The Malta Independent 30 March 2023, Thursday
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TMIS Editorial: Abela’s fear about safety, and his contradictions

Sunday, 29 January 2023, 10:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

It was not a good week for Prime Minister Robert Abela. It is probable that he will regret some of the statements that he made and decisions that he took.

The conviction of the prison director in a case dating back to last summer shows how wrong the government, in particular Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri, was to keep him in his position when the news broke.


Prison chief Robert Brincau has been found guilty of threatening a man with a handgun and slightly injuring him during an argument at the beach. When Camilleri was asked about the incident last summer, he had said that there was a clear conflict between the versions that were being presented, and would allow justice proceedings to take their course, while keeping Brincau in place. It was clear that Camilleri believed Brincau’s version of events. It was poor judgment by Camilleri. The evidence led the court to rule Brincau guilty. Thankfully, Brincau has resigned, but he should have done so, or the minister should have forced him out, when he was charged with the offence.

Abela continues to defend the minister against calls for his resignation, saying that Camilleri is among the “most productive”. Camilleri may well be, in Abela’s eyes, but he made a huge error of judgment, and in normal countries, ministers have resigned for much less. In Malta, things work differently.

By saying that Camilleri is among the “most productive”, Abela was indirectly admitting that he is not happy with some of his other ministers. Singling Camilleri as working more than others may not have gone down too well with the rest of the Cabinet members, especially seeing the circumstances in which Abela was making that comment.

That, then, Abela was singing the minister’s praises in the same week that the prime minister was lamenting that Malta is no longer safe – when that same minister is responsible for the country’s safety – was a contradiction.

Abela, in remarks made to journalists, said that he is not comfortable having his daughter walking in Valletta on her own. We would add that there are many other places where people, not only children, do not feel at ease when walking on their own. It is not only Valletta that has witnessed incidents of violence.

What the Prime Minister said is a powerful statement that means that he does not believe that Malta is a safe country. It is not the kind of message that all of us want to hear, particularly parents of young children who would like to give some more independence to their kids, and now hear the PM telling them that he is afraid to give this space to his own daughter. Neither is it the message that tourists, planning their holiday to Malta, want to hear as they are packing their bags to come over.

The PM was giving a vote of no confidence to the police force which, as we all know, is responsible for the country’s safety. And if Abela is not convinced that the police are doing their duty, then the minister who is politically accountable has to carry the blame, or at least part of it. So how can Abela say that Camilleri, the minister responsible for the police, is among the “most productive” and then express his fear about allowing his daughter to walk in Valletta?

When a PM says that the country is not safe the first thing he has to do is replace the minister responsible for that safety. But Abela this week has chosen to defend him and say he is among the most productive.

What is, then, equally confusing and contradictory is that the PM says that the police force should not be demoralised by judgments given by the courts who, in Abela’s own words, should “bring back” the sense of security that the country is known for.

For one thing, by saying “bring back” the PM was admitting that this sense of safety has been lost. Secondly, the PM praised the police’s work when, in the same breath, he expressed concern about the safety of his daughter. It’s rather mind-boggling.

The PM then took matters further by trying to defend the police by attacking the sentencing policies adopted by the judiciary. By so doing, the PM has put added pressure on judges and magistrates, indirectly telling them that more people should be found guilty, and that the punishments they hand out should be harsher. It is not a good thing that the Prime Minister intervenes on these matters, because with his words he is interfering in the workings of the judiciary which, as we all know, should be independent of the executive arm of our democracy and impartial in its judgments.

The PM has managed to offend the police force for not doing its work to keep the country safe, terrorised parents of young children, caused damage to the tourism industry by admitting that Malta is no longer secure and reprimanded the judiciary for not doing its job properly.

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