Hundreds of people stood outside Parliament to send a message to the government that the country deserved more than “fake good governance”.
The protest was organised in reaction to a number of decisions taken by Prime Minister Robert Abela on appointments to government roles and consultancies given to those who were forced to resign for their role in corruption and its cover-up under the previous administration.
Activist Julian Delia appealed for everyone to use their common sense for basic principles to be respected. “We are all born with the capacity to recognise the power of good and the emptiness left by injustice,” he said.
Honesty, integrity, mutual respect and the sacrifice and wish to leave the world a better place were all being sacrificed on the altar of money, he told the crowd.
In a poem he dedicated to Malta’s corrupt elected, titled il-Girgenti, Delia wrote about the infamous party thrown at Girgenti Palace by former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat which was attended by businessman Yorgen Fenech, now accused of being the mastermind behind journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death. Further revelations linked him to to the heart of government.
The call for protest made by civil society organisations Occupy Justice and Repubblika was made in reaction to news of former Minister Konrad Mizzi nominated to head Malta’s delegation to the OSCE assembly, an intergovernmental organisation with a mandate that includes issues such as press freedom and human rights.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media told The Shift the decision was “incomprehensible and disturbing in the current context”. Harlem Désir stressed that the priority was an end to impunity for the assassination of Caruana Galizia: “There must be no impunity for such a crime. This remains our first priority.”
The nomination sparked anger in Malta, topping other appointments given to those disgraced through association with corrupt deals or interference in the investigation into the journalist’s death. They include former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, former Deputy Commissioner Silvio Valletta, husband of former Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana who was also given a government role even after she was forced to resign.
This is the first protest organised since Abela’s appointment and picks up on a series of demonstrations held in December calling for the resignation of his predecessor and those close to him.
Hours after Repubblika announced the protest earlier this week, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a statement that it withdrew Mizzi’s name as it was “giving absolute priority to good governance”. And, in another U-turn, newly appointed Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli yesterday withdrew an €80,000 consultancy contract given to Mizzi while Muscat was serving the notice he had set for his departure.
Based on legal advice re contract awarded by Malta Tourism Authority to former tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi in Dec 2019, I instructed MTA to terminate contract with immediate effect.
As at to date no payments were issued in relation to this contract. @MaltaGov @RobertAbela_MT
— Julia Farrugia Portelli (@JuliaFarrugia) January 28, 2020
Mark Anthony Sammut told the crowd that Mizzi’s nomination was an insult to the people and journalism. “We removed Muscat from prime minister and then he sits in for meetings between the government and Steward Healthcare – a contract that is under magisterial inquiry”.
The people who resigned from their top positions in government did so because they were accused of “very serious crimes,” Sammut told the crowd that shouted “prison, prison, prison”. These included the former police commissioner, the Attorney General and the former Gozo Minister who resigned after news emerged that her husband had friendly ties with murder suspect Fenech.
Manuel Delia pointed out the prime minister had said Wednesday’s protest was unnecessary. Yet that was said for two years while government workers cleaned up the protest memorial to Caruana Galizia on a regular basis. There would not have been any change had the people stopped, he said.
Earlier in the day, Occupy Justice condemned the vandals who threw eggs at the protest memorial, covering her photo and tributes with tomato sauce.
This is the level of hatred fostered in our country. The protest memorial this morning, covered in what looks like blood (it's not) & eggs. Will no one in authority condemn these actions? Is this not vandalism? @RobertAbela_MT @RSF_inter @ECPMF @coe @pen_int @article19org pic.twitter.com/k6edJU2I4X
— #occupyjustice 🍃 (@occupyjusticema) January 29, 2020
Mizzi was the Minister who negotiated and signed the controversial Electrogas energy deal, linked to Caruana Galizia’s assassination through revelations on Yorgen Fenech, former Head of Tumas Group and director of Electrogas and the main suspect in the murder.