Mallia: ‘Unfortunate’ that PN used shooting incident to belittle Budget

Home affairs minster gets hero's welcome at post-budget consultation meeting • Shooting incident hardly brought up by home affairs minister Manuel Mallia as he faces the public in post-Budget meetings

Embattled Home Affairs minister Manuel Mallia was met with a standing ovation and roaring chants of ‘Manuel, Manuel’ as he walked into the tent for the latest in a series of public consultation sessions entitled ‘a government that listens’.

“Your support fills me with courage,” Mallia told the crowd to more applause, before referring to the Sheehan shooting – which is now under magisterial and government inquiry – as “an incident [which] the Opposition unfortunately used to to belittle the significance of the Budget.”

“I will not return the police to the state it was in the 1980s,” Mallia said in his closing speech. “I was on the other side of the fence back then.”

But apart from that statement and a declaration of solidarity from a crowd member, the recent shooting incident involving Mallia’s driver Paul Sheehan remained very much an elephant in the room. 

Instead, Mallia spent a good deal of time speaking about prison reforms under the current government.

“Under the previous government, a few people with poor discipline worked at the prison, police dogs there ended up as prisoners’ pets and prison canteen food was too expensive. The Floriana lock-up was in a disastrous state.

“We restored the lock-up, introduced rehabilitation schemes for prisoners and set up a music room and an arts room within the prison and brought in six new prison dogs who will not remain inside the facility and risk becoming pets,” Mallia said.

“The prison football team took part in competitions against non-prisoners within the prison walls, and a knitting room was set up for female prisoners to craft products. These products are sold outside the prison and parts of their proceeds go to the victims of the prisoners who crafted them.”

Mallia also denied that the Security Services can randomly spy on telephone lines. “Phones are only intercepted following justified reports and signed warrants,” Mallia said.

In response to a question by George Busuttil from prisoner-rights’ NGO Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl as to whether every prisoner should be eligible for parole, Mallia said that it could be discussed in the future. 

Mallia, under whose portfolio fall PBS and film, said that the film industry directly generated a record €28 million this year and a lot more indirectly. He added that a public-private agreement could be reached for the Rinella film studios.

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