‘Hunters victims of Muscat’s political games’, Jason Azzopardi says

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi takes to Facebook accusing Joseph Muscat of having betrayed the hunters

Justice shadow minister Jason Azzopardi
Justice shadow minister Jason Azzopardi

Nationalist MP and justice shadow minister Jason Azzopardi took to Facebook to accuse Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of having “betrayed the hunters” with his political games and of having been “the cause” of an abrogative referendum proposed by the civil society to ban spring hunting.

An abrogative referendum implies that a law should be removed from the statute books and Muscat has opted for 11 April, just before the opening of the scheduled spring hunting season for this year. The abrogative referendum is going ahead after the Constitutional Court green-lit the petition presented by the Coalition Against Spring Hunting (CASH).

The Nationalist Opposition’s reply to the Constitutional Court – in which  Simon Busuttil said that a referendum abrogating spring hunting was not contrary to Malta’s EU accession treaty – was kicked out of court after the PN missed the submissions deadline. The reply was filed and signed by Azzopardi.

In the post uploaded this morning to his Facebook page, Azzopardi said that this would be the first time that Maltese and Gozitans will exercise their right on a law.

“This was a right given to us by a Nationalist government in 1998 after Labour’s refusal to enact the abrogative referenda law in 1996,” he said, adding that the abrogative referendum be held with the local council elections also introduced by a Nationalist government.

He then went on to argue that the abrogative referendum on spring hunting will take place as a result of “Muscat’s lack of enforcement” during the autumn season.

Azzopardi argued that for the past 10 years, Malta has applied a derogation of the Birds’ Directive allowing the country’s hunters the possibility of a limited spring hunting season for turtle dove and quail.

“The Nationalist government defended this right when the European Commission challenged Malta. The PN administration had then suspended the season so as not to challenge the Court but to make its arguments. Instead Muscat had jumped on the bandwagon and used hunting as political ball,” he wrote.

“Muscat’s lack of enforcement has now forced the people to ask for a referendum to abolish spring hunting once and for all. The hunters are victims of his political games.”

Azzopardi said that the autumn season was also suspended as a result of lack of enforcement. In September, the government took the draconian decision of closing the autumn hunting season until 10 October to safeguard birds of prey and other protected birds as they migrated south.

The decision was taken after the shooting of at least two White Storks and two Marsh Harriers.

The Ornis Committee, chaired by Mark Anthony Falzon ,had taken the controversial decision of proposing the revocation of the 3pm hunting curfew in September. Since 2007, a 3pm curfew between 15 September and 30 September had been enforced to protect migrating birds of prey as they came in to roost.

Arguing that “Muscat’s games may now mean that hunters will be banned from hunting in spring forever”, Azzopardi said “the balance” achieved by Malta with the European Union over spring hunting was now in jeopardy.

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