PN will remove criminal libel, be guardian of environment – Busuttil

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says PN government will remove criminal libel to strengthen right to freedom of expression

PN leader Simon Busuttil addressing the party's general council in San Lawrenz, Gozo
PN leader Simon Busuttil addressing the party's general council in San Lawrenz, Gozo

The Nationalist Party will be the country’s guardian for the environment, while a new PN government will remove criminal libel to strengthen the right to freedom of expression, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said today.

Busuttil’s comments come days after Magistrate Francesco Depasquele called on the government to repeal criminal libel, saying that the continued existence of prison sentences for defamation, provoked a corrosion of fundamental freedoms.

“A modern democracy cannot allow for the possibility of being thrown in jail when expressing their right to freedom of expression,” Busuttil underlined.

The PN leader said the removal of criminal libel would be one of the measures that the party would be proposing in a report for good governance.

Addressing the party’s general council in Gozo, a confident Busuttil insisted that the PN’s aim is not win the election, but to come up with a set of measures once it is elected.

Taking a swipe at Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the PN leader said for Muscat, money is the god of everything, while for the PN, this is not the case.

“The difference between the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party is slowly coming out. The people are seeing the difference and it would not long before they would turn to Muscat and say: Mr Salesman, you sold us a fake product, and we now want a refund … We want to trust an alternative government built on honesty and truth,” he said.

Busuttil said this moment would soon come and at the time of judgment, the country will choose the Nationalist Party. The PN leader also said that the difference between the parties was also highlighted in the leaders’ budgetary speeches.

“Whereas the PN retorted on the basis of statistics and sound arguments, Muscat instead used name calling and insults. This showed that Muscat had lost the argument, and further affirms the difference between the two parties,” he said. On the budget, the PN leader chastised the government for failing to ensure "a just and fair redistribution of the economy," and for not proposing any concrete measures on the environment.

In a clear attempt to address the growing awareness and discontent on the environment and recent protests against the loss of ODZ land – more poignantly the loss of a stretch of ODZ land for the development of a university at Zonqor Point -  Busuttil pledged that a Nationalist government would be “the guardian of the environment.”

The PN leader also announced that accordingly, the PN will dedicate its second general assembly to the environment. Echoing Ryan Callus’s concerns that the government had slyly inserted a clause to allow the construction of skyscrapers in Mriehel, the PN leader came out against the high-rise building.

The development, he said, would adversely affect the environment, and would also compromise the view of Mdina. “Is this how the Prime Minister intends on respecting the environment?” Busuttil quipped.

Turning his attention on a proposed tunnel between Malta and Gozo, the PN leader insisted that the idea of a permanent link was the brainchild of previous PN governments.

“The prime minister disregarded a previous study on the possibility of a tunnel between Malta and Gozo and went ahead with the idea of building a bridge instead. Two and half years later, the government now conceded that the bridge is not a good idea and that is in favour of a tunnel, just like the PN had proposed.”

Echoing Beppe Fenech Adami’s call for the government to launch an inquiry into the issuance of 6,781 Schengen visas to Algerians at the Maltese consulate, the Opposition leader asked why foreign minister George Vella and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had not investigated this.

“Why are so many Algerians applying for a visa at the Maltese consulate to travel to France? Why is George Vella not interested in investigating the issue, it’s because there is some form of dirt, there could be no other way,” he said.