The Malta Independent 15 July 2020, Wednesday

Abela gives his word in first speech: 'Mistakes will not happen again'

Albert Galea Sunday, 12 January 2020, 15:37 Last update: about 7 months ago

Newly elected Labour Party leader and Prime Minister in-waiting Robert Abela used his first speech since winning yesterday's party leadership election to give his word that the mistakes which happened over the past seven years would not be repeated.

Abela continually spoke of how the party had emerged united from the leadership election, but the absence of his leadership opponent Chris Fearne at the speech presented a stark contrast to the new leader's words.

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“I am emotional. Emotional with the amount of love you are showing towards my family, my wife, my daughter, and myself”, Abela begun his speech.

He said that the party had come out of a moment “where it had no fault for” because of its members. He said that he is proud of these members who, while all having their preferred candidate, at the end of the day loved the party.

He said that while “the other party” had emerged divided from an electoral campaign, the Labour Party had emerged stronger than it was before the campaign.  He said that from today he did not want to hear about “Chris’ people or Robert’s Abela”, saying that “we are all children of the party”.

He promised that he will keep running after each person who is not necessarily convinced by him but believes in the party to convince them.

He thanked Chris Fearne for his candidate and thanked him for the words and luck he had wished to Abela that day, joking that from tomorrow they will go to the gym together.

Abela said that he is looking forward to working with each Member of Parliament and is confident that this team of minds can keep the country moving forward.   He said that this is a duty that they had to each and every single one of the people who voted for them, the duty to keep the party united and compact together so to improve the interest of the country and keep the party a winning one, as it had been for the last 10 elections.

He commemorated the 100th anniversary of the party, and said that he will not forget the core roots of the party.  He said that he had a lot to speak about, but noted that he will not speak about the legacy left by “our friend Joseph” – with the crowd erupting into cheers upon the mention of Joseph Muscat’s name.  He said that he would not speak about the legacy because that would be like speaking about something which is gone; “I will keep Joseph’s project alive”, he said to more cheers.

He said that the party will listen to everyone and involve everyone irrespective of who they are.  He said that it is important to strike a balance between a party which is constantly growing and appealing to everyone, but without forgetting those who were always there for the party.

He said that the Labour Party is one of social justice, equality, and national unity. He said that the ship has already been straightened, and the good times after storm have already arrived.

He said that Monday morning will be a day which puts minds at rest, where the government will continue working with continuity to build upon the many good things which have been done in the last seven years.  He said that in those seven years, they had done much more than what others had managed in 25 years.

He said that when one does a lot, mistakes do happen. “Mistakes happen but will not be repeated – on that, you have my word”, he said.

He said that he will see to it that the rule of law is strengthened, and that the mandate of the people which allows the Labour Party to govern will be strengthened as well. He said that this is currently a delicate moment, but spoke of his certainty that the party will emerge stronger from it.

Monday, he said, will also be a normal day of work where everyone must pull their sleeves up and get ready to work.  He said that he has already pulled his sleeves up and started working, but he understood that this is not a job that he can do alone. “I need you. I ask you; be with me”, he told the crowd to further applause, adding that with their backing he has more courage to continue the journey.

He said that the country must wake up to tranquillity on Monday to give peace of mind to businesses, to pensioners, to youngsters, and to everyone else.  He made an appeal to the business community; “have courage”, he repeated three times before saying that he will do everything to see them keep moving forward, but asked just one thing “think of the worker” and be a stakeholder with the government to make sure that the country’s wealth arrives at everyone.

He said that he has always believed in the working class, and that it was these people who have to be protagonists with him in the future.

Concluding his speech, he said that they were all one together – one people in one, united country.

The national anthem was played some minutes after Abela concluded his speech.

Attending the event, where thousands of Labour supporters are in a festive mood, was the new leader's father, George Abela, who served as President of the Republic between 2009 and 2014, and Margaret, Robert's mother.

Abela emerged to a packed Corradino Sports Pavillion, flanked by his wife and backed by Economy Minister Chris Cardona, himself subject to scrutiny in the past weeks, who stood out as the only member of the current Cabinet to emerge right behind Abela. Other Cabinet members were already seated on stage, waiting for Abela’s arrival.

Abela walked through the hall, hugging and taking selfies with supporters as he made his way to the stage. However he saved his biggest hug for his father George Abela – who himself had lost the previous Labour Party leadership election – who, visibly emotional, greeted him close to the stage.

Upon arrival on stage he took to shaking hands with cabinet members, including ministers who openly supported Chris Ferane in the election for the leadership, MPs, and party MEPs as well. 

Abela won the Labour leadership election on Saturday, beating Deputy PM Chris Fearne. Abela obtained 9,342 votes, or 57.9%, to Fearne’s 6,798.

He will be sworn in as Prime Minister on Monday, replacing Joseph Muscat, who stepped down in the wake of the recent developments in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case.

Photos: Mike Camilleri

 

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