted that in contrast to other countries who acted late, Malta had gone back to normality.
“We did not let our decision to be conditioned by fear. Panic should not be allowed to replace rational decisions,” he insisted.
At the same time he said there was no room for mistakes as people’s lives were at stake.
“Results vindicate the timing of the decisions to start the gradual reopening of the economy,” he said.
'Migrants must respect the Maltese'
Prime Minister Abela also referred to migration, saying the influx of irregular migrants was an issue affecting the lives of sectors of the population especially residents in the Marsa and Ħamrun area.
He warned that the government was stepping up police presence in this area to ensure law and order in the streets.
“People have a right to feel safe,” he remarked
“We will be very tough with those who will not leave Maltese living in peace,” Abela added,
“We are hosting foreigners in our homes and expect them to behave,” the prime minister said.
From a broader perspective, he said the government was working to reduce the number of migrants coming to Malta by boat.
He noted in recent days Libya intercepted around 5,000 migrants on their way to Malta and Lampedusa.
“I can set people’s mind to rest. We are working on this problem, and lobbying in other countries,” he told Labour delegates. However, he said there were “forces” in Malta who were hindering such efforts.
“There are forces in Malta whose policy on migration is for Malta to take every board departing Libya,” he remarked.
The government was also working on another front, by seeking to relocate migrants to other EU countries.
'Opposition blocking rule of law reforms'
In his address, the prime minister insisted that in his seven months at the helm he had given priority to reforms aimed to strengthen the rule of law in Malta.
He noted that on Wednesday parliament would be voting on a series of Constitutional amendments to enact the changes being recommended by the group of experts of the Council of Europe known as the Venice Commission. However, these required the Opposition to be on board as they required a two-thirds parliamentary majority.
Abela said he could not understand how the Opposition was saying it would be voting against the same reforms which it had been vociferously campaigning for,
He called on opposition leader Adrian Delia to take the right decision and support these reforms while warning that voting against would only be an attempt to destroy the country.
“The easiest way out for government would be the status quo and blame the Opposition for blocking the reforms, but we are committed to strengthening the rule of law,” he said.
'Door open for disgruntled PN voters'
The Prime Minister also referred to the crisis within the Nationalist Party, saying he was shocked about the attitude and approach of certain people within it.
“If they can be so mean among themselves, I cannot even imaging what they would resort to doing to their political rivals,” Abela said.
Pitching his address to disgruntled PN supporters, he said the PL was open for all those wanting to join a party whose ambition was to take the country forward.
“Our doors are wide open to all those feeling politically orphaned,” he said.