Blundering Byron

The day after Malta police went on a rampage, indiscriminately kicking in doors and damaging private property without search warrants, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri hit out at NGO Repubblika, saying it was “an extremist faction”, building on hostility members of the government have shown to civil society actors and journalists.

Residents living in Malta legitimately were left with doors wrenched off their frames, or entire door panels kicked in as police put up a show of force, accompanied by their dogs, The Times of Malta reported.

The minister proudly announced the police’s heavy-handedness on his Facebook page. “At the moment in Marsa.  After last night’s raids related to drugs and irregular migration, this evening illegal structures are being removed by Clean Malta”.  He uploaded photos of a mechanical shovel destroying illegal structures.

Was it necessary for police to use such force to check people’s documents? Was it necessary to leave residents without a front door and unable to leave their homes for fear of being burgled?

Was this even legal? Who authorised such violence by our police?

Several days have passed since law-abiding residents’ properties were broken into by the police and their property damaged. Yet Byron Camilleri has not apologised or justified the entirely gratuitous use of force.

Of course, action should be taken to remove illegal structures. But even such action should be conducted with due care.  Camilleri’s enthusiasm to demolish those illegal structures in Marsa should be applied to all illegal structures on the island.

For example, Robert Abela’s business partner Simon Buhagiar illegally built a road, covered it with tarmac, built walls overlooking that road and illegally changed the use of land from agricultural to gas cylinder storage. No action has been taken against him.  His illegal structures have not been demolished.

Not only has Joseph Portelli’s illegal batching plant on public land not been demolished with a mechanical shovel, but Abela’s government procures concrete from that illegal batching plant.

Despite carrying out illegal excavation works in an outside development zone in Qala, Portelli’s illegal swimming pools in the middle of a valley were not destroyed but instead sanctioned by the PA. Board chairman Martin Camilleri jumped through hoops to get Portelli his approval.

The FKNK’s illegal structures in Miżieb, referred to as “the mecca of illegalities”, have not been dismantled.

Illegal structures at St Peter’s pool are still in place despite over six years of enforcement notices and the PA’s claims that the illegal structures were removed.

The minister’s targeting of defenceless, voiceless groups smacks of naked populism. In a nation where 52% of 16 to 25-year-olds describe themselves as ‘very racist or slightly racist’, his brutal tactics will surely win him praise.

With a new generation of MPs in the PN, like Gozitan Alex Borg, lobbying police to deport immigrants, it’s no surprise that the public reaction to the indiscriminate police raids in Marsa was muted.

Whether such unduly aggressive police actions fall within the law is highly dubious. Yet nobody bats an eyelid since those targeted are ‘foreigners’.

Martin Niemoller’s famous confession springs to mind.  “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist; then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist; then they came for the Jews, but I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Byron Camilleri is making sure of that. He is publicly attacking and discrediting civil society organisations such as Repubblika.

He accused the NGO of being “an extremist faction of the PN”. He was reported saying that “when Repubblika stops being so selective, I will start taking them more seriously”.

His intention is clear.  He aims to discredit, intimidate and harass those who stand up to Labour’s excesses.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Human Rights (FRA), in its report ‘Challenges facing Civil Society Organisations’ pointed out that “civil society is a vital component of functioning democracies and indispensable for the full protection of human rights”.  Not for Byron.

The UN special rapporteur highlighted civil society’s contribution to protecting civil and political rights.  The EU agency insisted that “civil society organisations need to be able to carry out their work in an atmosphere free from hostility and attacks on their legitimacy and reputation”.

That is exactly what Byron Camilleri is doing, together with other ministers,  subjecting NGOs to public hostility and attacks on their legitimacy and reputation. Energy Minister Miriam Dalli used similar words for Moviment Graffitti.

Such hostile public discourse, particularly by ministers, has negative consequences.  It undermines public trust in civil society organisations and makes citizens less likely to support or treat them as credible sources of information.

It has a chilling effect on civil society, that same chilling effect that the Caruana Galizia inquiry report highlighted.

Labour has learnt nothing from the Caruana Galizia tragedy and the ensuing public inquiry. Despite Robert Abela’s empty promises that “lessons will be learnt”, Labour’s ministers continue the trend by disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat of investing in discrediting activists and journalists who insisted on holding him accountable.

Byron Camilleri knows that sustained attacks on Repubblika and others will achieve the desired results, as they have in the past.

The EU Agency for fundamental human rights condemned such attacks as they “create an atmosphere that provokes verbal and physical attacks and encourages harassment and persecution”. And Labour knows it.

The minister knows it too, which is exactly why he’s engaging in such reckless, irresponsible, dishonest statements.

After all, he’s just emulating Robert Abela.  Flanked by his whole cabinet in a live-streamed press conference, Abela accused Repubblika of “wanting to damage the country at a difficult time”. Glenn Bedingfield accused them of “working in the interest of the enemy”.

The government’s hostility towards civil society actors is intended to harass and intimidate. Don’t be fooled by Byron Camilleri’s disarming lack of charisma and his robotic monotone.  His blunders are as fatal as they come.


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2 months ago

Ma naqbilx mal-kirurgu f’kollox.

Li jinfaqghu l-bibien bla warrant magisterjali hu hażin u r-razziżmu hu hazin izjed.

… imma hawnhekk qed ihallat ir-razziżmu mad-deportazzjoni tal-immigranti.

Ma tridx hafna gherf biex tirrealizza li l-immigranti mhumiex qed jigu integrati fis-socjetà ghax il-poplu jrid juzahom u daqshekk… u ma tridx hafna gherf biex tinnota li fMalta qed jinbnew hafna ghettos u klikek li l-poplu mhux imdorri bihom.

Dan jikkawza l-glied u l-poplu ma jridux. Dan jikkawza l-biża’ u l-poplu jrid is-sigurtà. Li l-Partit Nazzjonalista jsemma lehnu dwar dan jaghmel sew. Post kull barrani li jikser il-ligi hu deportazzjoni… mhemmx razza u wcuh.

Ahna rridu barranin bojod u suwed ta’ kwalità bhall-kirurgu.

Irridu l-pajjiz sigur li kien tana Fenech Adami lura. U allura Alex Borg qed jaghmel sew.

A. Fan
A. Fan
2 months ago

Rule of law, Maltese style. However, you cannot join a club (EU) and expect not to ultimately be held to its common standards. Hungary, Poland…Malta. Rounding errors just tend to take a bit longer to get sorted out than more obvious miscalculations.

2 months ago
Reply to  A. Fan

I have read your contribution several times and I think that it is clear to us that the PL is no longer a workers’ party, but rather a right-wing party of injustice:

For this, the institutions have been undermined and right replaced by wrong.
We must not become as cowardly as ROBBER Abela and must fight for the future of Malta.

The most crucial question is: Do we want to be asked by our children what we have done about it, why we have allowed Malta to become so ugly and evil in every way.

2 months ago

Reversing the perpetrator-victim role has unfortunately worked too well under Joseph Muscat. He, too, pretended to be a real ‘Laborer’.

Now doors are being kicked in by the police of innocent people. 
Is this fanfare for more misdeeds?

If it continues like this, will there still be children here in Malta who can be ashamed of the misdeeds of their parents, or are they long gone?

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
2 months ago

Byron Camilleri – we know you are one of the members of the PL/Government Mafia machine that adopts a Gestapo type approach with those you term as Extremists.
Please rest assured that we will never take away what you see in the mirror when you puke the word ‘EXTREMISM’.
We assure you that we will keep striving with your illusion of extremism, until we see you and your extremist colleagues, marching into a prison cell, even if you keep being protected and covered up, by your payback extreme puppets, not least certain members of the judiciary, the Commissioner of Police and the AG.

Joseph Licari
2 months ago

Everything that

Joseph Licari
2 months ago

Everything that Byron Camilleri or any other does to mitigate the problem of illegal immigrants is well done and welcome. Let’s not replicate the speeches of former Catholic Action president Lawrence Gonzi who placed “Christian values” above Malta’s national interest and above the will of the majority of the Maltese people. The Maltese people have had enough and cannot be satisfied by a mosaic of quotations from NGOs and their serial backers.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
2 months ago

It was not necessary for the police to use force with the irregular immigrants, but the police are strong with the weak and weak with the strong. Have you ever heard of the police raiding a drug baron in Malta. It is not that we haven’t any, but the police look the other way because they know that these people are very dangerous.

Johann Zahra
Johann Zahra
2 months ago

5.2% describe themselves as racist. Not 52%. Thanks.

2 months ago

Read exactly what Robert Abela was quoted “lessons will be learnt”,
Will be learnt , he did not say “Lessons have been learnt” The same double talk as Muscat: Transparency ;meaning see nothing , Meritocracy ;meaning only labourites , Leave no stone unturned ;means remove all evidence…….

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