Updated | Busuttil’s pro-hunting stance proves he will do anything for votes, AD claims

Greens accuse Simon Busuttil of environmental hypocrisy after PN leader says he considers the spring hunting issue a 'closed case' 

Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil said he had voted in favour of hunting in last year's referendum
Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil said he had voted in favour of hunting in last year's referendum

Alternattiva Demokratika has hit out at Simon Busuttil after the Nationalist Party leader sought to allayed hunters’ fears that he would propose a second spring hunting referendum.

The Green Party’s secretary general and election candidate Ralph Cassar said that Busuttil’s stance betrays his hypocrisy over the environment and the fact that “he will do anything for votes”.

“This is yet another example of how the PN, like the PL, dances to the tune of strong and arrogant lobby groups,” he said. “Neither of them is interested in keeping the countryside free for people to enjoy, but want to leave it in the hands of a few bullies.

“There is nothing to choose between PN and PL, and Busuttil – like Joseph Muscat – will not impose strict controls on hunting.”

Addressing a political activity in Siggiewi on Sunday morning, Busuttil recounted how he had “voted with the hunters” in the 2015 spring hunting referendum because he had “given his word” to them 12 years earlier when Malta joined the European Union.
During membership negotiations, the Maltese government had informed the Commission of its intention to allow spring hunting by applying a derogation under the Birds directive.

Busuttil had come out in favour of spring hunting in the 2015 referendum campaign, but the Labour Party cast doubt on his convictions by noting that he had taken a week to declare his intention.

The old wounds have now been opened again, triggered by Busuttil’s recent pledge to introduce propositional referenda, which will allow people to invoke a referendum to introduce laws, under the same parameters which forced the abrogative referendum against spring hunting.

Hunting lobby FKNK warned that propositional referenda could be used as another tool to eradicate hunting and trapping in Malta and said it was surprised that the PN has come up with that proposal.

Chief executive Lino Farrugia said that the FKNK had recently held a meeting with PN officials during which the two sides discussed a controversial petition by the FKNK which bears 104,294 signatures and was presented in Parliament by Labour MP Michael Falzon back in 2014.

The petition calls for amendments to the Referenda Act, so that referenda can not be used to target minorities which, in the FKNK’s opinion, includes hunters and other hobbyists.

Busuttil has now sought to allay fears that propositional referenda could be used to invoke a second spring hunting referendum.

“What we are proposing is to allow citizens to petition the government to hold a referendum asking for the inclusion of a law,” he clarified.

He said that some hunters had asked him to state what the PN’s position on hunting was, since “the Labour Party was spreading rumours” of a referendum.

“As usual, because they have no arguments and are with their backs to the wall, they have resorted to lying,” the PN leader said. “They told hunters that if Simon Busuttil is elected there would be a new referendum on hunting. And I ask? During whose term did a referendum take place?

“On hunting, the PN would respect the will of the people. It’s a closed case for us. Closed.”

He appealed to hunters, as well as to those present, not to allow Muscat “to use them” for their vote so that he and “his clique in Castille could continue to profit.

Busuttil also rejected claims made by the Labour Party, that he had no respect for people from the South of Malta, pointing out that his partner is from the south herself.

More suspicious transactions

Referring to a report in the Sunday Times of Malta, Busuttil said that it was revealed on Sunday that in addition to two €50,000 payments allegedly made by Nexia BT managing partner Brian Tonna to OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schemrbi, Tonna had also received some €583,000 in commissions from the sale of citizenship.

“While Joseph Muscat was travelling the world selling passports, Schembri was receiving kickbacks on their sale,” said Busuttil.

He said that while he had presented evidence to the magisterial inquiry on two payments between Brian Tonna and Keith Schmebri, there was now another suspicious transaction.

“Willerby [Trade Inc.], registered in the British Virgin Island, was receiving money from the sale of passports,” said Busuttil. “We know this because after it emerged that Willerby belongs to Brian Tonna, it was revealed to be receiving money from the company BT International.”  

Busuttil went on to say that for every sale through the citizenship by investment scheme, Willbery would take a 50% commission for every ‘active referral’ and 30% for ‘passive referrals’.

He insisted that the fact that the account at Pilatus Bank was closed immediately after the Panama Papers leaks showed it was being used to park money from kick-backs.

“All this was being done by two people with a desk at the office of the Prime Minister,” said Busuttil. “The Prime Minister either did not know about anything, in which case he is incompetent and should not be prime minister, or else something else. I don’t know about you but I think the Prime Minister knew about everything because he is not stupid enough not to know what is going on under his nose.”

Busuttil stressed that whatever Muscat’s role in the matter, “his place is no longer in politics”, adding that once the Prime Minister had not done what was right, it was now up to the nation.

Referring to voting intention surveys published this morning in a number of local newspapers, Busuttil said it was possible “to mobilise” people in the remaining three weeks of the campaign. He said the PN had not given up when it trailed the Labour Party by 36,000 votes, and wasn’t about to give up now that it was quickly gaining ground.