Quite frankly, it stinks

This is no ordinary crisis and quite frankly, it stinks. We should be looking at three resignations not one. And that would only be the tip of the iceberg.

Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia has resisted suggestions that he should resign. We’re not surprised.  Many are now questioning who the real Prime Minister is. To many it seems that there has been a reversal of roles – Muscat has become the defence lawyer, bending over backwards to defend the former defence lawyer. 

Minister Mallia is no stranger to controversy. To date, he refuses to publish the findings of two inquiries into controversial police investigations concluded months ago. In July, Dr Mallia admitted that he and his chief of staff had attended and participated in the interviews of people who were transferred to the secret service. Explosives expert Jeffrey Curmi was promoted three times in three weeks until he was appointed Head of the Armed Forces Malta.

 Last month, Mallia inaugurated a mobile police station in Marsascala which had no planning permit – only a temporary clearance from the planning authority.

Sunday’s newspapers were awash with calls for Home Affairs Manuel Mallia to step down as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat continues to defend his Minister. Mallia crossed the red line when, on Wednesday night, his office issued a press statement stating that the ministerial driver had fired warning shots in the air. Evidence shows otherwise - all shots had actually hit the car.

These are but few of the many controversies that the Home Affairs Minister has been embroiled in only 20 months since he took office.

As a government minister, Mallia was never fit for purpose. Even genuine Labour Party supporters and colleagues of his – including Labour MPs – want to see his back. They know that this man is a liability and I have it on reliable sources that they have often taken their complaints to high ranking party officials but feel helpless because Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is four-square behind him.

That Manuel Mallia must go, or be sacked is a given.

But the reckoning should not stop there. Perhaps, we should be looking at three resignations, not one.

Acting police commissioner Ray Zammit failed to explain why driver PC Paul Sheehan, who fired three shots in a public place, was not questioned and held in police custody whilst the Scotsman, in whose direction the shots were fired, was held in police custody for 48 hours.

Zammit also failed to explain why he gave orders for the Scotsman car - which had three bullets lodged in its roof and rear - to be lifted on a low loader before the magistrate and investigators arrived. According to scene of the crime experts, the Police Commissioner’s decision to allow the car to be lifted on a low loader before the magistrate arrived meant that the scene of the crime had been tempered with.

These questions continue to go unanswered, whilst the reputation of the police force takes a severe blow. Unfortunately, in the last twenty months, the police force was often in the press, for the wrong reasons, too. Peter Paul Zammit’s brief stint at the head of the force was mired in controversy – he was the worst thing that happened to the police force in decades.

When Ray Zammit succeeded him many thought that the seasoned police officer would bring a much needed breath of fresh air to the force and restores its good reputation. Truth is that, so far, Ray Zammit has failed miserably.

If Ray Zammit does not come clean and give clear and unequivocal answers to these very pertinent questions, he has no option but to follow in his predecessors’ path and go, too.

And then there’s Silvio Scerri, the notorious Home Affairs minister’s chief of staff who is always in the press, often for the wrong reasons. Yesterday Malta Today reported that on the night of the shoot-out, Scerri called the newsroom to ‘correct’ the newspaper’s initial report and insist that the shots Sheehan fired into a vehicle were “warning shots” fired in the air. On Thursday morning, photos showed the bullet holes in the rear of Stephen Smith’s vehicle corroborated the original report. Twenty four hours later, Scerri did not deny these reports.

This is no ordinary crisis and quite frankly, it stinks. We should be looking at three resignations not one. And that would only be the tip of the iceberg.

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