PN ‘ready to cooperate’ with government on security measures

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says PN would cooperate on security measures, even though Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had opened the floodgates for foreigners to enter Malta

While the government retained the suspension of the Schengen rules after the CHOGM as a security measure, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, on the other hand, “opened the floodgates” for foreigners to enter Malta, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said.

Speaking during a recorded interview on Radio 101, Busuttil refuted claims that he was contradicting himself and of having inciting fear after questioning the motive of four Syrian men, who were arrested in Italy en route to Malta, instead claiming that the Labour government is the party that is guilty of double standards.

“On the one hand, the government said the suspension of the Schengen rules will remain in place after the CHOGM while at the same time saying there is no security threat and opening the floodgates to non-EU citizens,” Busuttil said.

Acknowledging that the government was right to suspend the Schengen rules during the Valletta Summit and the CHOGM as a security measure, the Opposition leader condemned the granting of 7,000 visas to applicants from Algeria. Similarly, he said 14,000 residence permits were issued to non-EU citizens.

“No one knows the whereabouts of these individuals … Also questionable is the high number of applications as soon as the consulate opened, the people responsible of the Maltese consulate in Algeria, and how a website claimed visas could be bought,” Busuttil said.

Despite reiterating his call for the government to put the country’s mind at rest, the PN leader adopted a hawkish stance and sought to tone-down his previous scepticism of the government’s record on security, saying instead that the Opposition wanted to cooperate and have an open dialogue with the government on security – but only if the government desisted from being aggressive whenever criticised.

This aggressive approach was apparent when now-independent MP Marlene Farrugia criticised the government in parliament, Busuttil said.

“This aggressive behaviour has been going on over the past two years. Nationalist MPs have been constantly ridiculed and put down whenever they question the government, but now, the threats levelled against Marlene Farrugia have taken this aggression to a whole new level,” Busuttil said.

The PN leader said it was very worrying that this aggressive behaviour came from the most experienced Labour MP, Joe Debono Grech, and that the backbencher had to be held back by other MPs.

“The people can now realise that the Opposition was right about the government … the people have seen this incident as a turning point and have acknowledged that under this government, not everyone is free to speak their mind out,” he said.

He said the subsequent ruling of Speaker Anglu Farrugia was “an insult to injury,” having treated Debono Grech and Marlene Farrugia in the same way. Similarly, Busuttil said the Speaker was wrong with treating Joe Debono Grech and Opposition MPs with the same yardstick, and insisted that the PN will refuse to be “associated with the behaviour of the Labour backbencher.”

Turning his attention on the launch of the PN’s blueprint on the country’s economy, Busuttil said this was an example of how the PN is ready to govern.

The PN leader said under a Nationalist administration, wealth would be redistributed fairly and the economy would become a “well-oiled machine.” Also, the environment would not be seen as hindering economic process, but rather, it would play a pivotal role in the country’s economic development, while society would become digital.

He also said that under the PN, Gozo would no longer play second fiddle to Malta, but would be empowered to truly fulfil its potential.