Malta’s prime minister was pelted with eggs and insults by protesters on Tuesday as he met a delegation from the European Parliament that told him to stand down immediately over his handling of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation.
There were shouts of “shame on you” at Joseph Muscat and Justice Minister Owen Bonnici as they arrived at government headquarters to meet the delegation, dispatched to Malta to review the rule of law on the island in the wake of the scandal.Caruana Galizia, a journalist who was investigating corruption at the highest level in Malta, was blown up by a car bomb in October 2017.
The victim’s family want Muscat to resign immediately, saying he is shielding friends and associates from the investigation. He has denied this, instead defending his handling of the investigation into the murder.
The main opposition party has said it will boycott parliament until Muscat left office.
Sophie in’t Veld, who is leading the two-day EU parliamentary mission to Malta, said she was “not reassured” after meeting Muscat and Bonnici.
“I think everybody recognizes, including the prime minister himself, that he has made some serious errors of judgment and I would say that staying on longer than necessary is another error of judgment,” she told reporters.
Neither Muscat nor Bonnici made any immediate comment following the talks.
Muscat has said he will only step down as prime minister next month to give time to his Labour party to pick a new leader.
Police on Saturday charged one of Malta’s wealthiest businessmen, Yorgen Fenech, with complicity in the murder. He has denied the accusations and said members of Muscat’s inner circle ordered the killing.
A small crowd of protesters hurled eggs and insults at both Muscat and Bonnici as they arrived at government headquarters for Tuesday’s meeting.
“The EU must put pressure on him to go,” said Caruana Galizia’s sister, Mandy Mallia, who took part in the raucous demonstration. “Fenech wasn’t acting alone. The other villains are hiding behind Muscat.”
The widening scandal has cast a cloud of doubt over the democratic credentials of the EU’s smallest state.
“Malta is part of the European Union and we all have to abide by the same rules and we can only be in the European Union if we trust each other. The basis for that trust does not seem to be there at the moment,” in’t Veld said.
Fenech wants legal immunity in return for giving information about the murder plot and about alleged corruption involving Muscat’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri and former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, among others, court filings showed.
The government has rejected his bid for a pardon. Schembri and Mizzi both resigned last week and have denied wrongdoing.