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Konrad Mizzi: I have internal conflict, I cannot ignore people's anger - ready for any decision by the prime minister, will be back in frontline in 2018

PN: Ball has been thrown into the prime minister's court

Konrad Mizzi admitted this evening that he could not ignore the people's anger over the Panama Papers and he expressed his disappointment that they were speaking about this issue rather than the government's achievements.

The energy and health minister was addressing the Labour general conference after being given standing ovations by Labour Party officials and delegates.

He said he was ready for any decision the prime minister might take, but he promised to be 'back in the frontline' in 2018 (the next general election).

Delegates applaud as Konrad Mizzi starts his addressDelegates applaud as Konrad Mizzi starts his address

At the beginning of his speech - his first as party deputy leader - he asked delegates not to interrupt him with applause as he wanted to get his message across clearly.

He said he joined Labour because there was a 10 year project he believed in.

He then went on to list government achievements.

"We won the election with a strong manifesto and we are now delivering," he said.

He said he had worked hard day and night on the energy sector and had delivered. The Marsa power station was closed, Enemalta was saved and the new gas power station would be running this summer.

He had accepted the health portfolio and was asked to solve other issues as well.

Dr Mizzi said the Panama issue was the elephant in the room.

He was angry because after all the good work done, instead of celebrating this, the people were talking about the Panama Papers.

"I have an internal conflict on the Panama Papaers because I know I have done nothing wrong but at the same time I see people out there who are angry and I cannot ignore that."

He said his New Zealand trust was intended for family reasons and he denied he had any bad intentions. There were no bank accounts but he had told the prime minister of his intention to have a bank account to receive rent payments on his London property.

"Had I had bad intentions why would I have put down my children's names on the trust?"

He insisted the government projects he was involved in were for the benefit of the people. "They will find nothing illegal or wrongdoing."

I feel serene and whatever my role will be in the future I will again be on the frontline in 2018- Konrad Mizzi

He was convinced audits would find nothing illegal.

As delegates applauded, he asked them to be quiet.

He said the prime minister could  take any decision he deemed fit and he would accept any decision.

"I feel serene and whatever my role will be in the future I will again be on the frontline in 2018," he said.

He asks delegates to remain united and not fall for provocation. "This is 2016 not the eighties," he said.

Former deputy leader Toni Abela, who spoke just before Dr Mizzi, said this was not an easy moment for the PL. Decisions had to be taken, with serenity. The toughest decisions he had to take, when the PL was in Opposition, was against people I considered as friends.

This is not an easy moment for the PL. Decisions have to be taken...toughest decisions I ever took were against friends- Toni Abela

"But we were strengthened by these decisions." The decisions were taken out of the love for the party.

"We are people who do the right things."

He appealed for unity and was whatever action was necessary because he was convinced this would lead to Labour victory.

CONFERENCE OPENING

Dr Mizzi took his place on the top table along with the other party officials just before the conference session started at 6pm. The officials were greeted with long applause by the packed hall.

The general conference formally opened on Sunday when Prime Minister Joseph Muscat took part in a question and answer session. It ends with a speech by the prime minister on Sunday.

The conference today included the usual presentation of reports, but Dr Mizzi's work was mentioned by the head of the party's PL's councillors' section, Mario Fava, whereupon those present burst into long applause and shouted 'Konrad, Konrad'.

There was more applause when party secretary Lydia Abela mentioned how Dr Mizzi had turned around Enemalta.

Delegate Joseph Howard urged Konrad Mizzi not to give up. "We will keep Konrad Mizzi with us," he said to another standing ovation.

LABOUR PARTY STRENGTENS ITS FINANCES

The party reported revenue of  €1.8m and recurrent expenditure of €1.3m. After adjustments, the consolidated fund total is now €3.2m.

Dr Mizzi (sitting fifth from left) during this evening's Pl conference.Dr Mizzi (sitting fifth from left) during this evening's Pl conference.

SPEECHES

Brief speeches were made by several delegates and MPs, invariably praising the government and hitting out at the opposition. 

Parliamentary Secretary Deborah Schembri said this was a government that had enabled serenity to take root and the PN wanted to destroy this. The PL, she said, has a strong leader and strong deputy leaders. She called for  unity, courage and positivity in the party.

MP Anthony Agius Decelis said he has blind faith in the Prime Minister and his ability to take any decision without the need to take advice from "an amateur politician".

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici criticised the PN's loans scheme. He said the =PN's true colors came out outside the law courts yesterday (during the arraignment of Jason Azzopardi).  He urged Labourites to be a cut above the Opposition and not to respond to provocation. "We have to respond with more work, better results for families," he said. He applauded Konrad Mizzi's work as minister and said his regret is that the recent events were preventing people from focusing on the good being created. 

Environment Minister Leo Brincat insisted that the PN had no moral authority to preach about good governance. 

He urged the PL to keep its veterans on board, as well as those who voted PL for first time and those who were undecided how they will vote in the next election. Nothing could be taken for granted, he said. The party must not adopt a siege mentality and dialogue with loyal adversaries.

PANAMA PRESSURES

Dr Mizzi's speech this evening came as speculation mounted over his future in the Cabinet as the PL amid the uproar caused by the Panama controversy - which actually broke out even before Dr Mizzi was overwhelmingly elected to the party post in February.

There has been growing internal and external pressure on Dr Mizzi and the prime minister's chief of staff, Keith Schembri, to resign, with several Cabinet members even voicing this view at an “animated” meeting of the parliamentary group last Monday.

Earlier today the Opposition presented a parliamentary motion of no confidence in the government, accusing the prime minister of having failed to act. On Sunday the PN will be holding a demonstration called for Mizzi and Schembri's dismissal.

Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri have denied doing anything wrong when they opened trusts in New Zealand and companies in Panama.

However, many within the Labour Party have interpreted the Prime Minister’s latest comments that he “excluded nothing” when asked whether Dr Mizzi’s and Mr Schembri’s resignations were on the table as a sign that some form of drastic action is to be expected.

Dr Muscat has over these two days shifted his tone, insisting that any decision would have to be based on “facts” and “public sentiment”. The inclusion of public sentiment has been interpreted as Dr Muscat’s way of deciding on a course of action that would not have to necessarily await for the audit on Dr Mizzi’s arrangements to end.

The audit is being carried out by an unnamed “international company of repute”.

PN: BALL IS IN THE PRIME MINISTER'S COURT

In a reaction to Dr Mizzi's speech, the Nationalist Party said the minister had thrown the ball into the prime minister's feet because it was Joseph Muscat who was 100% responsible for the crisis of corruption which the country was going through.

The country could not continue to go through this uncertainty, which stemmed from the prime minister's failure to sack Dr Mizzi and his chief of staff Keith Schembri. 

 

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