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New prime minister has to defend the truth to create stability

“There is a risk that despite promises being made by the candidates, the change will be a superficial one.”

A man wears a photo of former chief-of-staff Keith Schembri as a mask during this afternoon's protest. Photo: Joanna Demarco

Thousands of people gathered outside the law courts to protest against corruption and call for justice and the truth from the new prime minister, who is set to take office next week.

“If the new leader wants to create stability in the country, he needs to show us he’s not cut from the same cloth as Joseph Muscat,” activist Martina Farrugia told the crowd.

“He needs to remember that he is not only going to be the leader of the Labour Party but also the Prime Minister of Malta and, therefore, has an obligation towards everyone”.

Protesters held up signs saying “mafia” during a protest in Valletta. Photo: Joanna Demarco

She argued that if the institutions were functioning as the government claimed, then things would have been done differently. “If this were true, then when Keith Schembri was implicated in the assassination, Muscat would have pushed him aside and not let him resign while telling him ‘thank you’.”

Organised by civil society organisations Repubblika, Occupy Justice together with Manuel Delia, today’s protest was endorsed by The Shift and continued upon the series of anti-corruption demonstrations that were held throughout the last two months of 2019 before these were put on hold for the Christmas period.

Farrugia also listed a number of things that the new prime minister needs to acknowledge and state in order to move towards justice.

“They need to say that Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi opened secret structures to receive millions from Yorgen Fenech,” she said. “They need to say that the prime minister knew all this but chose to defend them.”

The government also had to state that it was unacceptable for the Prime Minister to be gifted a watch from a businessman that cost as much as an initial deposit for the sale of an apartment.

“They also have to say that it was credible that the prime minister spends around €20,000 on plane tickets to go on a family holiday to Dubai. “If they live on one salary of €60,000 a year and send their children to a private school, then how are they going to get along the rest of the year? Live on birdseed?”

Farrugia also said that the new prime minister had to say that the murder of Caruana Galizia could have been avoided had the police had been allowed to do their job. “They have to say that she was a journalist who was doing her job and should have had State protection”.

“If the new prime minister really wants stability within the country, and if he wants to save Malta’s reputation, he needs to work to change the sick mentality of everything goes that reigns and give a clear message that criminals’ place is in jail,” she said.

Peace had to be built on truth, Farrugia said.

People walked past Parliament holding the Maltese flag. Photo: Joanna Demarco

Repubblika president Vicki Ann Cremona said the upcoming leader must “remove our country from the bottomless pit of lies and corruption which it has fallen into”. Trust must be reinstated within institutions; specifically within parliament and the police force and the government must implement what was instructed by the Venice Commission and the European Parliament. “The powers that they have in their hands must be relinquished to guarantee that we will have necessary and just separations within the judiciary, legislative power, and executive power,” she added.

Cremona concluded by mentioning that Repubblika has recently sent a number of questions to the two Labour candidates for the role of prime minister Chris Fearne and Robert Abela, providing them with a deadline for 2 January, however, they did not yet reply. Repubblika would continue to fight for justice and truth.

In his speech, Manuel Delia highlighted the recent controversial statement by Valletta 2018 chairman Jason Micallef, who ridiculed local artist Alexandra Alden for deciding to take part in the anti-corruption concert. “His intimidation is very serious, as it is intimidation from the State,” he said.

“His message is bullying from the government, which has the power to go from empty words to punishments.” This could lead to other artists remaining silent because they would be afraid of punishment, Delia said.

Titled A New Malta, a New Republic, the protest started in front of Parliament was followed by a concert with various Maltese artists such as Beangrowers, Brikkuni, Cikku l-Poplu, Alexandra Alden and Lapes.

Protesters gathered next to the protest memorial set up for Daphne Caruana Galizia. Photo: Joanna Demarco

The protests were triggered by the arrest of businessman Yorgen Fenech in November when he was caught trying to escape the island as thousands of people took to Valletta, calling for the immediate resignation of the prime minister. Fenech has since been charged with being an accomplice in the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. Muscat announced that he will resign but not before mid-January.

Meanwhile, in the past few weeks, further claims emerged implicating former chief of staff Keith Schembri in the murder, the Egrant report was released and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was titled the 2019 Person of the Year in Organized Crime and Corruption by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

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