The Malta Independent 22 September 2021, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Yorgen Fenech chats - Justice minister cannot retain his post

Tuesday, 3 August 2021, 09:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

News reports last week revealed the kind of communication between Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis and Yorgen Fenech, the man who stands accused in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

While a number of whatsapp chats so far appear to have occurred before Fenech was arrested over the murder, some occurred after it was revealed that he was the owner of 17 black.

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Reports read that Zammit Lewis and Fenech shared over 700 messages. One such message revealed him insulting Labour voters.

In another report, The Times of Malta wrote about how Zammit Lewis sent an online news report detailing his mockery of Simon Busuttil during a press conference to Yorgen Fenech, also asking Fenech if he was ok. This was just after Busuttil had attempted to seek court action over 17 black. It is absolutely unacceptable for him to have sent such a message to Fenech.

Times of Malta reports that it asked the minister for a comment about this message, and Zammit Lewis said:  “I have always worked in the best interest of the people and my work over the past years has always been proof of that.” He also added that he was determined to keep contributing to the government’s unprecedented reforms, “irrespective who will have to face justice”.

At the time of this message, Zammit Lewis was not the justice minister, however this still makes his current position untenable. Some may argue that at the time Fenech was still a businessman without any court allegations against him. While this is true, The 17 black allegations were known. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Some of the messages revealed in the press show just how close Fenech and Zammit Lewis were, and it is also unacceptable to have a minister, more so the minister for Justice, to have had such close ties to a man who eventually ended up being taken to court with allegations over a high-level assassination.

The PN has filed a motion of no confidence in Zammit Lewis. In a statement, the PN said that instead of supporting the efforts of former PN leader Simon Busuttil to ensure that the 17 Black allegations were fully investigated, Zammit Lewis had described Busuttil as a “threat to rule of law” while also sending messages to Fenech “seeking his approval”.

It is about time that the government wakes up to the reality that their actions have consequences, and ministers should take ownership of their decisions. Political accountability must be upheld. This country needs to change, the events over the past few years have shown that the international community has no more tolerance for Malta’s way of doing things. We either start to adhere to better standards, or we will all pay for it in the long term. Malta’s greylisting was a clear example of this.

Indeed Zammit Lewis is also on the Parliamentary Committee for Standards… a role which he should no longer hold.

Let’s not forget that the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia reads: “excessive familiarity with persons in business which could give rise to inappropriate contacts should be subject to regulation.”

Thus a problem regarding the closeness between people in business and politicians is officially recognised and must be remedied. This should not only be regulated, but should be frowned upon.

We need to start healing this country, and this can only be done when politicians start owning up for their decisions regarding who they choose to be close to and the way they act. Politicians must do the right thing for the country. In this case, the right thing requires his immediate removal.

 

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