Update 2 | 'Busuttil wants to be prosecutor, judge and jury' - PM

Nationalist Party questions why home affairs minister's driver is yet to be arrested over Wednesday’s shooting incident

With his refusal to nominate a retired judge to lead an independent inquiry into Wednesday's shooting incident, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil was "shrugging off responsibility" for his allegations, the Office of the Prime Minister said.

In a statement, the OPM said Busuttil had appointed himself "prosecutor, judge and jury, making allegations and deciding the sentence". Arguing that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will be shouldering responsibility, the OPM said Muscat will appoint an independent inquiry to investigate Busuttil's allegations - which include an alleged cover-up and tampering of evidence - and establish the facts.

Busuttil today dubbed an inquiry launched by Muscat as "useless", insisting the inquiry could never assume a PM's role in calling on home affairs minister Manuel Mallia to assume political responsibility and resign.

“Once you are admitting that the minister should be investigated, then it is clear that his position is no longer tenable. It is inevitable that Mallia has to be sacked,” Busuttil wrote in a letter to Muscat.

Busuttil turned down an offer to nominate the head of the inquiry board to investigate allegations that Mallia or his officials had covered up any details on the shooting incident that has seen the minister’s driver suspended from ministerial duties and his police duties.

“It is evident that there were manoeuvres to hide the truth and it is unacceptable in our country that a minister’s driver shoots on the car of another motorist simply because of a traffic accident. It is even more shocking that four days since the incident, the driver has not been arraigned in court,” Busuttil said.

“I invite you to take responsibility instead of creating some new manoeuvre and running away from the logical conclusion to sack Mallia. If you don’t do this, you would have shown yourself to be weak in the face of the abuse of power, and an accomplice of such.”

Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi has this afternoon resorted to Facebook to question whether the prime minister is ready to publish Manuel Mallia's call logs.
Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi has this afternoon resorted to Facebook to question whether the prime minister is ready to publish Manuel Mallia's call logs.

Earlier today, the Nationalist Party insisted that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is aware of the events that took place after Wednesday’s shoot-out involving home affairs minister Manuel Mallia’s security driver, and has questioned why Paul Sheehan, how is also a police constable, has not yet been arrested.

The PN’s comments come just hours after Muscat took Opposition leader Simon Busuttil to task for rebutting the government’s invite to choose a person to head a board of inquiry set up to establish responsibility.

Taking umbrage at Muscat’s comments, the PN insisted that rather than attack Busuttil, the PM should instead establish why driver Paul Sheehan was yet to be arrested for firing shots in the rear of a car.

“The prime minister should see why Manuel Mallia’s driver has not been arrested when everyone knows he shot in the direction of another man. Muscat should also establish who gave the order for Sheehan not be arrested,” the PN said.

Sheehan gave chase to Scotsman Stephen Smith and then allegedly shot at the motorist from the ministerial car, after the driver scraped the minister’s vehicle while it was parked in Gzira.

The Opposition claims that the government attempted to cover up the facts of the case by saying that warning shots were fired in the air when it was evident that Sheehan had shot at Smith’s car.

“Muscat should act as a prime minister and sack Mallia for lying and covering up on his driver. Muscat knows the truth because he defended his minister. Muscat’s communications official even prepared Mallia to address the media on Thursday,” the PN said.

Shadow minister Jason Azzopardi called on Muscat to publish the call logs made between Manuel Mallia and Paul Sheehan, the ministry’s chief of staff and the police commissioner. “Is the prime minister ready to publish the call logs made between Manuel Mallia, his Chief of Staff [Silvio Scerri], the driver, and acting police commissioner Ray Zammit on Wednesday night,” the Opposition MP asked on his Facebook wall..

On Friday, Azzopardi questioned whether Sheehan had been detained and whether he underwent a breathalyser test. He also questioned why the Scotsman’s car had been removed from the site immediately – adding that normally, the evidence is not removed until the necessary investigations are completed.

More in National