‘Malta must remain vigilant but not resort to racism’ - Muscat

Only the open-minded are patriots, Muscat says as he insists that Malta should not use fear over terrorist attacks as a pretext for ‘disgusting’ acts of racism

The “disturbing” desecration of a number of Quran copies at Mater Dei Hospital put the country to shame and should not be taken lightly, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today.

Speaking on One Radio in a recorded interview, Muscat insisted that though the fear was justified, the horrific terrorist attacks across Europe, should not be used as a pretext to racism.

“Following the recent attacks across Europe, it is understandable that people are worried, and rightly so, we should remain cautious. However, this vigilance should not be used as an excuse to spread hate,” Muscat warned.

The prime minister pulled no punches in denouncing the “disturbing” desecration of the Quran, arguing that it was a “senseless” act and was in no way representative of the Maltese.

“These acts are not what the Maltese stand for. Historically, we have always been a country where people with different religions were welcomed. We should never resort to such disgusting acts,” he said.

“Even [former prime minister] Dom Mintoff, one of Malta’s biggest patriots, worked with people regardless of their religion. Those who consider themselves as patriots should follow suit and adopt a similar mentality … Only those who are open-minded are patriots,” Muscat said in a veiled message directed to self-proclaimed patriots ‘Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin’.

Insisting that Malta was not in any immediate danger, the prime minister said that if the country’s secret service were to receive a terror threat, he would immediately inform the country. However, Muscat warned that lone wolf attacks, such as the attack in Nice which killed 84 people, were nearly impossible to prevent.

Earlier, Muscat welcomed statistics which confirmed that Malta’s unemployment rate was lowest in Europe, and argued that the country’s success was built on its decisions, be it on the Sadeen’s ‘University of Malta’ at Zonqor Point, the contentious Individual Investor Programme, utility tariffs, and pension increases, amongst others.

“These figures give me huge pride, Malta has been steadily moving up the table during the last three years, and now its next challenge is to retain its status as the country with the lowest unemployment rate in Europe,” he said.

“This government broke the duck. Contrary to other Labour administrations, its power did not coincide with unemployment and economic instability … During the Mintoff administration, there was little work and people had to emigrate to Australia and America. Now, we are in a completely new reality; people are coming to Malta looking for work,” he said.

Following the figures, the prime minister explained that the government must now address those people who remain unemployed. He said that there are a number of jobs, particularly in the tourism industry, which were shunned by Maltese workers while other jobs were not being met because of the skills gap.

Taking a swipe at Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, the prime minister argued that the unemployment figures was a far cry from the PN’s slogan that ‘Labour won’t work’.

Reiterating his opposition against the Freeport expanding its footprint by expanding further inland on ODZ areas, the Prime Minister argued that the government should convey a message to Birzebbugia residents that though it is ‘pro-business’, this should not come at their expense.

“We cannot allow a situation where the Freeport is bigger than Birzebbugia itself … If the Freeport were to double its footprint, it could easily double its operations, but there are alternative measures. There are areas in Hal Far which could be used for logistic centres,” Muscat said.

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