[WATCH] ‘Government will come after you next’ – Busuttil warns demonstrators

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says Prime Minister, chief of staff and ministers would not be spared from PN government's investigation into Panama Papers • Thousands attend PN-organised national demonstration in favour of democracy and freedom of expression

Simon Busuttil says demonstration would show prime minister people are not ready to go down without a fight
Simon Busuttil says demonstration would show prime minister people are not ready to go down without a fight

After incessantly attacking the Opposition with lies and after targeting the media, the government will come after the people next in an attempt to stifle their freedom of expression and undermine democracy, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil told demonstrators today.

Addressing thousands of demonstrators who gathered in Valletta for the PN-organised national demonstration in favour of democracy and freedom of expression, Busuttil pulled no punches in denouncing the government, arguing that after finding itself in a corner, the government was now resorting to stifling the freedom of expression.

“The thousands of demonstrators who joined today’s protest are telling the prime minister that they have had enough and they would not be silenced. Prime Minister, you will not muzzle us. We have had enough,” Busuttil said.

Describing the Panama Papers revelations as the “worst political scandal to ever hit Malta,” Busuttil said people were shocked and angry as it implicated the people at Castille, namely Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, former energy minister Konrad Mizzi, and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.

Photo : James Bianchi/MediaToday
Photo : James Bianchi/MediaToday

The demonstration was held on the eve of the PANA committee meeting that will be held in Monday, during which a delegation of the European Parliament’s inquiry committee will discuss, among others, the Panama Papers, tax avoidance, tax evasion, and money laundering.

However, Busuttil insisted that the presence of the MEPs tomorrow would only serve to “confirm the corruption that has besieged Malta for a long time.”

“These MEPSs should ask themselves what would have happened in their country had a minister or the prime minister’s chief of staff been discovered in the Panama Papers revelations. I am sure that, just like in any normal country, they would have been gone, together with the prime minister. So, why can’t Malta also be a normal country?” Busuttil argued.

Accusing the police commissioner of being “the prime minister’s puppet”, Busuttil hit out at the police for failing to investigate the Panama Papers scandal. Moreover, the Opposition leader again called on the government to publish the conclusions of the investigation of the Financial Investigation Analysis Unit.

“If no investigation is carried out before the election, a new PN administration led by me will investigate the Panama scandal and all people involved, irrespective of whether they are a minister, a chief of staff or the prime minister, will be investigated,” Busutil insisted.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, PN deputy leader Mario de Marco and Nationalist MPs leading the demonstration • Video: Paul Cocks/Mediatoday

Reiterating his earlier statements, Busuttil again dismissed claims made by Nexia BT owner Brian Tonna that he is the sole owner of Egrant, the mysterious offshore company created at the same time as Konrad Mizzi’s and Ketih Schembri’s Panamanian offshore companies.

“We do not believe that the third company is owned by Tonna because he had already opened a company for himself, and therefore there would have been no reason for him to relay the identity of the beneficial owner by Skype.”

“If Konrad Mizzi’s name could be disclosed, then Brian Tonna’s name could have also been disclosed. They think that they could insult the people’s intelligence, and that we are idiots, and they can take the people for a ride,” he argued.

Busuttil said government exponents were carrying out “savage attacks” on PN politicians and that it was lashing out at its critics because it had found itself in a corner.

“They attack us incessantly with lies, as they did against Mario de Marco and Fenech Adami. Today they are coming for journalists, and tomorrow, they will come for you,” Busuttil told demonstrators.

Busuttil insisted that the PN would not adhere to the obligations of amendments to the Press law that require websites with news content to be registered.  “The government is now trying to regulate the internet as well. We will not obey it if it becomes law and will repeal it when elected to government,” he said.

The Opposition leader said the demonstration was a first step towards Malta becoming a “normal country again, and a country where the government serves the people, not its own interests.”

“We can do this together, for us, for our children, for our country. If need be, we will take to the streets again, until our messages reaches everyone,” he continued. 

Organised by the Nationalist Party, the national demonstration in favour of democracy and freedom of expression is being held after Labour deputy leader and economy minister Chris Cardona, the minister involved in allegations of visited a German brothel while on official business, together with his policy officer Joe Gerada, filed a €46,000 garnishee order against blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia. The PN leader denounced the garnishee orders as “savage and extreme” and a “threat to democracy and freedom of expression”.

The protest, attended by thousands of demonstrators who thronged Valletta, was also attended by PN deputy leaders Mario de Marco and Beppe Fenech Adami, the party’s MEPs, MPs, as well as party officials and candidates.

The demonstration also saw several protesters carry flags of Malta and the European Union, as well as a series of an assortment of placards, some of which read ‘Out’, ‘Corruption undermines democracy’, ‘I do not have a company in Panama’, and ‘Demokrazija’.

The protest was also addressed by Jeremy Gingell, a student, Mary Ann Lauri, a psychology lecturer at the University of Malta and former member of the editorial board at PBS, as well as Alec Lapira, a former Nationalist candidate and member of the IVA movement in the run-up to the EU accession referendum in 2003.

In her address, Lauri said that as things stand, future generations would inherit a poorer environment and a society whose morals were corrupted by the Labour government.

“The government believes it can buy anything and anyone … Though there might be some good ministers, many are corrupt and, it is for this reason that we are here to tell the government that we are not for sale,” she said while accusing the government of trying to stifle freedom of expression. 

“The choice is ours. Will we allow society to continue down this downward spiral?” she said.

On his part, Lapira, underlined that freedom of expression was a sacrosanct right and should be used to tell leaders what they do not want to hear. Lapira, who recalled how he had been involved in the IVA movement in the run-up to Malta’s accession to the European Union, told the crowd that Busuttil had told him that “in order to counter the many lies being told about the EU, we only had to tell the truth.”

“When he called to ask me to speak today, Simon told me the country needs me. And I can tell you the same thing, the country needs you all,” Lapira said. 

More in National