A spike in Covid-19 cases was expected to be announced later in the day, but at a party activity on Sunday morning, Prime Minister Abela made a point of downplaying the phenomenon.
“I had expressed my determination that people would enjoy the summer – and many said that we did not know what we were doing then,” he told the party faithful at an extraordinary general conference at the Rialto Theatre in Cospicua.
“And I kept my word with you,” he added to a roaring applause.
In a week where mass events have been under increased scrutiny over Covid-19 concerns, the Rialto was packed solid, and only a handful of party activists opted to wear face masks, with none of its top officials following suit.
But Health Minister Chris Fearne nevertheless reiterated that this was a time to be cautious. His assertion that he was constrained to speak about Covid-19 was initially met with chuckles, before the crowd was led to applause.
“We could not leave Malta closed, our social life suspended, our economy stopped. But because we are open, this is the time to be more responsible than ever before,” Fearne said.
The extraordinary general conference served to confirm the election of former party president Daniel José Micallef as the PL’s new deputy leader for party affairs. Micallef was the only contestant for the post.
Micallef has been replaced by former party journalist Ramona Attard, herself the only candidate seeking the position. Attard opened the conference, with Micallef addressing the crowd next.
Abela appeals to Delia to break ranks with PN majority over constitutional votes
During his address, Abela also brought up the proposed constitutional reforms, drafted in the wake of recommendations made by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. Four bills related to these reforms are set to be voted upon in their third and final reading on Wednesday.
But three of the four will require a two-thirds parliamentary majority to pass as they amend the Constitution, and the Nationalist Party has signalled that it will vote against all of them.
In three cases – amendments concerning the appointment of the president, the appointment of the judiciary and a reform of the Permanent Commission Against Corruption – the PN cited its reservations about the same anti-deadlock mechanism. The bills foresee that the President, the Chief Justice and the PCAC chairman would require a two-thirds parliamentary majority to be appointed, but an absolute majority of MPs will suffice after two unsuccessful attempts, and the same candidate can be put forward throughout.
The other bill governs the potential removal of members of the judiciary, shifting responsibility for this task from Parliament to the Commission for the Administration of Justice. But PN MPs expressed their reservations after members of the judiciary had done so.
But in light of the PN’s internal struggles, Abela appealed directly to its embattled party leader Adrian Delia to break ranks with the majority of PN MPs who want him out.
“You have to decide whether to allow yourself to be led by those who want to drive the country into a wall, or if you are going to lead,” Abela said, questioning whether Delia wanted to be part of a “clique” which claimed to want such amendments for months only to shun them when they arrived.
When Delia lost a vote of confidence among his parliamentary group, he was backed by 11 MPs, himself presumably included. These 11 would theoretically suffice to provide the government with the required two-thirds.
“If you stay on the side of destruction, this country will never forgive you,” the PM added.
He also insisted that the most comfortable option for him was for things to remain the same and retain the powers he had.