Every request for a presidential pardon would be handled with the utmost responsibility in the national interest, the prime minister said on Wednesday, while questioning why the Opposition seemed to have an enthusiasm for them.
Robert Abela was referring to a second request for a pardon made by Vince Muscat, who has already admitted his involvement in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, as well as pardon requests by brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, who are awaiting trial for the murder.
Speaking in parliament, Abela accused Opposition leader Bernard Grech of being "cheap and immature" when he reportedly said on Sunday that he had no doubt there was another mastermind in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
"If that was the case, he should do his duty, go to the Commissioner of Police and tell him what he knows," Abela said.
He also said Grech had promised a pardon to Yorgen Fenech - the alleged mastermind in the murder of Caruana Galizia. Grech had said that he would consider a pardon for Fenech.
Had Grech spoken to the police commissioner, the attorney general or the Caruana Galizia family, Abela asked.
Through his remarks, Abela said, Grech had in effect invited the alleged mastermind to request a pardon.
"Why do you want some people involved in organised crime to be given a pardon? What is your enthusiasm for a pardon?" Abela asked.
"Somebody else met criminals in the dead of night, I am standing up to them," Abela said, adding that nothing would stop the government's quest for the truth.
His reference was to the pardon given to Joseph Fenech (Żeppi l-Ħafi) who was granted a pardon in the stabbing of Richard Cachia Caruana, the former personal assistant to prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami.
That man, Abela said, was granted a pardon for the long list of crimes he was involved in, and yet, when the Cachia Caruana case came up, no one believed him and the accused was acquitted.
The pardon given by the government (to Vince Muscat) had led to the arraignment of persons alleged to have procured the bomb which killed Caruana Galizia, he added.
Abela also referred to claims that a sitting minister was involved in serious crime. He challenged Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi, who was in the chamber, to name him.
"Tell us who you are referring to," Abela told Azzopardi.
The former PN government, he said had also granted a pardon to a drug trafficker, convicted by the courts and jailed for 25 years. Abela was referring to Francesco De Assis Queiroz.
Abela said Grech's definition of national institutions that worked was institutions that allowed him to get away with not paying tax for several years, something which was also a crime.
The Opposition, he said, had promised to work with the government and yet as the time for the presentation of the Moneyval report came, they had redoubled efforts to harm Malta, as evidenced by their efforts to hold a debate in the European Parliament.
The comments were made at the end of a debate on a bill for the implementation of the Budget measures.
Earlier in his address, Abela said the Opposition in this three-day debate had abdicated its duties and did not speak on what was relevant for the people.
Not a single proposal was made on how to improve the future of this country.
And nothing was being said now about the vaccination programme, where Malta was now the leader in the EU.
All this was evidence how the opposition's actions were based only on scoring political points.
Abela said the government would be a force for truth and would continue to introduce reforms for better governance.
It would also continue to work for a better economy with a social heart. This was what the budget, presented last October, was about.
The former government resorted to austerity in the global financial crisis. But in the present crisis, the government was continuing to invest and economic performance was way better than the European average.
The prime minister went on to highlight investment made in health and he listed measures made to safeguard jobs and businesses. Once global economic recovery started, Malta's businesses would thus be ready to hit the ground running. Abroad businesses were closing and people depended on food banks, a far cry from the situation in Malta.
"The situation is not without its problems, but we are in better shape than other countries," the prime minister insisted.
Referring to claims about corruption in the government, Abela said the bottom line was that the government had looked after taxpayers' money. It had not imposed new taxes but still had a full war chest so that when the crisis came it was able to issue whatever help was needed.
"If we are a corrupt government what were you when, without a pandemic, you brought the country to its knees?" Abela asked.
The government, he said, was "serene" and would take no lessons on good governance from "cheap" PN MPs.
Abela said Opposition MPs only trusted institutions when inquiries reached conclusions that they liked. They now wanted to reopen the Egrant inquiry, he said.
"What about other inquiries in which Nationalist MPs were involved?" the prime minister asked.
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