The Malta Independent 20 November 2018, Tuesday

Updated: PM decries police ‘heavy-handedness’ at PA hearing, Police Association responds

Friday, 14 September 2018, 12:15 Last update: about 3 months ago

Following Thursday’s scenes outside a Planning Authority meeting, where a number of activists were manhandled by police officers, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has expressed ‘disappointment’ at the way the issue was handled, but also called for institutional hearings to be conducted ‘serenely’.

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Protesters had assembled outside a Planning Authority meeting where an application for a fuel station was being heard, successfully disrupting the meeting, blocking off the entrance, and making enough noise for the meeting to stall. This led to Rapid Intervention Unit officers forcibly removing the protestors after they refused to vacate the room.

Muscat, who said that he is yet to understand the particulars on what caused the commotion, criticized some of the officers for using ‘heavy-handed’ tactics – especially considering that past protests had not required such methods to be used.

The Prime Minister pointed out that in spite of what happened, the protestors’ got their way as the permit for the petrol station had not been approved, although the protestors’ goal was the review of the fuel service station policy which they have been protesting for the past 9 months.

In an attempt to come through the boardroom door when they originally arrived, the activists jostled with police and security personnel trying to get through. The police later physically dragged the activists out, dragging them along the floor and roughly pulling them outside, leaving some activists with cuts and bruises. The activists were chanting against such fuel station applications being heard by the board prior to the fuel station policy review's completion. The activists used drums and held placards.

After being dragged outside, the activists kept on protesting and marched around the Planning Authority grounds before eventually leaving.

Police Association disappointed by comments

The Malta Police Association is disappointed by the Prime Minister's comments on the way the police handled the protest at the Planning Authority on Thursday.

The Association said that, from videos shown in the media, nowhere did it show any police officers using a disproportionate amount of force with the activists, "who illegally entered the Planning Authority building."

The association said that the officers acted in accordance with their duty, and removed the activists outside "from where they abusively entered to disrupt an ongoing meeting."

The association said that the activists had to be physically taken outside after having been asked and ordered to leave, yet did not obey.

"After being taken outside, the activists were left to continue protesting in the street, and this is why it was absurd that the police were accused of trying to silence the voice of the activists."

"Here we ask what our politicians expect when the police are faced with such a situation, maybe they want us to remain passive and let everyone do what they want?"

The association specified that in no way was it saying that the police must not be held accountable for their actions, but that there should not be words of condemnation with the sole scope of scoring populist points for political gain.

"We hope that nobody will be sacrificed on the politicians alter for simply doing their job."

"If an investigation or inquiry has to start then let it begin, but words of condemnation prior to said inquiry or investigation are frivolous and only serve to damage,"


 

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