Updated | ‘Muscat chose to protect drug traffickers over drug victims’ – Simon Busuttil

OPM blast ‘irresponsible’ Simon Busuttil after Opposition leader claims that Joseph Muscat turned a blind eye to drug trafficking following ministers’ intervention in Gozo drug prosecution

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has accused Joseph Muscat of “choosing to protect drug traffickers over drug victims and youths”, claiming that the Prime Minister idly stood by while two government ministers intervened in a police investigation against two alleged drug traffickers.

“Instead of protecting youths and victims of drugs, the government and Joseph Muscat turned a blind eye to drug trafficking and intervened in the police’s investigation. When faced with a choice between votes and the safety of our youths, Muscat chose votes,” Busuttil told party faithful in Mellieha.

However, in a reaction, the Office of the Prime Minister lambasted Busuttil as being “irresponsible” and accused the PN leader of “mudslinging” and of “lying to implicate the Prime Minister in a case that is being investigated.” The OPM also said that Busuttil’s “desperate and irresponsible claims” showed that the PN leader wanted to be both judge and jury.

Busuttil’s comments on Sunday were made after a series of reports by MaltaToday which revealed how a young woman caught with packets of cocaine was given an opportunity to change a police statement implicating two young men in drug trafficking after a late night meeting at a government building between two ministers and the parents of the alleged drug traffickers.

Both Gozo minister Anton Refalo and the former home affairs at the time, now competiveness minister Manuel Mallia, have denied knowledge of the case and political involvement.  However, on Sunday, Busuttil insisted that the identity of the ministers involved was “clear”.

“You do not have to be a rocket scientist or an expert to identify the two politicians who were present for that meeting. I wonder what minister a police escort could have accompanied to a government building in Gozo. Joseph Muscat should have immediately called for the ministers who might have been responsible and demanded an explanation.”

“Had I been prime minister I would have immediately called for my ministers and demanded an explanation. Had the explanation been unsatisfactory, I would have immediately taken disciplinary steps,” Busuttil said.

MaltaToday also revealed that police records of two police motorcyclists detailed to accompany a minister in Gozo may be the key to understanding what really happened during the October 2013 meeting.

An inquiry, led by lawyer John Vassallo, has been launched at the request of the Prime Minister after MaltaToday first published news that the meeting between ministers and the parent of the suspect had taken place in Gozo. The Opposition is claiming that the inquiry is a “smokescreen” and that Vassallo is close “to Labour’s inner circle”.

Turning his attention onto the “constitutional crisis” at the Broadcasting Authority, Busuttil argued the broadcasting watchdog had “become weaker and surrendered its impartiality” after its embattled chairwoman, Tanya Borg Cardona, was revealed to have been engaged to serve in unit handling Malta’s presidency of the EU on a position-of-trust basis, despite the Constitution precluding members of the BA from being public officers.

“The Broadcasting Authority is now weaker because someone who should be the epitome of impartiality is in a position of trust with Muscat. She [Borg Cardona] has to choose; either the trust of the people or the trust of Joseph Muscat … No wonder the PBS is the way it is and lacks impartiality,” he said.

The Opposition leader also argued that people were “fed up” of being told of Malta’s economic growth while their wages remained unchanged.

“People can no longer stand the government boasting about the country’s economic growth and seeing the government’s inner circle reap the benefits of this growth. People are still struggling to make ends meet and wages have remained the same.”

“More than 110,000 people in our country do not earn an annual salary of €11,000, while another 90,000 pensioners earn less also. At the same time, Joseph Muscat spent that amount in a week during a holiday in Dubai while Konrad Mizzi’s wife [Sai Mizzi Liang] earned more than that in just a month,” he said.

Pledging that a future Nationalist administration would eradicate injustices and indignity, Busuttil said people were being discriminated against due to the their political beliefs.

“I am making a clear promise that those who have faced injustice under this government will be heard. I am sick of hearing people’s stories about the way they are discriminated against and humiliated, and how the government has instilled a sense of fear among them,” Busuttil said.

Referring to a news report which claimed that out of a sample of 300 identity cards, there were 80 people with more than one identity document, Busuttil insisted that the PN would not let the government get away with tampering with democracy.

“This is something which not only shocks us and angers us but it is news that strengthens our resolve to fight the government’s corruption which is now interfering in the basic principles of democracy,” Busuttil said, just days after PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami claimed that there are people who are entitled to vote twice as they hold more than identity card.

Gozitan MP Fredrick Azzopardi to run for election

Earlier, veteran MP Fredrick Azzopardi, who had earlier ruled himself out of the running for the next general election due to the health issues, announced that he had changed his mind and that he would be running for the election on the PN ticket.

“The decision to contest the next election was taken by myself only. It was the arrogance and corruption of this government which urged me to re-consider my decision,” Azzopardi, 67, told party faithful.