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Updated | PN would order fresh inquiry into Gozo drug prosecution case - Busuttil

Simon Busuttil denounces inquiry as ‘whitewash’ as ministers allegedly involved in political interference and key witnesses were not interviewed by board of inquiry; laments 'total collapse' of law and order • Labour says Busuttil 'lacks stability and credibility'

danielmizzi
Daniel Mizzi
9 April 2017, 12:13pm
Last updated on 9 April 2017, 2:17pm
A Nationalist administration would order a fresh inquiry into revelations by MaltaToday that two government ministers had interfered in a drug trafficking case in Gozo as it did not interview two of the ministers allegedly involved, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said today.

The inquiry was ordered after MaltaToday revealed how a woman who was arrested by the police and who identified two men who supplied her drugs in summer 2013, had changed her statement following a meeting involving two senior government politicians and the fathers of the alleged drug traffickers.

Both Gozo Minister Anton Refalo and Minister Manuel Mallia - who at the time was home affairs minister – have denied any knowledge of the case.

“The inquiry is a farce as it only sought the testimony of two people and did not even interview the two ministers allegedly involved. The conclusions are a cover-up,” he told party faithful in Senglea. 

Busuttil’s remarks come in the wake of the report of the inquiry which was published on Saturday and which concluded that no political interference took place. The inquiry, led by lawyer John Vassallo – a former Labour candidate - makes no reference to the hearings with Refalo and Mallia, but a separate letter sent to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat reveals that the two ministers were in fact spoken to.

“How does it make sense to interview only two people and not interview the two ministers allegedly involved? No efforts were made to the police who investigated the case or the chauffeurs of the ministers. The inquiry did not even refer to CCTV footage,” he said.

The inquiry interviewed MaltaToday’s managing editor Saviour Balzan, inspector Bernard Charles Spiteri and Inspector Frank Anthony Tabone. The report makes no reference to numerous individuals identified by Saviour Balzan, including a very well-known Gozitan, whose details were passed on to the inquiry on Monday 3 April.

“This inquiry showcases the huge inequality and how the law is not being applied equally. The drug traffickers were let off the hook … the prime minister was more concerned with protecting his ministers and did not care about drug victims,” Busuttil said.

Dubbing the conclusions of the inquiry as “whitewash”, the PN leader said a Nationalist administration would appoint a “truly independent” inquiry composed of three retired judges to investigate the case.

Lamenting the “total collapse of the country’s law and order,” Busuttil said the recent spate in murders, thefts and car bombings, had left people feeling unsafe.

“People are feeling worried and are no longer feeling safe. The security in Malta is akin to that in a third world country … It is unheard of for a man to perform abortion on his girlfriend or for a man to glass a barman. If someone is in Malta he should abide by our laws.”

“It pays more to break the law and having a minister interfere and protect you than having to obey the law. It is no wonder that criminality is on the increase when those in power are obstructing the course of justice,” Busuttil said.

PN government would eradicate traffic congestion - Busuttil

Quoting the results of a MaltaToday survey, which showed that concern on traffic remained the most pressing issue for respondents, Busuttil pledged that a future Nationalist government would “eradicate traffic congestion in Malta.”

“While it is true that traffic in Malta has been a pressing concern for several years, it is also true that Joseph Muscat has made it worse, despite his promise to completely eradicate it. It is up now to the PN to eradicate it, and it will do this through a series of short-term and long-term solutions,” he said.

Busuttil insisted that the PN’s flagship project to mitigate traffic congestion, namely, a metro system that is reportedly expected to cost at least €2.3 billion, would “guarantee efficiency” and is one of the PN’s long term measures.

Taking a swipe at the government’s “woeful” track record, Busuttil warned that several voters had become disillusioned by politics in Malta and the government’s scandals had ushered in a new wave of disenchantment among voters.

PN deputy leader Mario de Marco had warned that several youths are growing disillusioned with the country’s political class, while a recent MaltaToday survey revealed that voters aged between 18 and 34 are the most undecided about which party to vote for.

However, Busuttil insisted that the Nationalist Party is not the “lesser evil” of the two parties and that under a future Nationalist administration, people would not feel abandoned by the political elite.

“I do not want people to vote for the Nationalist Party on the basis that it is the lesser evil of the two major parties in Malta. Rather, I want the PN to win [the general election] because it is the right choice and not as a result of the government’s mistakes,” Busuttil said.

Turning his attention on Air Malta, Busuttil, who last week urged the government to take important decisions, irrespective of their political consequences, said the country’s national airline was “close to collapse”.

“If Air Malta were to close down, Malta would lose an important connection to the rest of the world. If this happens, the economy would suffer,” the PN leader continued.

Labour: Simon Busuttil 'lacks stability and credibility'

In a reaction, the Labour Party insisted that Busuttil was not credible when he said that a future Nationalist administration would address people's concerns as it was previous PN governments which were to blame for these problems.

Bemoaning Busuttil's “lack of credibility and stability”, the Labour Party also fired a salvo at the Nationalist Party’s coalition with Marlene Farrugia’s Partit Demokratiku.

“With the PN now having two leaders, Simon Busuttil is no longer credible because his own parliamentary group only got to know of the coalition through the media,” the Labour Party said.

Moreover, the PL said Busuttil’s speech on transparency was not credible as he was refusing to publish invoices to prove that the wages of PN secretary general Rosette Thake and chief executive Brian St John.

danielmizzi
Daniel Mizzi reports from the law courts.