If elected, no immediate reshuffle – Abela

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A reshuffle of the cabinet is not needed yet, Partit Laburista leadership hopeful Robert Abela told Newsbook.com.mt during an interview with Fr Joe Borg.

Both Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne and Abela are seeking outgoing Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s post and will face each other off in a leadership race scheduled for later on this month. Muscat announced that he will step down following the arraignment of Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.

The most pressing issue at hand is to elect a leader for the party who will replace Muscat as Prime Minister, Abela claimed. He added that for the time being there was no need for radical changes.

The prime ministerial hopeful claimed that most members of the cabinet fulfilled their duties. He added that some of them where exceptional citing Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg and Justice Minister Owen Bonnici as examples.

He maintained that he was not planning on removing ministers who were “exceptional” in the carrying out of their duties. In contrast to this, however, Abela mentioned the need of having new faces among the cabinet members. He referred to unnamed backbenchers who have the potential to fulfill a role within a cabinet.

Without excluding the possibility of reshuffling the cabinet, Abela said that this was not on top of the agenda. He explained that it was first important to stabilize the situation and this would not happen through initial radical changes.

“I don’t think Mizzi should occupy a ministerial post”

Speaking about disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi, Abela said he was of the opinion that he should not occupy a ministerial post. Mizzi who was Energy Minister in the previous legislature saw his portfolio removed following the Panama Papers reveal. Offshore structures belonging to Mizzi were revealed in the cache of documents from the Panamanian law firm. He later sought re-election and was reinstated as minister, this time having the Tourism portfolio. However, as the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia progressed he resigned his ministerial post and stayed on as an MP.

Abela remarked that Mizzi was never implicated in Caruana Galizia’s murder. “Despite the pre-2017 revelations on Mizzi, the people still chose to vote him in,” Abela added.

The leadership hopeful explained that there was no place for Mizzi in the cabinet for the rest of the term, adding that it would be a different scenario if he managed to successfully contest next election.

“The country needs a lawyer at the helm”

According to Abela, the country needs a lawyer at the helm in the current political crisis. He explained that while he was not doubting of Dr Fearne’s credentials, a lawyer like himself can use his experience to address the current issues being discussed in the public domain.