Malta courts

The Malta Employers’ Association (MEA), the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, as well as the Malta Chamber of SMEs have called for an urgent Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) meeting, highlighting concerns about statements made by Prime Minister Robert Abela on the Vitals inquiry.

In a statement on Wednesday (today) afternoon, the aforementioned employed bodies have stated that the current situation regarding the magisterial inquiry on the hospital privatisation deal poses “a serious risk to economic stability and Malta’s international reputation.”

Over the past week, headlines have been dominated by the news of the Vitals scandal, a deal to privatise three state hospitals that saw around €400 million in public funds being spent. The deal, pushed by former Prime Minister (PM) Joseph Muscat and his administration, was later annulled by court and is now engulfed in legal proceedings. Current PM Robert Abela on Monday held a 90-minute press conference, in which he appealed for calm, stating that a magisterial inquiry is not a court of law, and that according to law, all individuals involved should be seen as innocent until the judicial procedure is launched and concluded.

Additional reports have stated that Dr Muscat, together with his former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and ex-Minister Konrad Mizzi, as well a number of individuals and companies, are facing several charges, ranging from money laundering and bribery, to filing false declarations and disclosing confidential information.

In addition to this, PM Abela has repeatedly questioned the timing of the conclusion of the inquiry. While the inquiry had been ordered five years ago, he has stated that it has been timed to coincide with MEP elections, set to take place in June, by the so-called “establishment” in a bid to damage the Labour Party. He also affirmed that the upcoming elections will serve as an opportunity for the public to vote in favour or against the magisterial inquiry that led to the charges.

These claims have been perceived as attacks on the judiciary, with the employer bodies stating that they “strike at the heart of Malta’s democratic credentials and challenge basic principles of governance.”

“Malta, having already suffered through being grey-listed, cannot afford further reputational damage. Branding individuals, organisations, and institutions as the “establishment” or enemies of the state does not contribute to the cause of justice,” they added.

Robert Abela / DOI Omar Camilleri
PM Robert Abela during Monday’s press conference / DOI – Omar Camilleri

They affirmed that the nature of the situation has the potential for “destructive alienation and tension within society,” which can thus pose significant threats to social and economic well-being, while also weakening the rule of law. As a result, the employer bodies stated that there is an “urgent need” to promote public trust in the justice system and apply all legal remedies to ensure that the innocent are acquitted and the guilty are held accountable.

They stressed the importance of transparency and accountability in upholding the integrity of Malta’s institutions and the rule of law. “It is imperative that the findings of the inquiry are not subject to speculative conjectures that undermine trust in judicial institutions. Any criminal proceedings warranted, should happen without any political interference or threats to the judiciary. The judicial process must be allowed to take its course,” the employer bodies stated, in an indirect reference to Dr Abela’s claims.

“Any attempts to undermine the integrity of the inquiry only serve to erode public trust in the institutions and compromise Government’s future standing,” they continued.

As a result, the MEA, the Malta Chamber, and the SME Chamber have called for “prompt and responsible action” to safeguard democracy and stability in Malta. They feel that an urgent MCESD meeting needs to be held to “address these critical issues and provide the required reassurance that the national interest will not be undermined by partisan agendas.”

Featured Image:

Courts of Malta / Vassallo History

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