Grech says Culture Minister must resign for inaction on sexual harassment case at national orchestra

Opposition leader Bernard Grech addresses the party faithful at Mellieħa as he targets ministers for inaction on scandals

Bernard Grech addressing party supporters at Mellieħa
Bernard Grech addressing party supporters at Mellieħa

Owen Bonnici must shoulder political responsibility and resign for doing nothing about the sexual harassment case at the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernard Grech said.

The Nationalist Party leader said the Culture Minister knew of the case before it became public but failed to act on the claims.

Grech asked why Bonnici did not go to the police with the allegations and accused him of trying to control the story by phoning a certain newsroom. He was repeating claims made on Saturday by PN culture spokesperson Julie Zahra.

The police charged MPO CEO Sigmund Mifsud on Saturday and accused him with attempted tampering of evidence after he allegedly instructed employees to keep quiet about the sexual harassment case. He was remanded in custody.

The actual case involves an MPO senior official who sexually harassed an orchestra member for three years until she had to resign. The senior official admitted in court to the charges and was given a suspended sentence. The court ordered a ban on the name of the perpetrator.

“All abuse worries me because it means someone in authority is using their power to subject that person to abuse… but Owen Bonnici is only worried that this scandal became public,” Grech said when addressing the party faithful in Mellieħa on Sunday.

Earlier, the Culture Ministry had issued a statement denying that the minister in any way tried to cover up the case of sexual harassment.

The statement said the minister had immediately written to the Commissioner Against Gender Violence about the case so that the office could guide the employee in such circumstances.

Once the allegations were formally made in writing - after the employee resigned - an external board was established to investigate the case according to the government's anti-sexual harassment policy. The ministry claimed that the “institutions worked”.

But Grech was having none of this and insisted Bonnici should resign for failure to act on the allegations when these surfaced internally.

Pilatus Bank scandal

The PN leader also accused Justice Minister Jonathan Attard of being complicit with the Attorney General over her decision not to prosecute against two Pilatus Bank officials despite a magistrate’s recommendation.

“The Justice Minister cannot remain silent in front of the bad decisions the Attorney General took in the Pilatus Bank case… [Police Commissioner] Angelo Gafà yesterday shifted the onus onto the AG over the Pilatus prosecutions and the minister cannot act as if nothing is happening,” Grech said.

READ ALSO: Pilatus Bank officials go scot-free in exchange for testimony

Perici Calascione: Duty to understand new reality

Before Grech, supporters were addressed by deputy leader Alex Perici Calascione, who said the party had a responsibility to understand the new voter reality that saw more than 50,000 people not going to vote in the last general election.

He said these people decided to abstain in one way or another despite government using its largesse to convince people to support it. But he also reminded supporters that these people did not look to the PN for a solution.

“We have a duty to look at this reality, understand it, listen to these people, discuss what is happening and then act on it... this is a reality that is forming and we have to give it our urgent attention,” he said.

This was Perici Calascione's first public address since becoming deputy leader.

Perici Calascione said these thousands were yearning for change. “These are disillusioned young people; elderly who cannot afford to live in dignity; people who love the environment and are seeing it destroyed; developers who act responsibly but see others who upend them because they are connected to power; these are people yearning for a situation where not everything goes; these are people who believe in progressing in life because of what you know and not who you know,” Perici Calascione said.

He said the PN had a responsibility to be the promotor of change and respond to this yearning.

PN MP Darren Carabott also addressed the gathering.