PM accepts Justyne Caruana’s resignation

Miguela Xuereb

Additional reporting by JP Cordina

Prime Minister Robert Abela accepted Justyne Caruana’s resignation from Cabinet. She was occupying the role of Minister for Gozo.

Robert Abela’s first parliamentary address as Prime Minister served merely to confirm the resignation of Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana, prompting Opposition Leader Adrian Delia to describe this as “symptomatic” of a Labour government.

Parliament had agreed that Dr Abela and Opposition Leader Adrian Delia would be addressing Parliament in a House Business Committee meeting earlier this morning.

During this morning’s Parliamentary session, Abela thanked Caruana for her work with Gozitans and in Gozo and her work as MP. The brevity of the Prime Ministerial address prompted opposition whip Robert Cutajar to respond, in apparent surprise, that a more substantial address had been expected, with the Opposition leader, Adrian Delia planning to respond in kind. However, government whip Glenn Bedingfield insisted that that was all Dr Abela had to say, adding that Delia would be allocated the same time to make his reply.

The Opposition Leader Adrian Delia said that he was displeased to note that Dr Abela’s first address as Prime Minister served to confirm the resignation of one of his members of Cabinet, but added that it was also symptomatic.

He said that he expected Dr Abela to inform parliament on how long had government known of the reasons behind Dr Caruana’s resignation – her husband, the former assistant police commissioner Silvio Valletta, was revealed to have travelled with Yorgen Fenech to London on September 2018, when Fenech had already been identified as a suspect in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The opposition also wanted to find out who would succeed Dr Caruana, and stressed that Dr Abela was providing parliament with very little understanding of the direction he aimed to lead the country toward.

This resignation was triggered following a series of reports about a trip that Caruana’s husband, Silvio Valletta, travelled with Yorgen Fenech, the primary suspect of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, at a time when Fenech was already a person of interest in the Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

MP Marlene Farrugia declared that is unacceptable that Silvio Valletta was married to Caruana and no one spoke up before. She highlighted how a new government came into Parliament on its very first session declaring an immediate resignation.

The sitting opened with the swearing-in of Labour MP Jean-Claude Micallef, who was elected in a casual election to occupy the seat vacated by Helena Dalli over a month ago.

After a sedate round of parliamentary questions, condolences were offered to opposition MP Edwin Vassallo over the loss of his father Salvu, who died in the beginning of December. Condolences had not been offered previously in light of the unusually long Christmas recess, which followed the opposition’s boycott of Parliament while Joseph Muscat still served as Prime Minister.

Recess had been announced during a brief morning sitting on 4 December, while the elder Mr Vassallo’s funeral was taking place, and in his own intervention, the MP highlighted that it was disrespectful for parliament to hold a sitting at such a point. He stressed that the sitting that had been held was not urgent, and could easily have been postponed, stating that in such circumstances, an MP should not be constrained to choose between family and parliamentary duties.