Dalli is not fit to be prison director

One would have thought that people dying in prison would translate into solid and water-tight evidence of the state of affairs in Corradino – but it seems this is not the case for Byron Camilleri 

The controversial director of prisons Alex Dalli and his assistant Randolph Spiteri, a formerly rabid-Nationalist-supporter-turned-Labourite and one-time close associate of David Casa, have sued Sunday newspaper Illum for defamation. 

For weeks on end, Illum have been putting forward questions to Dalli and home affairs minister Byron Camilleri.  

The questions were not problematic in themselves; they simply queried why Alex Dalli walked around the prisons in Corradino Correctional Facility with a loaded firearm, whether he confirmed that he had threatened an inmate with a revolver, and other very clear-cut questions which deserved a reply. 

These questions were based on the testimony of ex-prison warden Emanuel Cassar, who is willing to testify in a court of law on the above. Cassar was declared by the Ombudsman to have been unfairly dismissed by Dalli and has filed a Constitutional case on the issue. 

Minister Byron Camilleri seems to be a decent guy, but he has one severe deficiency: he ignores the press because he wants to skirt the tough questions and refuses to take action until he is faced with hard irrefutable facts; or just waits for the conclusions of inquiries led by individuals who certainly do not have the nerve to take on the director of prisons.  

One would have thought that people dying in prison would translate into solid and water-tight evidence of the state of affairs in Corradino – but it seems this is not the case for Byron Camilleri. 

Politicians are certainly no scientists and they should not be. But surely they should serve as some barometer of public sentiment. And the sentiment here is overwhelmingly questioning the suitability of these two officials. In this respect Alex Dalli and Randolph Spiteri are simply not fit for purpose.  

This is not the first time that a director of prisons has sued this media house. Some years back another director of prisons sued this newspaper over the treatment of an inmate. He and the warders that joined in the defamation case lost the case; then like now, the minister responsible for home affairs Tonio Borg washed his hands of the whole affair and let the whole drama unfold in the courtroom. Then like now, he was unwilling to take a stand. 

We all know that Tonio Borg was a pathetic home affairs minister. I hope that label will not stick to Byron Camilleri, but he does not seem to be too perturbed about this. 

In an effort to cushion the prison director’s authoritarian style, there have been attempts to portray the ‘good work’ at the prisons through official documentary-styled films.  One is being planned just right now. In all his television appearances, Alex Dalli comes across as a self-conceited, egocentric ex-military man, happy with his appearance and macho talk, which is itself testimony to his unsuitability as a director of a modern institution where humanity should have an important role. 

None of this will cancel out the deaths at the prisons in the time when Alex Dalli and Randolph Spiteri have been at the helm. 

Over all these years, I have witnessed horrible stories about the prisons. The inhumanity that inmates have experienced has not touched the public as much as we would have liked, but it has definitely brought independent-minded people and the media together.  

We as the media are not here to garner votes or win sympathy from the public for documenting the truth. That is why it is important that this defamation case is fought with all the energy we have. We are going to throw everything we have to win this case. 

This may not be a game to prove who is right or wrong, or stronger or weaker. This is simply a case about what is fundamentally wrong inside Corradino Correctional Facility, where the precarious situation for inmates is verging on the dangerous. 

When we face Alex Dalli and his comical subordinate in coury, we will not be fighting these two individuals on a personal level. We will battle the government and the minister who calls the shots for having delegated the administration of an institution to individuals who are unsuited to this role.