The side entrance to the Office of the Prime Minister in Castille was blocked for five hours this morning as protesters demanded the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Some 30 members of the NGO Graffitti chanted slogans against corruption, and were later locked inside the building as the main door was closed so as to avoid other protesters from joining.
These other protesters included two of the sisters of Daphne Caruana Galizia, who were prevented from entering the building by police officers stationed outside.
Many of the protesters who did not make it inside the OPM sat down on the road – St Paul’s Street – for several minutes.
The protesters moved into the entrance soon after it was opened for daily business, at around 7am and left at noon.
Many of the protesters made noise with drums, whistles and a megaphone.
“Hmieg, hmieg, hmieg u imbruljuni” they chanted.
More and more police officers and AFM personnel turned up as time went by.
In a statement, Graffitti said: “We are here at Castille today, representing different groups and individuals who all share the same concerns, resolute and determined to convey one strong clear message: we are asking for Muscat to tender his resignation immediately! But Muscat is not the only scourge that has plagued our country. We are occupying Castille because we are greatly concerned about the dire situation that has engulfed the democratic institutions of our country and because we feel that our country has hit rock bottom in ways unprecedented before.
“Corruption at the highest political level is not the only disconcerting issue that we are facing as a country- we have now crossed all limits of decency and have woken up to a country which has allowed the political situation to degenerate to an extent that we now find ourselves faced with the political assassination of a journalist. Despite all this, it seems that not everyone has understood, or it could be that there are some who prefer that we don’t understand, the full extent and gravity of the situation we have found ourselves in.
In its statement, the NGO said: “We are blocking Castille because we adamantly believe that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is no longer fit to occupy the office of Prime Minister and his promise to resign in January is simply not enough. Muscat wants to convey a message that everything has been carrying on as normal and that it’s ‘business as usual’.
“Business as usual? Not while Keith Schembri still walks free among us despite the ever growing filth that surrounds him. Not when the corrupt deals which Schembri and Konrad Mizzi were involved in have yet to be properly investigated. Not when Joseph Muscat himself still occupies the office of Prime Minister. Whether he was aware of what was going on around him, the extent of what he knew, whether he was betrayed or if he himself betrayed others – there is one thing we know with certainty – he needs to leave – now.
“Our demand, along with that of many other people, is that Muscat resigns and makes way at once. With every minute that passes and Muscat remains latched to his seat of power, it is inevitable that the people will start growing even more suspicious that some kind of heinous plot is being conspired behind their backs so that the truth remains buried.
“It is the people who elect these individuals to power to represent them and safeguard their interests; the politicians are there to serve the people, and not the other way round. When the democratic institutions which are there to represent the people become a hub for institutionalised crime, plundering of the taxpayer’s money, corruption at an unprecedented level, collusions and incestuous relationships with big business which have led to an assassination with the only intent to silence the voice of those who dared to reveal the rotten state of affairs that has been kept hidden from us, it is up to the citizens to claim their rights to protest and make their voices heard, to draw the attention of the politicians who believe themselves to be above the law and show them that they are no longer worthy of occupying the office which the people themselves had trusted them to occupy.
“At this point there is no alternative but for the citizens to go out in the streets and make their voices heard loud and clear. The democratic rights of citizens are not limited to casting a vote every five years. Politicians should continue to be scrutinised throughout the whole legislature and not only during electoral campaigns. If politicians abuse their power or if their conduct is unworthy of the office they occupy, then they should make way and resign. This is the message that we want to convey by our action today – there remains no doubt that the position of the Prime Minister is absolutely no longer tenable.
“The resignation of the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat should be the first step. We will remain here in front of Castille for as long as necessary. We encourage all those who identify with our beliefs to join us, bring along your instruments and make your voices heard. This is the moment that we should all seize. Anyone who dreams of a new Malta, Malta untainted by filthy politics, Malta which provides for everyone’s needs – then we invite you to come here and join us.
“Castille belongs to the people and it should be returned to the people.”
Security at Castille has been beefed up substantially as of late, in times when protests against the Prime Minister are being held almost on a daily basis.
Security is normally provided by AFM soldiers in ceremonial dress, but it is very unusual to see soldiers in full combat gear as we have been seeing of late.
It is not business as usual, the protesters said, as they marched into the entrance. There were some tense moments as more personnel from the AFM turned up to exercise control over the protest.
The number of AFM soldiers kept increasing as time went by, while the main entrance to Castille – the one used by the PM – was closed. AFM vehicles were also on stand-by in Merchants Street, which esd cordoned off with barriers.
An hour or so into the activity, when most of the media had turned up, the protesters were locked inside the entrance hall, the door was closed and journalists and photographers were moved out.
When journalists asked why this decision was taken, the police officers on site said they were acting on “orders”. The media present were told to contact the police communications office to get more details.
Some time later, Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sister Corinne Vella went to Castille and asked to join the protesters inside. She was later joined by anotgher sister, Helene Asciak. Former PN candidate Salvu Mallia was also there.
Police did not allow them inside.
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