[WATCH] Justice Minister disagrees with Prime Minister hopeful: everyone has a right to protest

Leadership candidate Robert Abela said on a television programme that the protests calling for Joseph Muscat’s resignation are mere provocation

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici is not in agreement with colleague and Prime Minister hopeful Robert Abela when the latter said on a TV programme that the protests calling for Joseph Muscat’s resignation are mere provocation.

He is also in disagreement with Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba, who said on social media that protestors are ‘extremists’ whose wish is to destabilise the country.

“I genuinely did not follow what Abela and Agius Saliba said. I have always had an unwavering opinion on the protest: if there’s anyone who wants to protest, he can do so, he even has the duty to protest,” Bonnici told MaltaToday.

He was giving a press conference at MUZA in Valletta to announce the new office of the State Attorney, which will be occupied from 18 December by Victoria Buttigieg.

Protests have been taking place in Valletta since Tumas group businessman, with business links to former chief of staff Keith Schembri, was arrested in November in connection with the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Another protest is planned on Republic Day next Friday in Valletta amidst celebrations and parades.

“Protests should take place as long as the line is not crossed into violence. It’s important that that line is never crossed both by whoever is protesting and also by those whose protest is addressed to,” Bonnici said.

The justice minister announced that on the recommendation of the Venice Commission, the Attorney General’s dual role has been split so he will now be just a chief prosecutor.

Bonnici said that from 18 December, Attorney General Peter Grech will be furnished with a team of 20 lawyers to aid him in his operations. He will occupy a new office at the old Arts Museum in Valletta.

Victoria Buttigieg will be the State Attorney. “She will be the first person to serve as a state attorney and the first person to do so will be a woman. This is also an important step,” Bonnici said, adding that her role will be constitutionally protected like the Attorney General’s. A two-thirds majority in parliament will be needed to remove her over gross misconduct.

The dual role of the Attorney General has been such since 1936.