[WATCH] Prime Minister urges consistency in debate surrounding rule of law

Addressing a political activity, Joseph Muscat said that despite instances of institutional failures during past legislatures, he had never sought to attack institutions

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that while he understood people who were genuinely concerned about the situation in Malta, following the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, any debate surrounding the rule of law in Malta needed to be consistent and to keep in mind that there have been numerous instance of institutional failure in Malta’s recent past.

Addressing a political activity in Rabat, Muscat said that a court report published this week had caught his eye, and had “worried” him. The article, he said, revolved around a court decision in which a person who had been caught with a substantial amount of cocaine, had been allowed to get away scot free.

“The police didn’t do its work as it should have. [The accused] was interrogated at the depot without a lawyer, they did not go to any experts to confirm that what he had been caught in possession of was in fact a drug,” said Muscat of the case. “The Attorney General’s office didn’t issue charges in time, the case was brought in front of the court after it was prescribed.”

The Prime Minister said that upon reading the report he asked himself how the case had not been mentioned, especially in light of the current debate surrounding the rule of law in Malta.

“Then I realized, it was because the sentence was handed down this week but referred to a time when there was another government, another AG and a different Police Commissioner,” added Muscat.

He insisted that had he wanted to “use the same irresponsible methods” being employed by his opponents, he would have been “attacked the country’s institutions” and to go abroad and tarnish Malta’s name.

“I am sure that whoever was running the institutions, the Police Commissioner, and the AG, were not complicit in the mistaken decisions that led to a drug trafficker getting away scot free, simply because an investigator somewhere did not do their job properly,” stressed Muscat.

Castille Protestors

Turning to the group of protestors that have been camped outside Castille since Thursday, and who yesterday accused the Prime Minister of ignoring them, Muscat said he had no problem arranging a meeting.

“If you ask me for a meeting, we can meet with I have no problem with that,” said Muscat. “I thought that seeing as they didn’t even want electricity from us they wouldn’t want to meet.”

Muscat said he was aware of the fact that not all of those camped in the square had political motivations, adding that those with genuine concerns needed to be heard.

"We respect those who protest and we also respect those who vote in election and choose the government they want to lead them,” stressed the Prime Minister.

Monday’s parliamentary debate

Responding the Opposition leader Adrian Delia stating today that the Opposition would be putting forward its proposals on strengthening the rule of law in Malta, Muscat took at a jibe at the PN, insisting he hoped the proposals were agreed upon by the whole Opposition.

Moreover, he said he hoped that the proposals would be rooted in “common sense”, with an appreciation of a government’s “obligation to govern”.

He insisted that parliament could not be expected to “decide for government on roles that were of importance” to it, adding that he could not think of a country in the world where parliament took decisions on behalf of the executive.

“What is needed is for government to be more accountable to parliament in the decisions it takes,” he said.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister said that the calls for the Attorney General to be removed did not make sense, and went contrary to what the country’s constitution stated. He said that for the AG to be removed, in addition to a two-thirds parliamentary majority, there also needed to be a clear case of misbehavior or infirmity.

Tarnishing Malta’s reputation

On what he referred to as attempts by the Nationalist Party to drag Malta’s name through the mud, in wake of Caruana Galizia’s murder, Muscat pointed out that at no point since the journalist’s killing had he hidden from the media or played “hypocritical games”.

“Everyone knows what situation was with Mrs Caruana Galizia, and everyone know what I said before and after [her death],” said Muscat, adding that he had given interviews to numerous international media houses in order to explain the situation and defend Malta’s name.

On the other hand, he accused the PN of making “the same mistake it made a few months ago” in thinking that the Maltese nation “appreciated” a party that attempted to paint a negative picture of the country abroad.

“Anyone trying to paint this image of our country is out of sync with the Maltese and Gozitan people,” continued Muscat, while advising the leader of the Opposition not to succumb to the desires of extremists within the PN.

“In situations like these, if they see weakness they will turn against you, rather than help you.”

Autism Screening 

Over the course of the week, Muscat said there had been an announcement that showed the “heart and soul” of the Labour movement, and the nation.

“From now on, every child over 18 months in our country can get free autism screening,” he said, adding that this would contribute to children with Autism being detected earlier and being given the necessary services.

He said he was proud to be living in one of the first countries in Europe that would be offering this service for free. “This is where the surplus is going”.

The Prime Minister also pointed to a number of measures implemented by the government as regards to people living with a disability, noting that the number of gainfully employed disabled people had doubled during the last legislature.

“This is one of the biggest integration achievements we have achieved,” he said.

Moreover, he said Government would also be working to increase benefits for this segment of society, and would also be broadening the definition of a “severe disability” in order to help more people. 

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