Joseph Muscat warns Opposition to measure its words on foreigners

Joseph Muscat said that he had been mistaken back in 2013 when he had invoked the pushback but warned the Opposition not to make the same mistake

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat during his parliamentary reaction to Opposition Leader Adrian Delia's Budget speech
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat during his parliamentary reaction to Opposition Leader Adrian Delia's Budget speech

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat harshly criticised the Opposition as he manifestly showed his aggravation at hate speech making the rounds online.

“Let’s think things through before we open our mouths,” Muscat said, leering at the members of the Opposition across the House of Representatives.

Dedicating at least fifteen minutes on the topic of Sunday’s Hal Far riots and the rising racist sentiments in the country, Muscat said that the Opposition was contributing to an us-versus-them mentality when it comes to asylum seekers.

“I don’t think I’ll be very popular on this issue but when Lassana Cisse Souleymane was murdered a few blocks away from where the riots took place, I said a few things which I’ll repeat today: we need to learn from the mistakes of other countries. We are a country of immigration. We went around the world. Ask your relatives whether how they were treated abroad affected how they lived,” he said.

Muscat admitted that when he invoked a pushback policy back in 2013, he was wrong and he regretted his decision and his words.

“I was mistaken when it comes to the pushback, yes, but I warn the Opposition not to repeat my mistake. I appeal to parents watching me on TV right now—if a person is drowning in the Mediterranean, would you save them?

“This is the biggest social issue facing us today. Nobody has a magic wand,” Muscat said, switching to English to appeal to a foreign audience that might be watching, telling them that Malta was a largely welcoming country.

Muscat condemned the riots in Hal Far that resulted in burnt cars and a slightly injured police officer but said that this had nothing to do with colour. “Whether they’re white or black, they broke the law and will get their just deserts,” he said.

Muscat criticised the ‘amateur’ way in which the Opposition had reacted to the riots, when it referred to the open centre as a detention centre in its press statement.

“I appeal to the media,” he said, “to pay attention to their comment section. This is their responsibility too. We do not want certain populist winds to take flight here.”

More in National