Central Bank eyewitness: Labour chants did take place at Christmas party

‘Viva l-Labour’ chanting did happen, a Central Bank employee told MaltaToday – despite sexed-up report by PN media that allowed Central Bank to issue sworn statement of employees denying drunken chanting

The party did not take place at the Central Bank offices (pictured) but at Giardini Lambrosa in Rabat
The party did not take place at the Central Bank offices (pictured) but at Giardini Lambrosa in Rabat

The Nationalist Party’s muckraker Joe Mikallef may have missed the mark but not by much when his TV show Sorsi Infurmati produced misleading footage and audio from an electoral counting hall to illustrate a story of minor importance: a Christmas party bash by Central Bank employees breaking out in song by chanting ‘Viva l-Labour’.

Since then, Mikallef’s ‘scoop’ has been torn apart by Labour’s own political TV mascot Karl Stagno Navarra and a categorical denial by the Central Bank.

And yet, an eyewitness who came forward to MaltaToday about what happened at the Central Bank’s Christmas Party says that chants of ‘Viva l-Labour’ were well and truly on the menu.

“The three persons whose photos were published on the media and who gave sworn affidavits saying they did not participate in any form of political chant were conveniently utilised by the Central Bank to negate the story. But the bank employs hundreds of people, not just three,” the Central Bank employee told MaltaToday.

The party did not take place at the Central Bank offices but at Giardini Lambrosa, a typical wedding venue at the limits of Rabat, on December 14, the source told MaltaToday.

Catered by Elia Borg Bonaci, the swimming-pooled venue offered copious amounts of food and drinks, and the entertainment came in the form of former Eurovision singer Kurt Calleja.

Calleja sang songs during the first half of the night but then took on the role of DJ as he took requests and played popular bangers.
“The bank advocates a policy of moderate drinking even during social gatherings. Some, however, were still intoxicated by the end of the party… but not uncontrollably so. They knew what they were doing,” the source said.

One of the employees was seen approaching Calleja with a song request – ostensibly Robert Miles’s Children, Labour’s 1996 electoral anthem. So far, so harmless. “As soon as the song started playing, the employee could be seen hoisted onto the shoulder of another employee and the chant ‘Viva l-Labour’ could be heard by anyone there – the disc jockey could hear it, there were foreign waiters around, other employees,” the source said, adding that around 50 people participated in the chant, by clapping, jumping and singing to the Labour anthem.

The source said that the bank knows that employees might be too scared to speak out, fearing some form of retribution, but that the situation could have been straightforwardly solved.

“The governor could have easily said that it happened and that it wasn’t that big of a deal. Telling members of the media that it did not happen was an unnecessary risk. The bank decided to cover up childish behaviour to the detriment of the reputation and the integrity of the institution,” the source told MaltaToday.

The Central Bank was quick to issue a statement after Joe Mikallef’s story was published and revealed by One TV’s Pjazza to have been a shoddy report that made use of footage of a Barcelona nightclub and vote-counting hall audio.

In its statement, the Central Bank said that it condemned any attempt to cause political division among the bank’s staff. “The Bank would like to reassure the public that it always takes appropriate action whenever it has hard evidence of breaches in its Code of Conduct,” it said.

The source said that though the political chanting didn’t last longer than it took for Children to finish playing, it had in fact happened and there were many witnesses who watched but did not participate.

Among the 50 participants, some were high-ranking employees within the bank, the source confirmed. “When the Central Bank negated the charge of political discrimination over something that could have easily been admitted – a five-minute, drunken lapse – it begs the question of whether there is some truth to the allegation,” the employee said.