Comments on social media by some soldiers insulting citizens after protests held during the Republic Day parade on Friday were “out of line”, according to former high ranking officers who spoke to The Shift.
“You have disgusted God, you bunch of dung, let the people enjoy the few days of Christmas. You’re all dirt. It’s enough that you have ruined Republic Day. You are going to ruin even more days, you are all trash.”
The comment was by a sergeant in the army, Jean Pierre Camilleri, on a report by Inews – a channel that serves the Labour Party – as crowds gathered on Republic Day to raise their voice during a national event. He also called citizens “dung” and “fools”.
He is not the only member of the army publicly hitting out at citizens protesting. Army sergeant Brian Falzon, stationed at the Office of the Prime Minister, said on social media he was “feeling angry” after the Republic Day protests. He targeted Caruana Galizia’s sister, Corinne Vella.
Falzon also said in a post after the protest at Castille by Moviment Graffiti: “Wealth bothers you. You want power. No way. We are here.”
A number of those endorsing his post were soldiers telling him to remain courageous and keep it up. Others liking the post were government officials, including Clive Pulis (Senglea Mayor), Joseph Scerri (OPM employee) and Joanne Debono Grech (Birkirkara Mayor).
The protests follow regular gatherings in the city for the last three weeks as a stream of revelations on the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia revealed alleged links to those closest to the Prime Minister.
People chanted as the parade was ongoing in Valletta, leading a number of other soldiers to say they were ‘dismayed’, ‘hurt’ and ‘insulted’ by the crowds.
On Friday, thousands of citizens gathered while State activities were ongoing “to reclaim Republic Day for the people”. The capital’s main street was blocked off, with hundreds of police officers lined up against barriers that prevented people from gathering, limiting them to narrow corridors across the entire street blocked by barriers.
Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar made a rare move. He’s been absent from all briefings to the nation on revelations of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, allowing the Prime Minister to take over his role. On Saturday, the Police issued a statement saying ‘protestors had no permit’.
Repubblika said the authorities had been informed. The organisation questioned whether a permit was needed for citizens to attend a national event where barriers were respected.
Officers expected to be impartial
The soldiers’ comments are “out of line” and in breach of the impartiality expected from army officers, according to former high ranking officials. Comment on political matters was wrong and could “deserve a charge”.
The oath taken by recruits of Armed Forces of Malta commits them to be loyal to the people of Malta. The Malta Armed Forces Act states officers must not behave “in a scandalous manner, unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman”.
Godwin Schembri was discharged from AFM at the end of 2018 for making a comment on ‘an unnecessary gate’ on a video on social media that went viral.
In a report, the Ombudsman said the number of promotions in the army “not based on merit”, all the way up to its highest ranks, were intended to serve a political purpose as opposed to serving the interests of the nation’s security.
Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi received four promotions in as many months, taking him to the topmost rank of Brigadier. When Michelle Muscat swam the supposedly 14 kilometres for her charity, Curmi and Deputy Commander Mark Mallia and accompanied her shown in promotion photos for the event.
Members of the army who spoke to The Shift expressed concern that the army has become an extension of the Labour Party, seemingly sustaining concerns outlined in the Ombudsman’s report that the current state of the AFM is one where “undue external influence” is seriously prejudicing the rules of due process within the Maltese military.