Opposition: Government has disrupted disciplined forces’ chain of command

Shadow minister for Home Affairs accuses government of politicising disciplined forces and concentrating power within the Office of the Prime Minister

Beppe Fenech Adami
Beppe Fenech Adami

Shadow minister for Home Affairs Beppe Fenech Adami has said that the government, since taking office, had systematically dismantled various parts of the army and the other disciplined forces resulting in them becoming heavily politicised and demoralised.

Speaking in Parliament in a debate over the budgetary allocation for the Home Affairs ministry, Fenech Adami said that it was worrying that the Army had a commander who publicly boasts about how he does not answer to the minister but only to the Prime Minister.

He said that despite the fact the budget was named ‘Wealth for all’, there was no mention of the armed forces, civil protection department, prisoners or prison officials.

“This is a budget that has forgotten the police, the army, everything that falls under your [Home affairs minister Carmelo Abela] ministry. This is a reflection of the situation currently facing disciplined forces in this country,” said Fenech Adami.

Turning to the Police, he said that the department received only one mention in the entire budget. He accused the government of confusing the issue of anomalies created in pensions with the issue of unpaid overtime which he said the government had promised to pay and had not yet done so.

The Police force, Fenech Adami said, was also experiencing brain drain together with other problems that were affecting morale. He said that this was preventing the Police from keeping people safe, referring to a number of incidents that have taken place in Paceville over the past year.

Fenech Adami also said that the Police force was not being allowed to carry out its duty of investigating potential issues of corruption. He said that this was happening because the Police force had also become politicised. He said that the Police force should have investigated issues such as the Café Premier scandal, the Medical Visas scandal, the Panama scandal and a number of other.

The shadow minister for Home Affairs concluded by categorically deny that has ever interfered with the work of the Police force or the Attorney General.

“I deny any allegations made against me, that I ever interfered in any investigation being carried out by the Police or interfered with the work of the Attorney General.

Nationalist MP Francis Zammit Dimech questioned why the Home affairs portfolio was getting smaller with the budgetary allocation decreasing by 6m. He said that Central Visa Unit as well as Identity Malta had been transferred to other ministries, and that this was a sign that the government did not have confidence in the ministry and the minister.

Zammit Dimech also said that there was nothing in the budget discussing this issue. He said that while the country must show compassion for those in need of help it was also necessary to be strict with those who enter the country but are not eligible to do so. He added that it was essential for a country to have a serious and comprehensive returns policy however the estimates presented in the budget indicate that no funds have been allocated for this purpose.

He also pointed out that there were no funds allocated for the integration of foreigners, adding that with the number of foreign workers constantly increasing, it would have made sense for the government to allocate some funds for integration.

In his reply, minister for home affairs Carmelo Abela criticised the opposition for not engaging in an objective debate on a subject that was so important for the country. Abela said that was disappointed that the opposition did not come to the debate with any proposals.

In these past three and half years, he said, the government had always published a document with how much of the budget had been implemented. He said that his ministry had already implemented 83% of the last Budget.

Abela spoke about measures that the government was introducing in this budget such as the right to a pension after 25 years of service as well as a pension to those members of the country’s disciplined forces in case of injury, as well as a full pension to their widows in the event of death.

The minister also rubbished claims that the did not have the confidence of the Prime Minister, adding that had this been the case, he would not be the minister.

Abela said that the government was investing heavily in the armed forces, including in areas related to training. He said that it had been years since members of the armed forces had received training at naval bases abroad and that the government had started resumed this sort of training.

He also rejected criticism on injustices within the army as well the alleged political interference saying that if anything this was true of the previous administration. He said that it was during the last legislature that promotions were decided upon by former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and the Office of the Prime Minister.

On immigration, Abela criticised Francis Zammit Dimech for accusing the Home affairs ministry of not allocating any funds for integration, adding that he knew this did not fall under the remit of the Home affairs ministry.

He also said he could not understand why Zammit Dimech spoke of a lack of immigration policy when the ministry had published a document on the ‘Strategy for reception of asylum seekers and irregular migrants’ last year.

On the Corradino Correctional Facility, Abela said that is easy to name a facility a correctional facility however to change it from a prison to a true correctional facility requires a plan, and a lot of work. He added that past Nationalist administrations had done nothing to fix the situation and that the Nationalist Party now had no credibility with which to pledge to make changes.

He questioned how the opposition could say that would embark on a war on drugs in prison when during the last legislature, prisoners were informed when searches would take place.

“During the past legislature, sniffer dogs had become inmates’ pets. Surely this isn’t conducive to findings drugs.”

Turning to the Police Force he said that the government was working on improving Police training for them to be better suited to dealing with certain sensitive issues such as domestic violence and others.

Abela said that the government’s intention has always been that of increasing police on the streets, pointing out that the Police Force today, has more members than it has ever had.  

He also said that the government was also working on update the laws that govern the Police Force as part of a plan for the modernisation of the force adding that the situation is currently better than it ever was under a Nationalist government.

Referring to Beppe Fenech Adami’s denial of any past involvement in police matters, Abela said that he would not go into the merits of the case, however he said that he was not convinced that the story was false.

“I am not convinced by what he has stated here today, that it was a coincidence that an investigation was stopped when his name cropped up shortly before the last election. Maybe when he is accuses the government of interference in the Police he is simply speaking from personal experience.”


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