Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the decision taken by the security staff at the University of Malta to confiscate masks depicting the Transport Minister Ian Borg’s face from Moviment Graffitti was a “stupid” one.
The Prime Minister was asked on Tuesday for his reaction to an incident which occurred at the University’s Freshers’ Week the day before, where security staff confiscated a mask featuring Borg, and others which depicted the face of Malta Developer’s Association President Sandro Chetcuti, from the NGO’s stand.
An activist said that the justification on the part of the security staff was that no “political controversy is allowed at Freshers’ Week.”
The University itself defended the security staff’s decision in a statement on Monday, saying that while they supported political debate, Freshers’ Week was not the place for it, noting that the security staff had to “defuse the situation” just in case the activist’s attire – he was also wearing a cardboard tower with a crane on top of it – may provoke a reaction and escalate.
The Prime Minister was however less than defensive, and blasted the decision, noting that “if freedom of expression is not allowed at University, then where else can it be?”.
“We are totally against any type of censorship, and it is a witty way of getting their critique across”, Muscat said of the activist’s attire.
He also noted that the government does not have any say in what the University of Malta does an decides; “there is full autonomy and I am sure that the attitude of the University isn’t one which promotes censorship”, he said.
Omtzigt is not interested in the truth, only in saying what he thinks – Muscat
Asked for his reaction to the fact that Pieter Omtzigt had said that the public inquiry appointed to investigate the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia was not up to the desired standards, Muscat reiterated that the government had been clear from the off that they had engaged with the Council of Europe and that they had major reservations on Omtzigt himself.[embedded content]
“Omtzigt has a strong deficit in credibility given that in the past it was found that he had invented information about the aircraft which was felled over Ukraine, blaming Ukrainian authorities instead of the Russian authorities. Given the way he acts, writes, and speaks it is clear that he is not interested in the truth but in saying what he thinks”, Muscat said.
The Prime Minister noted that this does not mean that the government will close its eyes and ears, and noted that they will continue to discuss the matter over with the Council of Europe, in whom they have full trust.
Government has worked in a totally correct manner on IIP scandal, Muscat says
Asked by this newsroom about the scandal that recently broke with regards to a Maltese company and the Individual Investor Programme (IIP), Muscat said that he welcomes any investigation into the matter as the government has acted “totally correctly” in this case.
Last week, French news show Enquête Exclusive aired footage of lawyers from Chetcuti Cauchi Advisors Ltd describing their friendship with both the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship Julia Farrugia, with one agent telling the French TV journalist – who was posing as a representative of African clients wanting to buy Maltese citizenship – that passport buyers who are originally turned down can get a second chance if officials “turn a blind eye”.
The company’s license to sell passports has since been suspended, while the government issued a statement noting that many claims made by the agent are “completely unfounded”.
Muscat was asked whether the government would be carrying out an investigation into other Maltese IIP agents to ascertain for certain that none of them are breaking the regulation which are in place.
Muscat said that the investigations that are currently underway are being done by the regulator’s office – which is an independent office – while another one is being conducted by the Standards Commissioner aside from there also being a magisterial inquiry.
He said that he is comfortable with these investigations because the government had acted in a totally correct manner on this issue.
Discussions on judicial appointments now focused on appointment of Chief Justice – Muscat
Discussions on judicial appointments are now focused on the manner in which the Chief Justice of the country is appointed, Muscat said when asked by this newsroom.
Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna said during Mass on Sunday morning that members of the judiciary must be independent from all forms of politics, noting that this independence must be external and internal, and should come from the people appointing members of the judiciary as well as from the judges and magistrates themselves when they are deciding cases.
In Malta, judicial appointments are made by the Prime Minister who chooses from a list of candidates which is provided to him after a screening process by the Judicial Appointments Committee. The practice that the appointment is, ultimately, made by the Prime Minister has attracted criticism from bodies such as the Venice Commission, which noted that the Office of the Prime Minister holds too much power in this regard.
With reference to the Archbishop’s speech, Muscat was asked by this newsroom when he will completely relinquish the choice of the judiciary from his office.
Noting that he would not comment on what the Archbishop had said as he had not yet read his words, Muscat said that he is the Prime Minister with the least power out of any other Prime Minister when it comes to the judiciary, as it was he who changed the law to bring in a Judicial Appointment Committee.
“Before, all the Prime Ministers could get up in the morning and appoint anyone as a magistrate or Judge, no questions asked. So if I have a lot of power, those before me had a lot more; and I am not sorry about [not having that power]”, Muscat said.
He explained the system with regards to the Judicial Appointment Committee, noting that this committee had actually excluded persons from the list of those who could be appointed.
He said that discussions are now centred on the manner in which the Chief Justice of the country is appointed, before also noting that the EU is not contesting laws which the government had implemented itself, but was looking at laws which have been long in place.
He lamented that these laws were never issues in the past, but are now suddenly raised as issues.
“No worries; these are the rules of the game, and we will play to those rules”, he said.