MEPs grant wide audience to Malta’s ‘rule of law’ opposition

Draft list of hearings for European Parliament mission on Malta includes most prominent activists on rule of law and governance 

Malta’s Labour administration will be fending off scathing criticism over its record of governance and allegations of corruption when a European Parliament delegation arrives this week.

At least nine MEPs from a joint delegation hailing from the EP’s Panama Papers and Civil Liberties committees, will hear journalists and activists answer questions on the state of rule of law in Malta.

The mission was prompted by a recent debate held on the subject after the June elections that re-elected Joseph Muscat’s Labour Party, and the assassination on 16 October of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is a horrific car bomb outside her home.

The delegation will first meet journalists Jacob Borg from The Times and David Lindsay from the Malta Independent, who were partners with the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists in their coverage of the Panama Papers back in April 2016, as well as Shift News reporter James Debono.

The MEPs will then meet Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of Daphne and a member of the ICIJ team that worked on the Panama Papers data.

They will meet sacked FIAU employee Jonathan Ferris, a former police inspector now pursuing an unfair dismissal claim against the FIAU in the Industrial Tribunal. Ferris was instructed not to investigate claim by Pilatus Bank’s former employee Maria Efimova, having previously prosecuted her on charges of misappropriation by the same bank.

The MEPs will also hold a two-hour round-table discussion with activists currently running various campaigns to demand the resignation of Commissioner of Police Lawrence Cutajar and Attorney General Peter Grech.

These will be Advocates For the Rule of Law, a group of lawyers which took out newspaper adverts in the run-up to the 2017 elections decrying the Labour administration’s governance record; Civil Society Network, Occupy Justice, and Kenniesa, which since the assassination of Caruana Galizia have carried out numerous demonstrations calling for reforms and resignations; and also human rights NGO Aditus.

The roundtable will also include lawyer and Nationalist polemicist Andrew Borg Cardona, and Manuel Delia, formerly an advisor of Nationalist minister Austin Gatt now running his own blog. Union Haddiema Maqghudin will also be invited for the discussion.

On the executive side, the mission will be meeting representatives of the FIAU, requesting the presence of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and justice minister Owen Bonnici, representatives of Nexia BT and Pilatus Bank, the MFSA, Attorney General Peter Grech and Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri, and the PM’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.

The Civil Society Network has demanded that Schembri attend the hearings, after he last refused to attend the PANA committee’s mission to Malta.

“CSN expects Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to order Mr Keith Schembri to accept any invitation he may receive from the group of MEPs in Malta this week and give exhaustive replies to their demands for information.

“Whereas one understands that the Prime Minister and his Chief of Staff are friends and that this is not something wrong in itself, CSN wishes to remind the Maltese public and in particular Muscat himself that in the oath he took before assuming office he solemnly swore and undertook to perform his duties as Prime Minister without fear or favour.”

The MEPs will include PANA vice-chair Ana Gomes (S&D), co-rapporteur Jeppe Kofod (S&D), Heinz Becker (EPP, Monica Maocvei (ECR), Takis Hadjigeorgiou (GUE), Sven Giegold (Greens), Mario Borghezio (ENF).

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