Prime Minister ‘disgusted’ at ‘racist, xenophobic’ sentiments following Paceville death

Muscat said Malta needs foreigners to take jobs Maltese don’t want to do and contribute to wealth creation, as he reiterated his stance against abortion

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat denounces the
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat denounces the "racist, xenophobic" public sentiment following the death of 24-year-old Zack Meli in Paceville last Sunday

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has denounced the “racist and xenophobic” comments towards foreigners following the death of Zack Meli, the 24-year-old man who lost his life in Paceville early last Sunday morning.

Meli’s death was initially thought to have come as a result of being punched by 19-year-old Bulgarian Denis Davkov, but an autopsy later found no signs of violence on the victim’s body.

Addressing supporters at the St Julian’s Labour Party club, Muscat said he was forced to comment on people’s sentiments - based on incorrect media reports and speculation - that all foreigners “had to be suddenly expelled” from Malta.

“I appeal for sensibility, even from the media. A word can be taken out of context, and people started to reach the conclusions on what transpired. In reality, the facts are likely completely different from what was initially thought to have happened,” he said.

“We had an explosive situation this week, and if our police did not uncover the truth about what went on [in the Meli case], the situation could have gotten out of hand.”

The Prime Minister emphasised that since Malta is rapidly advancing economically, the Maltese no longer want to do certain low-level jobs, and foreigners, who themselves contribute to the economy, are needed.

“Our children are not going to want to do certain jobs. They are going to continue their studies, and will not do jobs which you do not need a university education to do,” he highlighted.

“Like every country which becomes wealthy, we need to attract people who do certain kinds of work, and these people are themselves creating wealth - they are paying National Insurance, and since many will leave within six or seven years, they will not even receive any pension.”

Muscat said that Malta no longer had a pensions problem because so many people were paying NI, and instead the government could increase pensions every year.

Criticising certain media outlets, who he said seemed to gave enjoyed fanning the flames of public discourse against foreigners following the Paceville incident, Muscat said he felt revulsion at the “false moralism” of certain parties who prefered to discuss “clickbait” issues such as abortion, instead of speaking about the xenophobic incidents resulting from the young man’s death.

“There is this idea of building some Berlin Wall, dividing the Maltese from foreigners - this is a fantasy which would lead to problems which other countries encountered when they tried to cause separation instead of bringing people together,” he said, “We cannot let xenophobia increase in this country, such as what we saw this week, where some were even trying to instigate people to take to the streets.”

He went on to stress that his stance against abortion has been clear for many years.

“Fantastic” solution to Manoel Island found

Turning to Manoel Island, Muscat hailed the guardianship agreement signed between the Gzira local council and MIDI plc this week.

“We have recently unblocked the situation in Manoel Island - a project which has been in the pipeline for at least 50 years,” he said.

“The situation had escalated in the last few months. There was justified tension between the developer - which had been given the land through a contract, and invested its money in it - and the community, the council and NGOs, who were asserting the development would harm them.”

“But we did the impossible. We spoke to the investors [MIDI] and brought them to the table to discuss things,” he remarked, emphasising that with the government’s help, the “fantastic” and “landmark” solution of having a guardianship agreement was found.

Through the agreement, for the first time, the investor has agreed that a 80,000 metre square park, open to the public, would be constructed, Muscat said.

“We are creating the equivalent of Central Park in New York,” he said, “A pair of lungs amongst the high buildings.”

“We also created the concept of a guardianship deed, where the investor and the community create a foundation between themselves, whereby whatever takes place requires the approval of both parties.”

Manoel Island would just be just the start of this way of doing this, he maintained, emphasising that the project would lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs, the construction of residences and the creation of entertainment establishments.

Government does not want to tax litter

When it came to dealing with the waste problem, there were three options, Muscat said: creating a new waste plant, making a new landfill, or taxing litter.

“We did not want to have another landfill and we did not want to create a new tax, so we have chosen to create a new plant,” he said, adding that the Opposition should now say what choice it would make.

In the coming weeks, the government would show unity regarding some of the most difficult issues, he announced in his concluding comments.

“What unites us is our principals and where we want to take our people,” he said, to loud applause.

Environmental protection to be entrenched in the Constitution

Speaking prior to the Prime Minister, environment minister Jose Herrera announced that environmental protection, "even for future generations", is going to be entrenched into our Constitution

Calling it a "historic step" for the environment, Herrera said that all MPs would now have to work to safeguard the environment, and the government would be more accountable than ever before to preserve Malta's natural surroundings.