‘Act now before it’s too late’ – Simon Busuttil on Libya crisis

PN leader Simon Busuttil says it is unacceptable for any public officials or politicians to be involved in Swiss leaks; denies that Nationalist Party had ever pledged to relocate monti stalls to Ordnance Street

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has this morning called on the European Union to intervene in the Libyan conflict, arguing that a United Nations-led force must “act now before it is too late.”

Busuttil also insisted that it is in Malta’s and Europe’s best interests for the European Union to intervene - more so amid reports of Islamic militants taking over Derna. On Friday, gunmen stormed government buildings in the coastal city of Sirte, forcing officials out at gunpoint and taking over administrative offices and television and radio stations.

A a faction in Libya that has sworn loyalty to ISIS is also believed to have gained ground in the embattled city, while in addition, the Islamic State’s official propaganda magazine claimed responsibility for the attack on the Maltese-owned Tripoli hotel, which two weeks ago suffered a terrorist attack by suicide bombers.

Speaking during an interview on the party’s radio station, the PN leader insisted that the Libyan crisis is of “increasing concern which affects Malta very closely.” Consequently, he warned that Europe and the United Nations should act immediately “before it’s too late.”

However, the Opposition leader argued that Italy’s announcement of a possible intervention in Libya is not enough, and that the EU must take up a stronger position.

“The situation is of increasing concern and which affects Malta very closely, more so after reports of ISIS militants taking over major cities. We expect the government to push for the EU to obtain a mandate from the United Nations to intervene in Libya, rather than just having Italy taking part,” he said.

Turning his attention on the HSBC Swiss leaks which revealed over €607 million kept by Maltese account holders to help them evade taxes at home, Busuttil underlined that it is not acceptable for anyone holding public office to be involved.

On Monday international news outlets revealed that 71 Malta-based clients – including former Enemalta chairman Tancred Tabone - held 139 accounts with the global bank’s Swiss private branch. According to reports in the Guardian Today, HSBC set up an offshore trust into which he deposited €880,000 ($1 million) and that planned to transfer in more funds.

“The government must find out the people involved and must take action to ensure that they shoulder responsibility for any tax evasion. It is not acceptable for anyone holding public office or a position in a political party to be involved,” Busuttil explained.

On the proposed relocation of the Monti hawkers to Ordnance Street in Valletta, the PN leader once again claimed that a PN government would not relocate the monti stalls to Ordnance Street,.

While taking the government to task over its “mediocre standards,”  the PN leader also denied that the Nationalist Party had ever pledged that the monti stalls would be relocated to Ordnance Street, arguing that even if this had been the case, he was the party’s new leader and he did not agree.

Busuttil’s comments come just a week after an email published by the Labour Party shows former lands minister Jason Azzopardi pledging the relocation of the monti hawkers to Ordnance Street by December 2013. The email, dated March 9, 2013 – voting day – has since been defended by shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi, who in comments to the press earlier this week, said that the eleventh-hour electoral pledge was made after the hawkers informed him that they had struck a deal with Labour party president Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi.

Meanwhile, on Malta’s fuel prices, PN leader Simon Busuttil once again made a pitch for the government to immediately reduce Malta’s fuel tariffs, arguing that the government is carrying out a blatant theft at the expense of the people.

“The people are paying less for utility tariffs, yet more for fuel. It is clearly evident that the people are footing the bill for the government’s failure to build a power station, and to deliver on its main electoral pledge,” he said.

The PN leader also took exception at the cash flow problems experienced by Enemed, the government’s fuel procurement and distribution company. Busuttil’s comments come after energy minister Konrad Mizzi announced that the government would not reduce fuel prices until March and April due to the resultant cash flow problems that would have to be borne by Enemed.

The PN leader also accused the government of “blatantly betraying” Enemalta workers, after the government had promise that Enemalta would not be privatised.