Striking vilification of religion off the Criminal Code ‘is threat to national security’

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says ‘government’s liberal stance taking changes to extremes’

PN leader Simon Busuttil
PN leader Simon Busuttil

A far-reaching legal reform that will strike off criminal sanctions on the vilification of religion “poses a serious threat to the nation’s security”, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has claimed.

“Because of Joseph Muscat’s need to appear liberal and progressive, the government is taking changes to the extremes,” he told party faithful gathered in Valletta for Independence celebrations.

“Everyone knows what’s happening around us and what happens when religions are taken to the extreme. What worries me is that Muscat’s stance will create a national threat. What happens if someone hot-headed decides to take matters in his own hands?”

In the package of law that will fine-tune the Criminal Code, the government will remove laws that punish the vilification of the Roman Catholic religion “and other cults tolerated by law” – laws that have been in place since 1993.

“In a country that respects beliefs and freedoms, all religions must be protected in the same manner. Roman Catholic religion is already at an advantage in our law and what we propose is that all religions are treated equally.”

Answering questions by The Malta Independent director Pierre Portelli, Busuttil also spoke of how he was different from Labour’s Muscat, “taking action when required and fighting for clean politics”.

“We have a Prime Minister who thinks he’s a salesman selling passports,” Busuttil said to his audience's laughter, when asked about PN MPs and members who worked with legal firms operating the citizenship-by-investment scheme.

Busuttil said that he was “the new chapter of the Nationalist Party” and that he had learned from the party’s past mistakes and the party was moving on.

But as Portelli pressed Busuttil to state in what way the Opposition had been effective, the PN leader said it was thanks to his party that the government’s “shady dealings” were being uncovered, taking credit for the Gaffarena saga and the Café Premier bailout, stories exclusively broken by The Times of Malta and MaltaToday respectively.

The PN leader said his party was “halfway there” after narrowing the electoral gap by half during the local councils elections.

“We have made inroads but there is still a long way to go. The positive results we achieved over two years and a half are encouraging and give us a greater boost to continue working,” he said.

Busuttil said the results wouldn’t have been possible without radical changes within the party and its structures: “We are preparing ourselves to enter the 2018 general elections to win them”.

He said, that the PN wanted to once again become the people’s party and one way of making the PN closer to the people was asking by Chris Said to assume the role of Gozo shadow minister: “People need us to be close to them, especially Gozo where residents are worried about government’s plans to privatize the hospital.

“People don’t know what’s going to happen; workers don’t know whether they will still have a job. And I tell these people that, if Joseph Muscat is going to throw you away, we will be right there for you.”

Turning to a member of the audience who was from Gozo, Busuttil questioned whether the new healthcare service in Gozo would differentiate between Maltese citizens and paying patients.

“Eucar, imagine you require hospital treatment and the patient next to you is paying for the service… will he receive better treatment because he is paying for the service?” Busuttil asked.

He also claimed that that the General Workers Union was telling hospital workers in Gozo “to think of [employment] alternatives as there were too much workers”.

Busuttil took the opportunity to urge volunteers to join a customer care office run by the PN in Gozo which was receiving people disgruntled by both the previous and present administrations.

The PN leader insisted that while Labour was implementing “the politics of clientilism”, he was committed to ensure that only people who deserve something really get it.

“We need to have the courage to face people and tell them when they are right and when they are wrong.”

Upon his arrival, Busuttil was met with a round of applause by an audience that was left waiting for over an hour and a half. The PN set their podium up in the wider opening of the De Valette Square, right in front of St Catherine’s Square were a couple this evening got married.

As not to interrupt the wedding ceremony, the PN thought to delay the event by 45 minutes. Despite the couple leaving the church by 7pm, an hour later the party faithful were still waiting for the activity to start, with several complaining of the heat and lack of chairs.

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