Busuttil pledges European standards, justice and environmental protection

Opposition leader warns a mass meeting of government's lack of meritocracy and 'institutionalised corruption', pledges to introduce an honest, European style of governance, publish public contracts, and protect Malta's countryside  

Simon Busuttil addresses a mass meeting in Valletta
Simon Busuttil addresses a mass meeting in Valletta

A future PN government would introduce European standards of politics, redress injustices suffered by people under the current government, and protect Malta’s limited countryside, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil pledged at a mass meeting.

“I want to live in a society where people are free to criticize the government without fear of a vindictive response by the state,” Busuttil told some 7,000 supporters outside Parliament to mark the end of the PN’s Independence Day festivities. “I want to introduce honest, European standards to governance that the public deserves and not lead a government of bluff.

“I will tell you the truth, I will publish public contracts, and I will fight corruption,” he promised. “I want our country to be one of opportunity for youth and one that is more socially just – ready to provide special medicines to people, and not leave them to beg for aid from the Malta Community Chest Fund.”

He said that the government has backtracked on its pre-electoral pledges of meritocracy and political accountability, with several government jobs going to relatives of ministers and their chiefs of staff, and civil servants getting “humiliatingly” transferred so as to make way for people close to the Labour Party.

“Government departments and authorities have become Labour party clubs,” he said, pledging that the PN will be the “shield” of people who have suffered such injustices and  will ensure that justice is done with them.

He also pledged to protect Malta’s limited remaining countryside. “I will allow development in development zones, but we will build in a more proper manner and not remain a country of dust, digging, cranes and noise,” he said. “I want everyone, and not only those with money to splurge, to enjoy our country, and I want our children to live in an even more beautiful country than that we’re currently living in.”

In his speech, Busuttil claimed that people are starting to abandon Labour and seek refuge within the PN and accused the government of “closing its eyes to institutionalized corruption, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the days of Mintoff and Lorry Sant.”

“The people who voted for Labour wanted a change, but this is not the change they wanted,” he said, urging such disillusioned voters to turn to the PN that is willing to offer “the change they deserve”.

On specific issues, he said that the government in 2014 handed out 14,000 residence permits, equivalent to the number of immigrants who arrived in Malta in the past ten years.

“Even here, permits are handed out in a corrupt manner,” he said, referring to auditor Joe Sammut’s ongoing alleged visa fraud court case. “This scandal is particularly worrying as it risks damaging Malta’s international reputation. The government has no principles and is willing to sell everything it can – from passports to residence permits.

“The ministerial code of ethics has been weakened and police are entering into business with people who they are supposed to be investigating,” he said. “The government has heralded in an ‘everything goes’ mentality whereby bullies can do whatever they want and whereby it now pays more to break the law than to abide by it.”

Crediting Malta’s recent economic growth to economic policies adopted by the previous Nationalist administration that had weathered the 2008 global financial crisis, he called on the government to invest in new economic niches, and to redistribute wealth more justly for the benefit of the 100,000 people now at risk of poverty.

On health, he questioned why the government isn’t forking out money for the treatment of cancer and diabetes patients and warned that staff at the Gozo Hospital are in a state of uncertainty amid concerns that the government could privatize their workplace.

He said that only four police officers were stationed in Paceville on the night of last week’s knife attack. “Muscat is surrounded by up to eight police officers wherever he goes, just in case anybody touches him,” he quipped. “He has more police officers for himself than he has for our  youth in Paceville.”

Reiterating his call on the government to further reduce electricity tariffs, he boldly claimed that the ongoing LNG power station is an unnecessary project as electricity tariffs have been reduced thanks to the interconnector, the BWSC power station, and the current low market price of oil.

“Muscat is only steamrollering ahead with the project because he would have to resign if it isn’t built,” Busuttil said, warning that the government is using public funds as a guarantee for the project and that it has contractually tied successive administrations into purchasing electricity from the new power station for the next 18 years.

‘Muscat undermining independence of public institutions’ – de Marco

In an earlier speech, PN deputy leader Mario de Marco hit out at Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for undermining the independence of institutions and authorities such as MEPA, the police force, the armed forces and Identity Malta.

“He has often chosen partisan people to lead them, and he clearly hasn’t yet understood that such authorities are there to serve the public and not the Labour Party,” he said, appealing to such public officials to not let them as such.

Referring to stories published in GWU-owned media about “spies” in the public service who allegedly passed on information to PN MP Tonio Fenech, he lambasted the “supposedly independent union for the workers” for attacking workers simply because they support the PN.

“Our fathers fought for the right of everyone to make our own choices, and Muscat cannot take this right away with us,” he said.

Urging “genuine Labour voters” to take a courageous step and join the PN, he said that the government has been seized by a clique only interested in helping each other profit. 

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