Labour leader takes seat in Parliament
Labour leader Joseph Muscat became a Member of Parliament yesterday, and later Leader of the Opposition, after being co-opted to the House to fill the seat vacated by Joseph Cuschieri on Monday. He was welcomed by both sides of the House amid applause.
Dr Muscat was given the oath of allegiance by Speaker Louis Galea in a packed House and Strangers' Gallery (which is normally empty) after the House unanimously approved a motion for his co-option moved by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and seconded by the MLP deputy leader for Parliamentary Affairs Anġlu Farrugia.
Dr Gonzi said the occasion was a milestone: although it was not the first time that someone was being co-opted to Parliament, it was the first time that the leader of a party was being co-opted to take his place in the House and become the Leader of the Opposition.
He thanked Mr Cuschieri for giving up his seat for the purpose and said that this was a good sign of maturity the country should be proud of.
Dr Gonzi also congratulated Dr Muscat and thanked former Opposition Leader Charles Mangion for filling in such an important constitutional position for the past months, during which period "he did his job responsibly in his typical style".
Seconding the motion, Dr Farrugia thanked the Prime Minister and Dr Mangion for the latter's noble work in the past months, which was important for the continuation of democracy.
He also thanked Mr Cuschieri and said that although it was true that Dr Muscat was being co-opted to the House, he had already passed the electoral test in getting elected to the European Parliament.
The motion was unanimously approved.
Speaker Louis Galea then invited Dr Gonzi and Dr Mangion to accompany Dr Muscat to the House to take his oath, which read: "I, Joseph Muscat, solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the people and the Republic of Malta and its Constitution. So help me God."
After taking his oath, Dr Muscat shook hands with all MPs and after saying that he will be leaving political speeches for next week, thanked Dr Galea, Dr Gonzi, Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg, Dr Mangion and Dr Farrugia.
He said he wanted to pay special tribute to four people: Mr Cuschieri for his act of loyalty in giving up his seat for him, Dr Mangion for his work in the past months, former Labour leader Alfred Sant and his mentor George Vella.
Dr Muscat hoped Dr Sant would return to the House soon (he was absent for health reasons) and said that one had to admire his characteristic of incorruptibility. He hoped he would be able to emulate him in this.
He said he was honoured to be serving Parliament on the same benches with Dr Vella, who had inspired him and helped him take crucial decisions.
Dr Muscat thanked his wife Michelle, his parents and parents-in-law for all the help they were giving him. "Without their support," he said, "we are nothing. They are helping me in my mission of service to the country."
He pointed out that in spite of the differences between the two sides of the House, they were united in wanting the best for the country.
Dr Gonzi said the government welcomed Dr Muscat and hoped that both the government and the opposition would continue working together in the interests of the country.
All MPs aimed to be of service to the country, and when the time came for them to leave they hoped they could look back and say they had given a contribution.
He hoped that arguments would be intense and in Malta's interests. Dr Gonzi also congratulated Dr Muscat's family.
Dr Muscat was also welcomed by Speaker Louis Galea, who said it was always an occasion of happiness and importance for the House to welcome a new member. For this member to also be the leader of a party, it had an important meaning.
Those in the Strangers' Gallery included Mr Cuschieri, Mrs Muscat, Dr Muscat's parents and his parents-in-law.
A small crowd waited outside the Palace and cheered as Dr Muscat arrived at the Palace.
Dr Muscat was sworn in as Leader of the Opposition by President Eddie Fenech Adami immediately after taking his seat in Parliament.