The Malta Independent 20 June 2021, Sunday

‘In a normal country, PM would be gone’ – Simon Busuttil, PN government to repeal new media law

Helena Grech Sunday, 19 February 2017, 15:15 Last update: about 5 years ago

Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil said that in normal countries, the Prime Minister, along with Minister Konrad Mizzi and the PM’s chief of staff Keith Schembri would be gone following the Panama Papers scandal. He said this during a national demonstration, with thousands in attendance, for democracy and liberty, organised by the Nationalist Party (PN).

Panama Papers refers to the scandal where No Portfolio Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri were found with secretive financial structures including a company each in Panama sheltered by a trust in New Zealand.

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“This scandal [Panama Papers] is different from all the other scandals, because it was directly linked with Castille. This is the most corrupt government in history”.

Dimostrazzjoni Nazzjonali from The Malta Independent on Vimeo.

Dr Busuttil cited the Transparency International Index, where Malta fell 10 points in one year, an unprecedented plunge.

He highlighted the European Parliament committee of inquiry visiting Malta tomorrow (Monday) to investigate the Panama Papers scandal.

“No EU officials ever had to visit Malta to investigate corruption under the PN”.

Turning to the leaked e-mails exposing the need to deposit €1 million in an offshore bank account in order for it to be set up, as the account linked with the Panamanian companies, Dr Busuttil questioned how Dr Mizzi, a politician, planned to do this.

“In normal countries, the Minister, the chief of staff and the Prime Minister would be gone!

“Why, a year on, have we heard nothing about any investigation? Where are Malta’s institutions? We know that a government agency, tasked with investigating financial crimes [the Financial Intelligance Analysis Unit] has started to investigate the scandal. What happened to this investigation? What are the conclusions? Where are the police of this country? We know we have a Police Commissioner who is a puppet at the hands of the Prime Minister. We would tell that Commissioner that his wages are paid not by the Prime Minister, but the people of Malta!

“We will continue asking until we have an answer about what happened to this investigation. If we remain, till the next general election, without an investigation being made public, the first thing a PN government would do is investigate this scandal and these [Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri] people.

“It does not matter who you are or who you were, we will investigate!”

Dr Busuttil quipped about Dr Mizzi’s response, where he said that he would use the Panamanian company to “populate his assets,” questioning how, on a Ministerial salary of roughly €50,000 a year, this was supposed to happen.

The third question Dr Busuttil bellowed was “who owns Egrant Inc?”. This is the third company incorporated by Nexia BT, along with the company’s of Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri.

In leaked e-mails, a Nexia BT employee wrote the names of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri in relation to queries about their companies, however the employee said that for “the new company in Panama”, the individual behind it would have to be spoken about on Skype, indicating that the standing of the individual was higher than that of a Minister or the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.

 “Joseph Muscat, you will not muzzle us”, he said to loud applause, referring to controversies which arose surrounding the government’s proposed press legislation, requiring all news and current affairs websites operating from Malta to register with a government registry.

Dr Busuttil said that the crowd has gathered to give a voice to the people of Malta, for the sake of decency, democracy, freedom of expression and liberty.

He asserted that some people may have chosen not to attend for fear of being vindicated, but stressed that the turnout for today’s event was “extraordinary,” adding that the thousands of people of the crowd had had enough of this government.

In the newly proposed Press Act, anybody with a news or current affairs website operating from Malta, failing to register, would get slapped with a €1,000 fine.

“Today it’s the journalists, tomorrow, who is next? This is a law that we [the PN] are not ready to follow. This law must be removed immediately, because the right to online freedom is a fundamental right for all.”

Dr Busuttil smiled down at the crowd who did not disperse despite the rain.

“We will continue to shout, we will continue to ask questions, we will deliver the message so badly needed for this country.  We believe in values of democracy, transparency, honesty, meritocracy, freedom of express and liberty. Today, we stood up to be counted. Today, we will represent all those genuine people who want to see Malta as it once was.”

He made mention of the abusive measures to slash people off the unemployment registry in order to artificially inflate employment figures, and stressed that all those people living in poverty today are not feeling the benefits of the growing economy continuously mentioned by the government.

Briefly speaking about the contract for the new power station, and the large sections that were redacted, Dr Busuttil slammed the Prime Minister for speaking about a new press law that would ‘strengthen freedom of expression’ while on the other hand being so secretive about major contracts that effect all Malta and Gozo. 

Other speakers this afternoon include Jeremy Gingell - representing the youth:

Lecturer Mary Anne Lauri also addressed the demonstration:

And lastly, former university pro-rector and ENT specialist Alec Lapira also gave his address:

 ***

The National demonstration for democracy and liberty, organised by the Nationalist Party (PN) gathered outside Castille, marched down through Republic Street where they are being addressed by a number of PN officials and hopeful candidates, who stressed that this government is a threat to democracy.

Dimostrazzjoni Nazzjonali_2 from The Malta Independent on Vimeo.

During a political activity this morning, Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil said that among the numerous reasons for calling today’s demonstration, a focus has been placed on what he called a “lie”, in the wake of the news that the elusive Egrant Inc is owned solely by Brian Tonna of Nexia BT.

Egrant is the third Panama based company incorporated by Nexia BT along with Hearville, belonging to No Portfolio Minister Konrad Mizzi and Tillgate, owned by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri. Just last week, the government issued its revamped press laws that would required all news websites operating from Malta to register with the government, under a Media Registrar.

Many have called this an affront to press freedom, others have said that this is tailor made to stifle political blogs however the government has justified the move by citing situations where a person feels defamed by what is written on a website, but confusion arises as to who to sue without a registered editor.

Last week, a crowd of some 1000 people gathered in Sliema for a separate demonstration organised by the PN, where protestors expressed their anger at Economy Minister Chris Cardona issuing a precautionary warrant of seizure against journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia resulting in €47,000 frozen in her bank accounts. This is what sparked off the series of demonstrations, with the PN stating that there have been multiple threats to democracy over the past weeks alone. 

The warrant of seizure was issued as a precautionary measure for the maximum libel damages (€11,500), in the four libel cases instituted against Mrs Caruana Galizia for her allegations that Dr Cardona and his aide Joe Gerada were at a brothel in Germany while on an official visit. He has categorically denied the allegations.

A banner carried by demonstrators takes jibes at the list of controversies the government has found itself in since it came into power since March 2013.

Photographs: Michael Camilleri 

Videos: Paul Jones & Baskal Mallia

 

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