The Malta Independent 20 January 2022, Thursday

Updated (2): Foundation for Medical Services fires Neville Gafà -reports; PM says it was a transfer

Tuesday, 11 December 2018, 10:41 Last update: about 4 years ago

The Foundation for Medical Services has fired Neville Gafà, the Times of Malta has reported, however Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says Gafà was transferred.

The article reads that Gafà, who was employed on a position of trust basis, had his contract rescinded on instructions by Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne. Attributing this to sources, The Times of Malta said that Fearne's decision was linked to repeated allegations of wrongdoing, which Gafà has faced in recent years. The Times also reports that the foundation's head confirmed that the Health Ministry's chief of Staff directed her to terminate Gafà's employment.

Later in the day, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was questioned by the press.  

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, when asked by the press whether Gafà will keep his desk at Castille, said: “I think there is an incorrect interpretation, as what happened was practically a transfer procedure.”

 He did not say where Gafà was transferred to. He reiterated that Gafà's trip to Libya was not an official visit.

In November, the Libyan Interior Ministry uploaded a statement on its Facebook page entitled: 'Minister of the Interior Commissioner receives the Personal Envoy of the Prime Minister of Malta'. It said the "Maltese government", represented by Gafà, had expressed its support for Libya's UN-backed administration. In the same statement, the Libyan Minister said that the two sides had discussed various issues, including 'bilateral relations between the two countries in the security field to serve the common interests of Libya and Malta'. In addition, according to a Libyan newspaper portal, Almarsad, Gafà also had talks with the Libyan Deputy Prime Minister. In these talks they discussed the smuggling of fuel and collaboration between the two governments.

The same newspaper portal had also reported that Gafà had "security protection and was escorted by guards who work with a member of the Presidential Council in Tripoli". It also reported that: "Sources confirmed that the General Intelligence Service at Mitiga International Airport was planning to stop Gafà from travelling back to Malta via the Medavia lines or to Istanbul as a transit station (for a connecting flight)."

When previously contacted by this newsroom and asked why Gafà was in Libya and whether he held a diplomatic passport, Foreign Affairs Minister Abela said that Gafà is not employed by his Ministry, neither does he hold a diplomatic passport. "Charles Saliba is still in the process of being appointed Ambassador, and the next step is the issuing of the agrément by the Libyan authorities," Abela said, adding that "the Government had asked Gafà for an explanation.

"Gafà told the Minister that he was in Libya on a personal trip, in his personal time, had taken time off work and had paid for the trip himself. He was not representing the government at any point."  When asked in what capacity was Gafà the government's special envoy, Abela replied: "At no point did Gafà make any claim he was representing the government or the Prime Minister. There are no official documents or communications between the Maltese Government and the Libyan authorities about this visit."

This newsroom has sent questions to the Health Ministry. This newsroom also sent questions to Gafa and tried to get in touch with him throughout the day, however these attempts have thus far been unsuccessful. 

PD statement

In reaction, PD Leader Godfrey Farrugia said: "Prime Minister Joseph Muscat standing by Neville Gafa is a kick in the teeth for all members of Malta's diplomatic service and all those who are working hard towards peace, freedom and democracy in Libya.

"Instead of following the example set by his deputy Chris Fearne and demand that Gafa answers questions and shoulders responsibility, Muscat absolves Gafa and protects him.

"When faced with a choice between accountability and protecting Keith Schembri's friends, Joseph Muscat chooses the latter, every single time.

"This must stop. Government is not for friends but for the people.

"We will continue insisting that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela give a full account of Neville Gafa's actions in Parliament. 

"Our boss are the citizens. We answer to the citizens, not Keith Schembri."

Partit Demokratiku wants Neville Gafa to shoulder responsibility "for undermining the sterling work of Maltese diplomats in brokering a peaceful solution in Libya and causing great damage to Malta's credibility as a trusted partner in delivering peace, freedom and democracy in Libya."

Government remains silent in Parliament on Neville Gafa

The government remained silent in Parliament when asked for a ministerial statement to make with relation to Neville Gafa.

Speaking in Parliament, Opposition leader Adrian Delia requested a ministerial statement from Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne in reaction to news broken this morning that Gafa had been sacked from the Foundation of Medical Services by Fearne, and in relation to a comment made by Muscat this morning when he said that Gafa was doing “good work”.

The government’s side of the House however remained silent and did not accede to the Opposition’s request for a ministerial statement.

PD leader Godfrey Farrugia noted that this was the second time in a week that the government had remained silent on matters relating to Gafa.

 

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