Carmelo Abela’s position as Malta’s Foreign Minister is no longer tenable in views of emails sent to sacked FIAU official and police investigator Jonathan Ferris, which clearly represent ministerial interference in a police investigation.
Just days ago in Ireland Deputy Prime minister Frances Fitzgerald has agreed to resign over the handling of a police whistleblowing scandal, pulling the country back from the brink of a snap election.
This is what happens in normal democracies.
Frances Fitzgerald had to resign after it emerged that she had received three emails drawing up a strategy against a police whistleblower. In contrast, the email mentioned by Ferris was sent by a Ministry official in which the Minister was copied.
The claim by Ferris is a very serious one and refers to documentation sent directly to him.
“Carmelo Abela’s secretary had sent me an email, with the Minister copied in it, to ask me how a fraud case I was investigating was progressing,” Ferris said in an interview with LovinMalta:
“I responded that it was still being investigated and he said he was aware, to which I told him he could fix an appointment with me if he wanted. He got back to me with an email saying, in capital letters, that the Minister wanted this information.”
The Minister has not denied these emails were sent insisting that “request for such information clearly falls within the Minister’s remit, especially when faced with a complaint, and can in no way be misconstrued as undue pressure or interference.”
This is an admission of guilt and an attempt to construe interference as an integral part of the new normal. Irrespective of the legality of this interference, Abela was on even shakier grounds than the Irish Deputy Prime Minister when he demanded information.
Instead of issuing statements to defend his untenable position, Abela should immediately report to Parliament, face a grilling by MPs and resign to save his government further embarrassment on the same day that an EU delegation is visiting the country to investigate the collapse of the rule of law in Malta.
It is unacceptable for any Minister or public official to demand information on a pending police investigation, especially one which was investigating members of the same government.
This is like having a party in an alleged crime (in this case the government) having access to investigations before charges are even presented.
This case which dates back to April 2016, when Abela occupied the Home Affairs Ministry, stands as another reminder of the sad state of the country; one in which the independence of institutions is constantly eroded, day by day.
It is a clear case of the watchdog being watched over by a Big Brother State with tentacles used to prevent honest officials like Ferris from doing their job.
Opposition leader Adrian Delia and Democratic Party MP Marlene Farrugia are right to call for Abela’s resignation or his immediate removal.
While in Ireland the Minister resigned, in Malta it is business as usual; no investigations, no resignations and complete impunity for those in power.
In these circumstances, Carmelo Abela should stop representing Malta as its Foreign Minister. If he does not he will continue tarnishing our international reputation.
Abela represents the country in upholding the rule of law in the world. If he is unable to do so in Malta, how can he be expected to uphold the same principle internationally?
If Abela refuses to resign he should be removed by the Prime Minister. If nothing of this sort happens, it is just another confirmation that they are all protecting each others’ back.
It will be an indication that Abela acted with the permission of the Prime Minister. If that was the case, then the country’s problem is once again confirned – an entire government that has lost its moral legitimacy.