After failed coup, Muscat urges Erdogan to show ‘restraint’

Prime Minister urges Turkey president Recep Erdogan not to use attempted coup as an excuse to launch ‘authoritarian crackdown’ on civil society and dissenters

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has urged the Turkish government and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to show restraint after Friday’s attempted military coup.

Speaking in the wake of the bloodshed of Friday night, during which at least 260 people were killed, Muscat insisted that the attempted coup should not be used as a pretext to attack civil society and dissenters.

“The position of the European Union and Malta was clear; it is never acceptable to try and topple a democratically elected government. However, it is now crucial that the Turkish government shows restraint.”

“All measures should be taken to safeguard the security of the country, but the Turkish government should not use the attempted coup as an excuse to an authoritarian crackdown on civil society,” Muscat insisted.

After Friday’s attempted coup, Erdogan – a divisive figure who is known to his followers at ‘the Sultan’ – clamped down on his enemies by purging thousands from the army and the judiciary. However, the dismissal of 2,700 judges and the arrest of more than 2,800 soldiers have been seen as an excuse for Erdogan to tighten his grip on the Turkish executive.

The European Union and Malta have voiced their support for Turkey, with Muscat insisting that the country's democratic institutions must be respected. But following the coup, the prime minister underlined that while the Turkish government should take all measures to safeguard the security of the country and its people, it should not use the failed attempt to overthrow the government as an excuse to crackdown on civil society.

Taking a swipe at Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, Muscat said the Nationalist Party’s defence of Nationalist MP Chris Said following the Auditor General’s damning report was “symptomatic of a political elite.”

Muscat once again hit out at Simon Busutitl for employing double standards in the case of Said after a report by the National Audit Office found that the Opposition MP had “impinged” on committee’s decisions for road surfacing funds and had intervened directly in the disbursement of €11 million to local councils for roadwork projects between 2008 and 2013.

Busuttil has gone on record exonerating Said, arguing that his decision to give direction provide beneficial to residents and ensured there had been no misuse of funds. However, Muscat argued, Busuttil staunch defence of Said exposed an attitude “symptomatic of an elitist politician who is part of the establishment.”

“Busuttil wanted heads to roll when the Auditor General criticised Labour officials, but applied a different rule book for Chris Said and remained silent. Busuttil only believes the Auditor General when it was convenient to him,” Muscat argued.

The prime minister also hailed the reform in the Lands Department and the discussion on the Bill dealing with Standard in Public Life, arguing that the reforms at the Land Department will address several shortcomings and will make it more autonomus.

The prime minister also lauded parliamentary secretary for lands Deborah Schembri and her predecessor, Michael Falzon – the now-Labour MP who resigned as parliamentary secretary earlier this year after a damning report by the Auditor General revealed there was collusion between himself, the Land Department and Mark Gaffarena over the contentious Old Mint Street expropriation deal.  

In a reaction, the Nationalist Party said the Prime Minister’s obstinacy in refusing to tackle the government’s scandals was the reason why malta’s standards are currently the lowest they have ever been. It said that the Panama Papers leaks, the Café Premier scandal and the Gaffarena expropriation deal meant that Muscat could not be believed when talking about standards.

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