Times of Malta, 12 Feb 2008, by Christian Peregrin –

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday pulled the plug on the controversial underground extension of the St John’s Co-Cathedral museum, just hours before the project was to be debated in Parliament at the request of the opposition.

In a joint statement with the Archbishop, Dr Gonzi said the project should be scrapped because it was “dividing the Maltese public”.

The surprise announcement happened just before Parliament was due to debate an opposition motion urging the government to withdraw its support for the €16 million project, €14 million of which were to come from the EU.

Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat withdrew the motion saying its purpose had been achieved.

He welcomed the decision but was still critical of the Prime Minister saying the Maltese public was not divided on this issue, everyone was against the project. “The only division was within the PN parliamentary group,” he said, referring to dissenting government MPs.

PN backbenchers and even former ministers were known to have voiced serious concern over the project and the debate could have proven to be embarrassing for the government.