Busuttil: PN will not take stand against spring hunting

PN leader Simon Busuttil says his party will not take a stand against spring hunting out of respect of agreement reached in 2003 

Nationalist leader Simon Busuttil
Nationalist leader Simon Busuttil

PN leader Simon Busuttil today ruled out backing the campaign to ban spring hunting, insisting that the party must respect the promise it made to hunters prior to the 2003 referendum on EU accession

While admitting that the majority of hunters backed Labour, Busuttil said “we will keep our word” in reference to the agreement reached between the then PN government to maintain the hunting season in spring.

The derogation negotiated by the previous PN government on spring hunting from the EU’s Birds Directive symbolises the political might of the hunting lobby, however a 45,000-strong petition to demand an abrogative referendum on the legal notice authorising spring hunting, championed by the Green Party and a coalition of NGOs, now threatens the deal reached before the 2003 EU referendum.

Speaking during a PN activity in Zurrieq, he added that in the spring hunting referendum, which will probably be held in March 2015, the PN “will not politicise the referendum and allow the people to decide.”

Describing the proposal in the government’s new employment policy to top up minimum wages as “half baked,” Busuttil said that the government should clarify its plans, adding that the PN was ready to cooperate with government and reach an agreement on this new policy.

However, he said that in principle the PN was against a minimum wage increase because this would be detrimental to the country’s competitiveness.

“Anyone earning a minimum wage should only have the wage increased if they undergo training,” he added.

Asked whether his position would be tenable if the PN fails to elect three seats in the forthcoming European elections, Busuttil said the party was aiming to elect three seats and “rather than think what will happen after the vote, together with the party’s candidates and officials I will do my utmost to achieve this targets.”

Accusing former Labour candidate Cyrus Engerer of “homophobic acts,” Busuttil insisted that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was wrong in defending his candidate and was setting a wrong example.

“We are not concerned with what Engerer has done, but defending him is like defending a government official who sits on a commission on children’s’ rights and is found guilty of committing a crime against children.”

On Friday, Labour candidate Cyrus Engerer withdrew from the European Parliament elections race after a court of appeal overturned a first court’s acquittal and convicted him to a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years for circulating pornography and computer misuse.

The charges were filed by his former boyfriend in 2009 when Engerer was a local councillor for the PN in Sliema.

Taking a swipe at Cyrus, Busuttil said that “although the PN does not have a gay rights champion, who is then found guilty of homophobic acts and although we might have disappointed the gay community by abstaining on the civil rights bill, we will continue listening and working closely with the gay community.”

The PN leader said that under his stewardship the PN had undergone thorough changes and the party was on the right track “to stand on its feet again, become an effective opposition and once again merit governing the country.”

“I have the humility to accept that I am still learning in my role, I am connecting with people and I have just met a 66-year-old person who has always been a Labour voter and for the first time ever will be voting for the PN. These moments are emotional,” Busuttil said.