‘Camilleri says he was kept in the dark over government commissioned domestic violence report,’ read one headline. ‘Minister unaware of report with same recommendations as Bernice Cassar report,’ another announced.
But Byron Camilleri knew about that report. He attended an event on 9 December 2022 held at Corinthia San Gorg where the results and recommendations of that report were discussed.
He even spoke at that event and TVM news included a clip of the minister speaking at it.
Camilleri declared in parliament that he hadn’t been given a copy of a report entitled ‘Perpetrators of Domestic violence: statistics and perceptions of risk factors for harmful behaviour’ produced by Prof Andrew Azzopardi and his team at the University’s Faculty for Social Wellbeing.
That report cost taxpayers €20,000. It provided detailed evidence of domestic violence in Malta. More importantly, it made extensive recommendations on how to address the issues to prevent tragedies like that of Bernice Cassar.
But Labour buried that report. The report painted a dismal picture of drained police officers, inadequate resources, impossible court delays that left victims’ lives on hold, and collapsed court systems. It didn’t serve Labour’s propaganda purposes. Instead of implementing its crucial recommendations, Labour hid it. It took a Freedom of Information request by the Times of Malta for a copy of that report to be released.
When that report was commissioned a press conference was called. The prime minister’s wife, Lydia Abela, presented a €20,000 donation to the University of Malta for research to be conducted and a report drawn up by Prof Andrew Azzopardi.
Bizarrely the report on domestic violence was commissioned by the Ministry of Tourism. That press conference was attended by the Rector of the University, Pro-rector Carmen Sammut, Minister Clayton Bartolo, Professor Andrew Azzopardi and Dr Lydia Abela.
In her speech, the prime minister’s wife announced that the €20,000 donation was intended to “devise a strategy to tackle domestic violence”.
“The donation will address the aggressors and their behaviour, what services we can change and how we can address the issue of violence against partners,” Abela said.
“I have felt the pain these children suffer when they see their parents fight and the physical and mental abuse, they carry throughout their lives which can haunt their future,” she continued. “This project aims to seek tangible results.”
Prof Andrew Azzopardi and his team completed their detailed report on time. It was given to Dr Lydia Abela. What did she do with it? What did Minister Clayton Bartolo, who at that press conference described domestic violence as “a social scourge”, do with that report? That report never saw the light of day. Labour hid it. Instead of leading to “tangible results”, that report was left to gather dust.
It’s revelations about the appalling reality were too embarrassing for Labour.
After Bernice Cassar’s barbaric murder, Labour set up an inquiry led by retired Judge Geoffrey Valenzia. The inquiry’s report concluded that the lack of resources allocated by the State led to Cassar’s death. Valenzia made almost identical recommendations to Prof Azzopardi’s report.
In parliament, PN MP Mark Anthony Sammut asked Byron Camilleri whether he would be shouldering responsibility for the serious failures identified in the Valenzia report. The arrogant Minister retorted that his responsibility was to implement the inquiry’s recommendations. Why then, Sammut insisted, had he not implemented those “same” recommendations in Azzopardi’s report concluded over a year earlier? Byron Camilleri’s smugness was blown to bits. He sheepishly replied that he didn’t know about it. He hadn’t been handed a copy of that report.
Byron Camilleri was trying to dupe parliament. He was giving the impression that he knew nothing of that report. But Camilleri attended that event at the Corinthia San Gorg. So had Minister Michael Falzon, Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg, Pro-rector Carmen Sammut. And so did Lydia Abela.
Dr Sandra Scicluna, one of the authors of the Azzopardi report, presented the findings and recommendations of that report. She highlighted the dramatic increase in domestic violence incidents. She pointed out that it took the court an average of 97 weeks, not days, to make a decision about domestic violence cases.
Dr Lydia Abela announced, at that event, that work had been initiated for the report’s recommendations to be implemented. Byron Camilleri spoke at that event. He didn’t say much of substance as TVM only dedicated one sentence to his contribution – “The Minister for Internal Affair, Byron Camilleri, said that since (the) femicide of Bernice Cassar the number of reports of social violence has doubled at a daily average of between five and ten reports.”
After the event, Lydia Abela commented on Facebook: “I hope that today’s discussions spur more action in favour of those affected by domestic violence”.
But what did she do about it? Not very much it seems. Once the cameras had gone and she had got her 15 minutes of exposure, she forgot about “the pain those children suffer”. She seems to have packed away her €20,000 report, maybe to spare her husband’s blushes. She certainly didn’t give it to Byron who denied all knowledge of it.
Byron claimed in parliament that he wasn’t handed a copy of that report. He certainly knew about the report. Why did he not request it from Lydia Abela or Clayton Bartolo? Why was he waiting for somebody to hand it over to him? Times of Malta requested a copy and got one. Why didn’t Byron do the same? His failure to do so and to implement its recommendations may have cost another two lives – Rita Ellul’s and Bernice Cassar’s.
This sad saga is a reflection of the dysfunctional government Robert Abela leads. A cabinet stuffed with amateurs and posers, obsessed with gimmicks, press conferences, publicity and self-promotion. But who are entirely useless.
Labour is all style but no substance. Big promises, no delivery. Platitudes instead of action. Professionals at strutting before the camera but allergic to the hard slog of doing their job.
Lying in Parliament is a serious affair.
So is murdering an investigative journalist.
So is ignoring a report which is acted upon would have saved lives.
Criminals all of them.
Yes yes…blah blah. We all know that.
What are we gonna do about it? That’s the question for Malta.