Government’s ‘fascist tactics’ a threat to democracy - Busuttil

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil accuses government of resorting to fascist tactics and attacks against Nationalist MPs; says lawsuit against shadow minister Jason Azzopardi is an attack against PN and democracy

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has accused the government of undermining democracy by resorting to “fascist tactics” and by inventing lies against Nationalist MPs in an attempt to divert the public’s attention from the scandals.

Speaking in light of a criminal defamation complaint filed by former police commissioner Peter Paul Zammit against shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi, Busuttil claimed that the government was trying to silence the Nationalist Party.

Blasting prime minister Joseph Muscat for not shouldering responsibility for the Panamagate scandal and “for being an accomplice in the corruption,” the PN leader claimed that rather than heeding the public’s call to shoulder responsibility, the government was resorting to mudslinging, lies, and attacks on the Nationalist Party and its MPs.

Busuttil took umbrage at the Labour Party’s “attacks” against himself, PN deputy leaders Mario de Marco and Beppe Fenech Adami, and PN executive  president Ann Fenech, claiming that the claims were all “lies” and “fascist tactics”.

“Inventing lies on your political opponents is a fascist tactic. Fascism is a threat to democracy. The government is trying to divert the public’s attention from its web of corruption by attacking the Nationalist Party, but the PN will not be silence and will continue demanding that the government shoulders responsibility,” Busuttil rallied.

Addressing the party faithful in Tarxien, the PN leader claimed that the lawsuit filed against shadow minister Jason Azzopardi was an “attack against himself, the Nationalist Party, and anyone who believes in democracy.”

“These are not things that happen in a real democracy and the country must stop them … I express my solidarity with Jason Azzopardi and on Wednesday, I will be in court with him,” he said.

Zammit filed his complained at the start of the year after taking umbrage at a press conference that Azzopardi had convened in June. The press conference concerned a data protection investigation that found that a police inspector’s personal file that was leaked to the press had last been noticed in Zammit’s office, then police commissioner.

The details of the internal investigation about inspector Elton Taliana were released in court as evidence by MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan in a libel case instituted by Taliana against a MaltaToday journalist.

Refuting claims by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat that the former police commissioner had instituted the lawsuit as a private citizen, the PN leader – who on Saturday claimed that the police are “state apparatus in the grip of Muscat” – insisted that Peter Paul Zammit was “in no way a private citizen.”

“Peter Paul Zammit is a former police commissioner and a former security coordinator for the CHOGM, whose salary was paid for through our taxes … The issue Zammit has filed a defamation case about took place when he was police commissioner. Moreover, he is complaining about something that Jason Azzopardi had said in his capacity as a shadow minister, not in his capacity as a private citizen,” Busuttil said.

The Opposition leader also said that the new rule which disallows political parties to display ‘political adverts’ on billboard on any day of the year that does not immediately precede elections was an attempt to “silence the PN.”

“It seems that the truth on the PN’s billboards hit hard. Under the new rules, political parties will not be allowed to display adverts on billboards, but the government would still be allowed to display its propaganda,” he said.

Busuttil also refuted claims by the Labour Party that the PN’s recently-announced ‘Cedoli’ fundraising scheme was intended to bypass party financing rules, arguing that the scheme is a “clean manner how political parties ought to be financed.”

Under the scheme, the Nationalist Party will be seeking financing from small loans of €10,000 on an annual interest rate of 4%. The scheme, however, does not fall within the scope of the recently enacted party financing rules, prompting claims by the Labour Party that the PN is guilty of a “coordinated effort to get around party financing restrictions.”

However, Busuttil insisted that the loan scheme will not see the party enter into any pre-electoral deals with benefactors.

Earlier, the PN leader called on Muscat to sack energy minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri after both admitted to having a company registered in the tax haven of Panama as well as a trust fund in New Zealand.

“Malta is in uncertainty because the government is in a crisis of corruption … Their position is not tenable. The prime minister has either lost control of his government and unable to fight corruption or he is part of the corruption. With each day that passes, the government is digging its own grave and losing the people’s trust,” he continued.

The PN leader also asked why Schembri felt the need to open a company in Panama when he had already held an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands, and suggested that he may have opened the company for someone else.