Busuttil calls for immediate action on Libyan medical visas racket

Reflecting on the Opposition’s work in parliament, Simon Busuttil says PN parliamentary group proved to be ‘effective’

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has called on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to take immediate action following allegations that a civil servant ran a medical visa racket, charging Libyans thousands of euros to get into Malta.

A whistleblower’s letter seen by The Sunday Times of Malta accuses health ministry official Neville Gafa of pocketing nearly €38,000 “and purchased a BMW”. Gafa, the whistleblower claimed in a letter, would charge Libyans a €2,500 monthly fee to secure medical visas, treatment
and accommodation, along with an additional €100 charge.

“This confirms our suspicions over the high number of visas granted to Libyan citizens,” Busuttil said, during a phone-in on Radio 101.

“We remain concerned because it is evident that this official did not have Malta’s security in mind; I expect Joseph Muscat to take immediate action.”

He went on to note that this was “yet another scandal coming from Castille”: “It say a lot.”

The PN leader insisted that citizens were paying for the corruption, citing incomplete road works in Gozo as an example.

“A road leading to San Lawrenz remains unfinished, and has been like this since the PN administration. Is it possible that the government did not find the time or money to complete it?” Busuttil, who is currently in Gozo for the weekend, said.

He went on to add that several Gozitan healthcare workers approached him, expressing their worries over the “uncertainty” they face as Vitals Global Healthcare takes over the management of Gozo General Hospital. The government and the private group have both reassured that no jobs will be lost.

Busuttil also reflected on the opposition’s work in parliament over the past seven months, expressing satisfaction at the work carried out.

“The opposition was the people’s voice on various occasions, including Panama Papers where we mobilized the people on the streets giving them the opportunity to voice their disappointment and disgust,” he said.

He said, that the opposition not only criticised the government but also came up with its own initiatives leading to the Public Domain and Health Lifestyles legislations.

Busuttil once again condemned the desecration of copies of the Quran at Mater Dei Hospital’s multi-faith room as he went on to explain why the opposition had been against the removal of the vilification of religion from the Maltese laws.

“Thanks to Joseph Muscat and Owen Bonnici, what happened on Friday is no longer a crime,” Busuttil said, adding that the PN had opposed the changes to the law "for security reasons".

In today’s edition of MaltaToday, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici says that the desecration of the Quran was a clear act of hatred against Islam.

“This hatred makes the act even more despicable and unacceptable in our society,” Bonnici said, laying out the argument of how the perpetrator/s could be brought to justice.

Whilst parliament removed vilification of religion from Maltese law, Bonnici said the government had also strengthened the relevant legal provisions in the Criminal Code which make it illegal to incite violence or hatred against religions by any means or form of communication. 

“In the relevant Bill 113, we did open the doors for further artistic freedoms but, at the same time, we strengthened other parts of the law aimed at safeguarding public order,” Bonnici said. “The vilification law provided false security on such irresponsible stunts.”

However, shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi argued that, in the aftermath of the repeal of the crime of vilification, no criminal steps whatsoever would be able to be taken for that vilification, even if unrest ensued.

“What happened at Mater Dei is no longer a crime and it’s useless for the authorities to say that they asked the Police to investigate. The government has authorised the vilification of religion and now let us bask in the glow of such an avant-garde law,” Azzopardi said wryly.

The MP insisted that there were no penal consequences for what happened at Mater Dei: “In fact in Parliament I had quoted the Danish Parliament’s retention of the crime of vilification of religion in 2015 for purely public order and societal peace motives. Other European States have retained it for similar motives – Italy, Finland, Austria, Germany and Spain. In Malta fools rushed in where angels feared to thread elsewhere.”

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