VALLETTA: Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, under fire over his handling of the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, said on Sunday he would step down after his replacement is chosen in January.
Muscat declined to make a link with Caruana Galizia’s 2017 murder, saying in a televised address that he was resigning “as this is what needs to be done.” The announcement came after two weeks of mounting pressure and popular protests calling for Muscat to quit for his handling of the probe into Caruana Galizia’s car bomb killing.
Muscat said he would resign after his successor is chosen by January 12.
Earlier Sunday, the Labour leader got the unanimous backing of part MPs at an emergency meeting called a day after tycoon Yorgen Fenech was charged with complicity in the murder. A court has also frozen Fenech’s assets.
The investigation has rocked the southern Mediterranean island, reaching the highest echelons of government.
Critics including members of Caruana Galizia’s family have accused Muscat, 45, of protecting those involved in murdering the popular journalist and blogger who exposed cronyism and sleaze within the tiny country’s political and business elite.
“I reiterate my deepest regret that a person who, with all her positive and negative qualities and contribution towards the democracy of our country, was killed in such a brutal way,” Muscat said on Sunday.
“Justice is being done. And I will see that justice is for everyone.
Investigations are not complete. No one is above justice,” Muscat said.
Meeting at Muscat’s summer home, MPs earlier Sunday agreed to reinstate Chris Cardona as economy minister and deputy leader.
Cardona had announced last week that he was “suspending himself” as the investigation into the killing of Caruana Galizia, a mother-of-three, in a brutal attack implicated top government officials.
Last week, the scandal claimed the scalps of Muscat’s top aide Keith Schembri and the former tourism minister, Konrad Mizzi.
Police sources said Fenech had identified Schembri as the “real mastermind” behind the killing.
Caruana Galizia, described as a “one-woman WikiLeaks”, accused Schembri of corruption along with Mizzi and Cardona.
Caruana Galizia’s family and thousands of protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets calling for Muscat’s resignation.
Protesters including Caruana Galizia’s elderly parents on Sunday marched through central Valletta carrying signs reading “Mafia” and “Daphne was right”, slamming Muscat as “an obstacle to justice”.
On Saturday, party insiders told AFP that Muscat was ready to go once those behind the killing had been charged.
A European Parliament delegation is due to arrive on Malta late Monday and stay until Wednesday.
Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2019