The Malta Independent 23 June 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: The power of protests

Saturday, 18 May 2024, 10:26 Last update: about 2 months ago

The power of a peaceful protest is there for all to see. The country has seen many in recent years – protests against land in Żonqor being given to the American University of Malta, protests against the uprooting of trees and to protect the environment in general, to protests calling for resignations and an end to corruption.

2019 was a perfect example of the impact that protests can have, where following the arrest of Yorgen Fenech over the assassination of journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, protests had erupted around the country calling for justice for the murdered journalist, resulting in the resignation of then Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat.

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Now protests are erupting again, this time tied to the infamous hospitals deal. The courts had annulled the deal last year, mentioning fraud, a decision that was also confirmed by the court of appeal, which used the word collusion in its judgement.

A magisterial inquiry into the criminal aspect of the hospitals deal recently came to a close, and charges have been filed in court. Those charged include current and former top officials in the country. Among them is former Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, and his former Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri, as well as former Minister, Konrad

Mizzi. Chris Fearne is also charged, and he did the correct thing and resigned as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister. Governor of the Central Bank, Edward Scicluna, is also charged, but he has not stepped down … he should in order not to cause reputational damage.

They all, together with the others charged, will have the opportunity to defend themselves in court, and it is the courts that will decide whether they are guilty or innocent. But Prime Minister, Robert Abela, has taken the decision to attack the magisterial inquiry, by questioning the timing of the conclusion and raising questions about it.

He has also made comments against journalists and tying some to what he has dubbed ‘the establishment’. It is a dangerous course to take as it can be quite threatening to journalists and members of the judiciary. It can also put fear into the prosecution lawyers and members of the judiciary that will have to hear the criminal cases. He is not the average Joe, but the Prime Minister of a nation, where there is a difference, and his actions are unacceptable.

All of this has resulted in protests erupting in the country, aside from strong statements by many sectors telling the Prime Minister to stop his attacks on the judiciary and journalists.

University students gathered in Republic Street to protest and collectively condemned Prime Minister Robert Abela’s comments against the judiciary. The Nationalist Party had later held a protest of its own outside Parliament, where PN Leader, Bernard Grech, had criticised the decision by the Speaker of the House not to allow an urgent debate about the recent situation, and also said that the protest was to ‘protect the nation from Abela’ and condemned the Prime Minister’s attacking statements regarding the judiciary.

Later still, a protest was organised by Repubblika, backed by 21 organisations, calling for a clean Malta and condemning the statements made by the Prime Minister against journalists and members of the judiciary, as amongst other things.

The protests help show the people’s anger at the situation, and highlight the issues that the people are not happy with. Protests are powerful, and the Prime Minister absolutely must take heed of what is being said by those of goodwill.

He must call for the removal of Scicluna as his position, while he faces serious charges, is not tenable. He must retract the comments he has made about the inquiry and about journalists. This is what is right for the country.

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