PM blasts ‘unacceptable’ Palumbo, says government will remain pro-business

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat criticises Palumbo Shipyards for using workers as “shields”, says judicial reform presented by Opposition’s private members’ bill is ‘half-baked’

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has today blasted Palumbo Shipyards for the “unacceptable” manner in which it turned on Senglea residents, insisting that the company should not threaten residents or use workers as human shields.

Muscat’s comments come in the wake of an asset seizure threat by Palumbo Shipyards against the Senglea Residents Association after the latter was accused of filing “malicious” police reports over noises emanating from the shipyard at night. Palumbo’s threat and its request for the residents’ association to foot the bill for its legal expenses was lambasted by Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Arnold Cassola and on Sunday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat pulled no punches in denouncing the “unacceptable” move.

“Any company which comes to Malta is expected to uphold Malta’s standards and corporate social responsibility. It is unacceptable for a leading company to threaten our citizens. Workers should not be used a human shield or threatened with their job either … I appeal to Palumbo to turn over a fresh page with the residents of Cottonera,” the prime minister said while insisting that the government is ready to step in and mediate.

Earlier, the prime minister – who earlier this week was in Dubai for the fourth World Government Summit – argued that the government would not be selective and would not discriminate against entrepreneurs coming from certain countries, insisting that Malta’s doors were open to anyone.

“We are in this position because this government is pro-business. We will continue to open our doors for entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world. In the era of globalisation it would be useless for the country to be selective when choosing its investors,” Muscat said.

Taking a swipe at the Nationalist Party, whose leader Simon Busuttil has repeatedly criticised the development of a private university at Zonqor Point by Jordanian construction company Sadeen Group, Muscat argued that Malta’s investment would take a hit if these selective criteria were to be employed among potential investors.

Addressing the Labour faithful in Qormi, the prime minister argued that Malta was the first country to visit Iran after the international sanctions were lifted, and that now, several countries were scrambling to exploit the country’s potential.

Hitting out at the “half-baked” proposals on judicial reform presented by the Opposition’s private members’ bill this week, Muscat insisted that the government would implement the judicial reform during this legislature.

The PL leader explained that the government its time because it wants a wider judicial reform that addresses, amongst other things, the disciplinary system of judiciary members, retirement age, pensions, as well as wages.

Muscat also refuted claims by Opposition leader Simon Busuttil that the government had breached the Constitution when it nominated Ingrid Zammit Young and Caroline Farrugia Frendo as magistrates. Conversely, he said, it was the Nationalist Party which was guilty of violating the Constitution after a constitutional court this week established that the Industrial Tribunal – which was established by the previous Nationalist administrations – breached the right to a fair trial.

The prime minister also said that the Zika virus had not reached Malta, and that the Maltese person who contracted the virus abroad, was being kept in isolation.

“The system worked, the Maltese national was immediately identified as having contracted the virus and was isolated. The virus was contained so well that not even his family contracted the virus,” he continued.

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