Maltese Tenor Joseph Calleja told a group of Maltese protestors who gathered in London yesterday to protest his singing at a Henley & Partners event “on behalf of the Prime Minister of Malta” that his performance was not an endorsement of the firm but part of his role as cultural ambassador for Malta.
“I know you disagree with me and I understand completely. Let’s agree to disagree. This isn’t an endorsement of Henley & Partners. When I sang at the Commonwealth a couple of years ago, how many of the leaders in front of me were dictators and murderers who killed tonnes of people? I am here against the advice of all my lawyers and all my friends, because I am not only cultural ambassador when it suits me,” Calleja said.
Protestors held banners reading ‘Maltese citizenship for sale, apply here’ and they held copies of Maltese passports. Some of those who gathered wore masks of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and carried slogans with the last words journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had written before her assassination.
Henley & Partners is the private concessionaire for Malta’s cash for passports programme. They had threatened Caruana Galizia with financially crippling law suits, with the written consent of the Prime Minister, his chief of staff Konrad Mizzi and culture minister Owen Bonnici. Henley & Partners has also threatened The Shift News with similar lawsuits “in the US and/or UK”.
On Friday, The Shift News reported that the firm had removed details of the event from their web site. His manager confirmed the event would be held “on behalf of the Prime Minister of Malta”.
The event at Drapers’ Hall in London was to “celebrate the remarkable success of the Malta Individual Investor Programme,” as the passport sales scheme is called. The widely-respected Maltese Tenor’s participation has been criticised by his fans in Malta.
“Even though I strongly disagreed with many of Daphne’s writings, the fact is that she is dead,” Calleja said.
“I am not here to endorse Henley & Partners but to fulfil a commitment that was made years ago before all this hullabaloo. I am a professional and this is what I do. I am here to sing. I am not scared of this protest because I have done nothing wrong..I am here as a professional and as a cultural ambassador and I wear my ring on my finger. I could have gone into the Hall straight away, but I came here to speak to you first,” he added.
Calleja refused to tell protestors how much he was paid for his performance.
On his Facebook page, Calleja said: “This evening I closed the concert at #henleypartners with the prayer from Verdi’s Requiem #Ingemisco dedicated to the slain journalist #DaphneCaruanaGalizia. Furthermore, all of my fee will be split in two and donated to the #BOVJosephCalleja foundation and to Our Lady Mother of God, Carmelite Monastry. The Archbishop, who was aware of my plans before the concert, will supervise the whole donation”.
People reacted with criticism, but the comments were removed. One captured before its removal said: “How wonderful of you. Accepting money from a firm that threatened Daphne Caruana Galizia with multiple cease and desist letters before she was brutally murdered, and then donating it to your own foundation… It’s time to stand up and be counted”.