The Malta Independent 21 January 2019, Monday

‘Rally welcomed everyone from all walks of life’ - Briguglio responds to criticism of PN hijack

Julian Bonnici & Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 24 October 2017, 09:28 Last update: about 2 years ago

The Civil Society Network had called on everyone for assistance and invited individuals from all walks of life to participate and speak at Sunday’s  event. Michael Briguglio said this in response to widespread criticism that Sunday’s demonstration was in any way compromised by people from the Nationalist Party.

Individuals and sections of the media claimed that the event was hijacked after noting that while several prominent politicians, including President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca (who confirmed this to Briguglio herself), Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne and former PN Leader Simon Busuttil attended the event. But it was only Busuttil along with PN MPs Jason Azzopardi, David Agius, and Karol Aquilina who placed themselves in front and centre at a separate protest, not organised by CSN, in front of police headquarters after the demonstration.

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Members of civil society have since expressed that these four individuals were trying to gain political mileage by attempting to take credit for the event.

Mark Camilleri, Executive Chairman at the National Book Council, has since criticised the organisers saying it was “very wise of [them] to subtly turn this event into a PN meeting”, and that he had left the march after Manuel Delia took to the stage.

Beneath the post, Camilleri elaborated that he took this decision because Delia was a close aide to the former Minister Austin Gatt, who, he said, was never investigated in spite of being implicated in the oil scandal.

This was echoed by former One Journalist Simone Cini, who said that Sunday’s national protest did not include the “‘spontaneous’ protest filmed direct on Net in front of the Police Headquarters. Many people, including herself, had left for home.

Cini said that “Michael Briguglio advised that after the protest he was going to President Louise Coleiro Preca. Meaning that for those who didn’t know, it seems there were two protests, one after another.”

“Like many others I feel good about attending the national protest. Despite everything certain speakers should not have addressed the crowd because of political bias. Michael Briguglio please note.”

Briguglio was asked by the newsroom why the speakers, beyond journalist James Debono, did not come for politically diverse backgrounds.

“I can assure you that in the three days we had to plan the event, we asked many different people to speak - academics, journalists, including those that may come from a Labour Party background. The ones who spoke were the ones who accepted,” he replied.

Asked if he would be able to provide some names, Mr Briguglio declined and insisted that many of those who did not wish to speak were afraid to do so.

He was also asked whether his PN membership compromised his speech at the event, and the demonstration as a whole, by politicizing the event.

Mr Briguglio disagreed with that analysis, saying that he had never been criticised for speaking on behalf of CSN when he was a member of AD. He questioned those who were actually asking the question.

“I have been active in civil society since 1994, and was involved in successful campaigns involving stipends, Front Kontra l-Golf Kors, EU membership and Divorce.

“I joined the PN as I believed in Simon Busuttil's struggle for good governance which AD did not support. As a civil society activist and local councillor (since 2003) I was always ready to work with others who believe in the cause, whatever their background. And I will keep doing the same. No troll, apparatchik, cynic, armchair critic or sectarian will shut me up. My loyalty is to truth and change for the better.”

“I want to stress that I am a PN local councillor, not an MP, and I will not be contesting for any positions within the PN because I do not want to compromise my position within CSN.”

Net, One, and TVM

A number of PL supporters wrote on social media that Net TV, in a sense, took advantage of the event giving it a PN slant.

Briguglio was asked by this newsroom why only Net TV had provided live coverage of the initial event, while TVM and One TV did not. He insisted that CSN had called on everyone for assistance in its press release.

“Those who wanted to help, were welcome to help us.”

Pressed further as to whether he had specifically contacted either one of the three networks, he stressed that this was not the case and that CSN “would have welcomed any cameraman; we made it clear in the press release that all assistance was welcome.”

This was confirmed by PBS Chief Executive Officer John Bundy who was asked whether PBS offered any assistance technical or otherwise, and whether they were asked by the event organisers for any support.

Bundy said there were no requests for assistance made, and none was offered. He said that PBS never offers assistance on its own without there having been a request.

“We never do that. If there is a request, then it is considered, but we never go to someone and offer assistance ourselves.”

A PL spokesperson was asked whether the PL offered any assistance to the organisers, and whether the organisers requested any assistance technical or otherwise. He was also asked if the PL was asked to recommend any speakers .

He said that the PL was not asked to provide any organisational assistance, and was not asked to recommend any speakers.

“I will add that the PL was not directly invited. It was the PL who asked the organisers whether the invitation was open to the PL as well. While they told us that we are invited, they said that they did not send individual invites to the parties.”

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