[WATCH] Owen Bonnici unapologetic about Daphne Caruana Galizia memorial cleanups

A day after he was condemned by the constitutional court, Owen Bonnici defends his decision to order the daily clearing of Caruana Galizia's makeshift memorial: ‘I thought I was doing what was best’

Owen Bonnici's decision to clear the Caruana Galizia makeshift memorial was lambasted by a judge
Owen Bonnici's decision to clear the Caruana Galizia makeshift memorial was lambasted by a judge

Education Minister Owen Bonnici was unapologetic about giving orders to clean up the makeshift memorial for the assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and said that he thought he was doing what was best at the time. 

“We do everything possible for national unity and try to pull the same rope. I tried to do everything for this to happen. If the message passed was that the decisions were taken out of resentment or pique, it was absolutely not the case,” Bonnici told MaltaToday.

After visiting the Birzebbuga primary school on Friday, Bonnici reacted to a constitutional court sentence on Thursday that deemed Bonnici’s orders to clean up the memorial a breach of the applicant’s right to freedom of expression.

The applicant, NGO Repubblika committee member Manuel Delia, won the case over the continuous dismantling of flowers and candles left in the memory of Caruana Galizia by government employees.

READ ALSO: Manuel Delia wins case against government over clearing of Caruana Galizia memorial

Bonnici, however, said that the court itself had pronounced that there should be a limit to this freedom of expression when it said that damage to the Great Siege Monument should be avoided.

“The court itself said how freedom of expression should be limited in this case. A prohibitory injunction to stop the cleanups was also not accepted by the court, so I was always within the law.

“This was a controversial issue, but even the court chose to speak about the limitation to this freedom. It first recommended and then ordered how this right should be limited in order to protect the monument,” Bonnici said.

The court ordered that during protests and vigils and the laying down of candles, the monument’s pedestal be protected from any posters or candles. Speaking about the Great Siege Monument, judge Joseph Zammit McKeon’s ruling read that, “good sense, sincere love for the country, its symbols as well as its past, and the respect of the diversity of opinion are values that belong to this country.”

Bonnici insisted that the dismantling of the memorial was not intended to cause harm or out of resentment but was done in the name of unity and the protection of the monument.

The former justice minister has faced calls for his resignation after the court ruling. Prime Minister Robert Abela yesterday said he did not feel it was necessary for Bonnici to resign.

The government stopped clearing the makeshift memorial at the foot of the Great Siege monument in Valletta on Abela's orders, soon after he became prime minister.

READ ALSO: Government will not appeal Caruana Galizia memorial court ruling