Letters: 18 February 2015

Raphael Vassallo’s article “Souls for Sale”, in Maltatoday’s edition of last Wednesday, 11 February, was brought to my attention. I feel duty bound to correct the gross misrepresentation of the truth in Mr Vassallo’s article.

Mr Vassallo chose to interpret my March 2013 election day email to the Valletta monti hawkers as signifying their operating by now from the “exact same slot, that is Ordinance Street, between the ruined opera house and Piano’s Parliament extravaganza that the PN is now sworn to defend from a barbarian invasion of hamallagni”. This is unadulterated falsehood. He is also factually incorrect when writing that my email was only leaked recently.

Since facts are sacred, allow me to state the facts which cannot be contested, as can be verified by the email I myself showed to the media at the end of May 2013. Yes, the undersigned, in May 2013, showed it to The Times of Malta journalist, who reported its contents on 29 May, 2013, since I had and have nothing to hide.

On election day 2013, early afternoon, monti hawkers called me to ask about the PN’s position in view of the written, and hidden, agreement they had signed with Joseph Muscat and the PL a mere 48 hours before. As a result of this Faustian pact, kept hidden and signed in stealth in the afternoon of the last day of the election campaign by the Labour Party, the most transparent party in our history, I was informed that Joseph Muscat had bound his party in government to relocate them to the area between the ruined opera house and Piano’s parliament building. 

Stunned, I immediately replied on the phone that this was madness and that the PN could never accept hawkers next door to Piano’s project. Their reply was that whether we liked it or not, they had obtained this written commitment from Labour and so they wanted to know whether the PN would promise them that particular spot in Piano’s project since otherwise they would be voting for Muscat.

I retorted back: “Then go ahead and vote Labour. We will not sell our souls for your votes.” After verifying and getting the endorsement from higher authority a few moments later, I emailed that the most we could contemplate was a relocation to the lower part of Ordinance Street, only on these conditions: a) they could only occupy the lower part of that Street, certainly not a centimetre beyond the corner with Republic Street, b) all the stalls had to fit in that area, no matter what, c) they could not be permanent, d) I reiterated that under no circumstance could we have them in the area adjacent to the new Parliament, e) all the hawkers had to accept these conditions. 

All these conditions are listed in the email I wrote and which I myself revealed in May 2013, a mere two months after the election. This is why I cannot accept this gross misrepresentation of the truth. 

Interestingly, at no point whatsoever does Mr Vassallo take Joseph Muscat to task for his backroom deal two days before election day or even ask Joseph Muscat to publish his written agreement with the hawkers, kept under wraps from the electorate to date and whose existence has not been denied by Muscat.

I trust I have put the record straight for the benefit of your readers. 

Jason Azzopardi MP, Tarxien