Economy Minister Chris Cardona’s declaration on Tuesday that he was suspending himself from ministerial duties is unprecedented and does not appear to be legal, constitutional experts told Times of Malta.
Dr Cardona announced that he was "suspending himself" until investigations related to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia were wrapped up. The minister was called in for police questioning on Saturday.
According to the constitution, a minister can either resign or be removed from office either by the Prime Minister or by a parliamentary motion.
“What minister Cardona declared is legally unheard of. He cannot remain a minister, have the powers of a minister, be paid as a minister and enjoy all the privileges of being a minister while not attending his duties and turning up for work. It’s just not permitted under the constitution and the Prime Minister should act,” a leading expert said.
The last time a top politician voluntarily stepped down in order to clear his name following allegations was in 2010, when then-parliamentary secretary Chris Said had resigned his post following claims of perjury unrelated to his political role.
After a court cleared him, Dr Said was appointed again as a Parliamentary Secretary and had to take a new oath of office.
In 2014, during the first Labour administration, then Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia was dismissed by the Prime Minister following a shooting incident involving his driver. Minister Mallia had initially refused to step down and Dr Muscat was constrained to issue an order relieving him from his ministerial duties.