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PN student supporters had been informed in advance of leaders’ debate

Messenger chats leaked to MaltaToday show plan by students to flood the university debate hall with as many PN supporters as possible 

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
16 May 2017, 4:57pm
A group of student PN supporters who were revealed to be planning to “hijack” the upcoming leaders’ debate between party leaders had been informed hours in advance of the debate.

MaltaToday has seen copies of a Messenger group conversation, that were partially leaked to student media group Insite, and can confirm that the students were attempting to flood the Wednesday debate with as many PN supporters as possible.

The group chat was set up at 9:16am and a student’s comment reminding people to attend “tonight’s [PN] activity in Zejtun” indicates that it was set up on 9 May. This would mean that these students had been informed about the debate over nine hours before The Third Eye, the student media group organising the debate, published the event on Facebook for all students to see.

"The Third Eye would like to clarify that there had been no leak from within the organisation in relation to the debate," Russell Attard Baldacchino, The Third Eye secretary general, said.

The debate will be held at the Sir Temi Zammit Hall, which accommodates 800 people. The chat shows that the students were aiming for there to be present 600 PN-supporting students at the debate, compared to 200 PL-supporting ones.

One comment states: “We need 800 people to be present. Start adding the ones you’re certain of.”

The Messenger group chat was set up at 9:16am
The Messenger group chat was set up at 9:16am
And the reference to the PN'z Zejtun activity indicates it was set up on 9 May
And the reference to the PN'z Zejtun activity indicates it was set up on 9 May
However, the event was only officially uploaded on Facebook at 6:53pm
However, the event was only officially uploaded on Facebook at 6:53pm
Another student said that he will “speak to Il-Guru”, the nickname of Mark Grech, president of the Nationalist Party’s youth wing MZPN.

Other comments include that the debate should be “hijacked like they [Labour] did in 2013” and that the students should ask trap questions to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
One comment reads: “Joseph can take the piss out of his supporters because they don’t understand him, but the University is a different story and we could easily trap him with our questions. Besides, practically all of Malta will be following this debate.”

MaltaToday can also confirm that the chat includes people who form part of the executive of Christian Democrat student group SDM.

Following Insite’s revelations on Monday, The Third Eye published a list of guidelines for students wishing to ask questions to the leaders at the debate. It will be split into three parts; in the first part, leaders will take questions sent by students to the organisers in advance, in the second part they will take questions that are posted on Facebook during the debate, and in the third part they will take questions from students from the floor.

Students who wish to pose a question must complete a form and submit it into a box at the entrance of the hall. At the end of the second section, the box will be taken to the stage, names will be selected at random by the moderator, and students whose names are drawn will be handed a microphone to pose their questions.

The organisers have also drawn up a set of guidelines for students wishing to attend the debate, including that no bags or any items, including food and beverages, will be allowed into the hall. No one will be allowed to wear clothes bearing any political logos or slogans, and no form of “rowdy behaviour” such as booing, yelling or cheering shall be tolerated. 

The debate will be held between Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, PN leader Simon Busuttil, Partit Demokratiku leader Marlene Farrugia and Altertnattiva Demokratika chairperson Arnold Cassola on Wednesday at 1pm at the Sir Temi Zammit Hall.