New Malta PM reshuffles ministers, shuns controversial names

File photo. Newly elected Malta Prime Minister and Malta Partit Laburista (Labour Party) leader Robert Abela delivers his first speech as the new Prime Minister of Malta at the Partit Laburista (Labour Party) Congress 2020 at the Corradino Sports Pavillion, Corradino, Paola, Malta, 12 January 2020. [Domenic Aquilina/EPA/EFE]

New Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela reshuffled his cabinet on Wednesday (15 January), sidelining some of the politicians who had faced fierce criticism from an anti-corruption journalist before her murder in 2017.

Abela, 42, was sworn in as prime minister of the small Mediterranean island on Monday, succeeding Joseph Muscat who resigned over his handling of investigations into the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

He had promised continuity after taking office, but nonetheless put his swift stamp on government, removing former economy minister Chris Cardona, a regular target of Caruana Galizia’s blogs.

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Malta’s incoming leader Robert Abela promised to strengthen the rule of law and said the country would emerge stronger after recent events, in an address on Sunday (12 January) a day before he is due to succeed Joseph Muscat as prime minister.

He also did not recall to government Konrad Mizzi, who resigned in November as the scandal over Caruana Galizia’s killing shook Malta, amidst allegations of a high-level cover-up. Both Cardona and Mizzi have denied any wrongdoing.

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Maltese journalists and bloggers have found that the only minister from an EU member state identified in the Panama papers of clients of tax evasion schemes is Malta’s Health and Energy Minister, Konrad Mizzi.

Abela also appointed new ministers to the posts of foreign affairs, home affairs and justice as he looks to overcome concerns within the European Union over rule of law in the 28-member bloc’s smallest nation.

Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb in 2017. Muscat resigned over criticism of his handling of the investigation and amid claims that he protected persons linked to those accused of the murder. He denied any wrongdoing but acknowledged he might have made mistakes in dealing with the situation.

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