Zack Meli death: Deputy prime minister calls for caution while investigations continue

Opposition demands answers on how the government plans to improve law enforcement in Paceville

Zack Meli, 24, was found dead  at the foot of St Rita steps in Paceville
Zack Meli, 24, was found dead at the foot of St Rita steps in Paceville

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne asked for ‘caution’ and ‘responsibility’ from parliamentary members and media in the wake of the death of Zack Meli.

Fearne said that the way the story developed, a number of questions which are subject to a magisterial inquiry remained.

Zack Meli, 24, was found dead in the early hours of Sunday morning in Paceville. While a 19-year-old Bulgarian man was arrested for allegedly punching Meli, the subsequent autopsy found no signs of violence. 

“The worst thing we can do at this moment is to jump to conclusions and not wait for all the facts,” he said, also appealing to the media to wait for investigations and tests related to the case to be completed.

Fearne said that the police not only concluded its investigations within 24 hours but also collected evidence. “After a Bulgarian national was arrested, it continued on with its investigation,” he said, adding that the autopsy is still not establishing the cause of death.

Read more: Autopsy finds no signs of violence on young man who died after Paceville fight

“Tests, investigations, and a magisterial investigation is ongoing. For this reason, it is best if we wait for the final formal report of the inquiry.”

Appealing to the House, Fearne said that “political criticism” does not bother him, but that it is not the time for speculation. “There is a time for politics and a time for responsibility. This is the time for responsibility from everyone.”

Opposition reacts

Nationalist party leader Adrian Delia said that the zone is one in which young people are not in a safe place. “Criminality is always increasing, and the elderly are afraid in their own homes,” he said, pointing out that Malta remains the country that invests the least in law enforcement.

PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami said that the government should “open its eyes” to the fact that the area of Paceville is in the same “bad state” that it was two years ago, which is when the Opposition put forth 20 proposals on how to improve the situation in the area.

Fenech Adami went on to read a number of media headlines from the past few years which describe violence in Paceville. “These are incidents which will repeat themselves in the coming weekends. We brag about a surplus in the country, but as parents we are not sure whether our children will come home without having been stabbed, raped, or harassed,” he said, describing the situation as a “total collapse of law.”

In Paceville, he said, there are blocked roads, tables in the middle of the road, and underage children who are intoxicated. “Is there any enforcement of law? Stop talking and take action.”

Former Nationalist party leader Simon Busuttil echoed a similar sentiment, saying that as a parent, he is also worried about problems of violence, alcohol, and other substances in Paceville. “How many police officers are there in Paceville at any given time? Is the number increasing, and by how much?”

PN MP Mario de Marco claimed that the problems in Paceville are increasing and not decreasing, while PD MP Marlene Farrugia asked what is specifically being done to make the area relatively safe.

Fearne responded by saying that the number of incidents in Paceville have actually decreased and not increased, and that law enforcement is currently trying to keep abreast with new synthetic substances which are being introduced all the time.

Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia also denied that criminality is increasing, as he insisted that the rate has remained more or less the same in the past four years. “There is no point in fear-mongering as the reality is different. The Opposition is not speaking the truth.”

Farrugia went on to explain that the number of police officers working overtime has increased, and that criminality has subsequently decreased. Cases of arson, homicide, sexual offences, and theft, have decreased “considerably” in Paceville and St. Julians, he said.

The only type of crime which did not decrease was that related to illicit drugs and human trafficking, he added.

“The situation is not worse – it’s better. But it is not solved, which is why we will continue to intensify our work by improving resources and see to it that our police are back on the streets again."

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