Union boss first fed outrage over NYB’s Last Supper, now wants action against far-right vandals

As far-right tears up NYB’s Last Supper, Patriots’ leader Henry Battistino admits he broke law by ripping out Jesus’ face from billboard: ‘My faith is stronger than all man-made laws’

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
2 July 2017, 3:11pm
Police inspector Sandro Camilleri (right) speaks to L-Orizzont about the 'Last Supper' billboard. Photo: Inews
Police inspector Sandro Camilleri (right) speaks to L-Orizzont about the 'Last Supper' billboard. Photo: Inews
The president of the Police Officers’ Union has called on the police to take action against the leader and a member of the far-right Maltese Patriots’ Movement (MPM) for vandalising a billboard depicting Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper with Jesus and his apostles eating fast food.

“One hundred percent,” Sandro Camilleri said, when asked by MaltaToday whether the police should take action against the ‘patriots’. “There isn’t much to investigate because the people involved have already admitted to it, but if there’s grounds for them to be charged in court then they definitely should be.”

Camilleri had earlier in the week consented to take part in an inewsmalta.com video report where he expressed umbrage at the Last Supper depiction, claiming to have received many text messages.

Sandro Camilleri is the brother of Moviment Patrijotti Maltin candidate Romina Farrugia Randon, but insisted that he never had anything to do with the far-right group.

When contacted by MaltaToday, Camilleri said people should not be allowed to “take the law into their hands”, and that the Patriots should have allowed the authorities to take action if the controversial billboard – which is at the Msida saktepark – was erected illegally.

'Patriots' Henry Battistino (left) and Desmond Falzon boast about their crime on Facebook
'Patriots' Henry Battistino (left) and Desmond Falzon boast about their crime on Facebook
Vandalism is a crime punishable by imprisonment, with jail time varying according to the extent of the damage.

Camilleri argued that his earlier comments to inewsmalta.com, which is owned by the General Workers Union (publishers of l-Orizzont) and which have since gone viral have been grossly misrepresented.

“I am not interested at all in the content of the billboard, and I didn’t comment on it in the video,” he said. “When I told the journalist that I didn’t know whether it was legal or not, I had meant that I didn’t know whether it had a permit. Yet many people, including so-called liberals, insulted me as a fool and a clown and even mocked the shirt I was wearing,” he said.

Camilleri added that the video itself had not been planned beforehand, but that he and the journalist were on another report when he had received complaints by people about the billboard and they decided to check it out with their own eyes.

‘My faith is stronger than all man-made laws’ – Patriot leader

The 12-metre “Last Supper” billboard, erected by fast food joint New York Best by the Msida Skatepark, had depicted Jesus and his apostles munching on NYB pizzas, burgers and chips.

It went viral on social media after a journalist from GWU-owned L-Orizzont, along with Sandro Camilleri, swooped down onto the site to analyze it.

The video prompted Patrijotti leader Henry Battistino and MPM candidate Desmond Falzon to take matters into their own hands, rip Jesus’ face out of the billboard, and post their crime online.

Battistino later admitted that he had broken the law by vandalising the billboard, but that his Christian faith would not let him stay quiet.

“I saw the Lord Jesus, who died and suffered to save us, being mocked and ridiculed, so that [New York Best] could sell a few more pizzas and chips,” he wrote on Facebook. “I tried to speak to the owners but I was coldly and harshly told to send them an e-mail.

“My faith is stronger than all man-made laws, and I can NEVER agree with the government’s decision to decriminalise the vilification of religion.”

Battistino insisted that he would have taken the same action had a poster mocked the Prophet Mohammed, arguing that no religious faith should ever be vilified. 

“I humbly urge the government to realize that its law to decriminalise religious vilification was wrong and that it is hurting several people,” he said. “We are praising ourselves for granting rights to minorities, and yet this law is hurting people who truly believe in their religions.”