PM Costa backs minister despite president’s disagreement

  • Lusa
  • 3 May 2023

The president acknowledged a disagreement with the PM "as to the political reading of the facts" that led him to keep João Galamba as minister of Infrastructures.

Portugal’s minister of infrastructure resigned on Tuesday following a controversy with his former deputy regarding TAP, but Prime Minister Antón io Costa refused his request despite the disagreement of the president of Portugal.

“This is a noble gesture that I respect, but in conscience, I cannot accept his resignation,” António Costa told journalists in Lisbon, after João Galamba announced that he had asked to step down.

Soon after this announcement by António Costa, in a note, the president of Portugal acknowledged a disagreement with the prime minister “as to the political reading of the facts” that led him to keep João Galamba as minister of Infrastructures “with regard to the prestige of the institutions.”

João Galamba has been minister of infrastructure since early this year, following Pedro Nuno Santos’ resignation from the post, the 11th resignation or dismissal of the absolute majority Socialist executive, also following controversies with TAP.

The resignation announced today by João Galamba, which was not accepted by the Prime Minister, follows a controversy with his former deputy Frederico Pinheiro around information to be provided to the parliamentary commission on the management of TAP in a case where episodes of physical violence at the ministry and alleged theft of a state computer were reported, which allegedly led to the intervention of the Security and Intelligence Service (SIS).

Galamba sacked Frederico Pinheiro, who had moved from Pedro Nuno Santos’ office, for “behaviour incompatible with duties and responsibilities” after the latter accused the minister of seeking to omit information from the TAP commission of enquiry (CPI) about a PS “preparatory meeting” with the company’s former CEO.

This afternoon, the prime minister met with the president at Palácio de Belém after requesting an audience after having received João Galamba in São Bento this morning.

In statements he made to RTP on Monday night, António Costa said that there was “another dimension, in the case involving João Galamba and former deputy Frederico Pinheiro, dismissed on Wednesday, which does not have to do with an individual and specific performance of anyone”.

Also on Monday, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told reporters that the exchange of accusations between João Galamba and his former deputy Frederico Pinheiro were classified as a sensitive matter of state.

In recent days, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has refused to comment on the episode of violence within the ministry of infrastructure, the intervention of the SIS in this case, and the contradictions between the version of João Galamba and that of his former deputy, who has accused the minister of trying to hide documents from the TAP Commission of Inquiry.

On Saturday, at a press conference, the infrastructure minister said he had “all the conditions” to be in the government, denied contradictions and stressed that the facts show that there was cooperation with the TAP commission of inquiry.

Galamba explained that it was only on 24 April, the last day of the deadline for the submission of the information requested by the commission of inquiry from the ministry of infrastructures, that his deputy at the time Frederico Pinheiro reported having notes of a preparatory meeting with the former TAP CEO.

The minister said that given that the notes were not delivered, despite insistence, the ministry had to ask for an extension of the deadline for delivery until 26 April “so that it was possible to reply with all the details.”

After the deputy’s resignation, João Galamba reported that Frederico Pinheiro went to the ministry’s premises in Lisbon “trying to take the service computer” with classified information, “using violence against a head of office and an advisor”.

Following the incident, which led five people to lock themselves in one of the ministry’s bathrooms, the Judicial Police and the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) were contacted.

The dismissed deputy accused the ministry of infrastructure of wanting to omit information to the TAP commission of inquiry about the “preparatory meeting” with the former CEO.

Frederico Pinheiro wrote on Monday to the chairman of the parliamentary commission of inquiry (CPI) into the management of TAP to express “total availability” to be heard by MPs, after his hearing had been requested by PSD and Chega on Friday.

Galamba was first elected a PS member of parliament in 2009, under the leadership of José Sócrates, and was part of the so-called group of “young Turks”, together with Pedro Nuno Santos, Pedro Delgado Alves and Duarte Cordeiro, during the period when António José Seguro was secretary general of the Socialists.

Under António Costa’s leadership, João Galamba was the spokesperson for the Socialist Party and coordinator of the Socialist bench in the Budget and Finance Committee and vice-president of the Parliamentary Group.

In the previous government, João Galamba was assistant secretary of state and energy and began his duties in the current government, with an absolute socialist majority, as secretary of state for environment and energy.