Updated 4.30pm with response from Zammit Lewis

Former ministers Edward Zammit Lewis, Carmelo Abela and Michael Farrugia have been left out of Robert Abela's new cabinet, becoming the three biggest omissions from Malta's new executive branch. 

The trio join former parliamentary secretaries Chris Agius, Alex Muscat and Deo Debattista, who also missed out on a reappointment. 

Former ministers Evarist Bartolo and Jose Herrera are also missing from cabinet after failed to be reelected and said they would be resigning from political life.

Abela's ministers and parliamentary secretaries are set to be sworn in on Wednesday afternoon. 

Zammit Lewis served as justice minister up until parliament was dissolved in February, despite repeated calls for him to be removed after his closeness to Yorgen Fenech, the businessman accused of masterminding the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder, was exposed

The former minister had also come under fire for disparagingly describing Labour voters as ‘Ġaħan’ [a village idiot] in a Whatsapp conversation with Fenech.

He told Times of Malta that he respected Robert Abela's decision to omit him from his cabinet.

"I will keep on serving the Labour Party and my constituents which gave me again their trust," he said. "I respect the prime minister’s constitutional prerogative."

The second MP to not make it to cabinet is Carmelo Abela, who had previously served as minister within the office of the prime minister. Like Zammit Lewis, Abela has also made headlines for the wrong reasons in recent months. 

Abela, was among a select number of HSBC staff who had access to security equipment used to generate key cards suspected to have been used during a daring 2010 bank heist. One of the two Degiorgio brothers, who are accused of planting the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia, has alleged Abela was involved in the heist.

The former minister has vehemently denied playing any role in the heist.

Abela appeared to relish not having any ministerial duties on Tuesday, posting on Facebook that he was enjoying "a quiet day".

Farrugia is left out of cabinet for the first time in his political career, which spans back to the 1990s. He has served in multiple cabinet posts over the years, from health minister in the 1996-1998 Labour administration to Home Affairs Minister from 2017 to 2020, when he oversaw law enforcement's response to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

His role grew more peripheral once Abela assumed office, with a 10-month stint as Energy Minister followed by a move to Active Ageing Minister in late 2020. 

Farrugia was rumoured to be on track to be named as parliament's Speaker, replacing Anġlu Farrugia. But that rumour was shot down by Labour Party sources later on Wednesday, and a government statement announcing cabinet appoints made no mention of him.  

Junior Ministers out

Former parliamentary secretaries Alex Muscat, Chris Agius and Deo Debattista have also been left out.

Muscat was first elected in 2017 and was promoted to parliamentary secretary for citizenship in 2020.  The portfolio, which essentially oversaw Malta's golden passport scheme, is now believed to form part of that of Home Affairs minister Byron Camilleri. 

Agius is moved out after seven years as a parliamentary secretary. He was first responsible for research, innovation, youth and sports as well as for planning and the property market and parliamentary secretary responsible for lands and construction.

Debattista, a medical doctor elected on the first district, served as parliamentary secretary for public cleansing and consumer protection since the 2017 election. 

The appointment of ministers and the assignment of their responsibilities is strictly the prime minister's prerogative.

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