Parliamentary Secretary for Equality silent on Clint Axisa’s reinstatement

Buttigieg has been at the forefront of numerous publicly-funded campaigns against sexual harassment.

 

Aqra bil-Malti

Rebecca Buttigieg, the parliamentary secretary for reforms and equality, did not respond to The Shift’s questions about whether she was consulted on the government’s decision to reinstate Clint Axisa, a senior Transport Malta official facing criminal charges of sexual harassment.

Last week, The Shift revealed that Clint Axisa, a senior official at Transport Malta who in 2022 was charged in court for allegedly harassing two female employees, had his work suspension lifted by the Office of the Prime Minister.

Axisa was charged with a series of crimes in February 2022. These included committing non-consensual sexual acts on a female co-worker and sexually harassing another, subjecting women to an act of physical intimacy, subjecting them to acts bearing sexual connotations and committing offences he was bound to prevent as a public officer.

During the ongoing proceedings, the police claimed that Axisa had even offered money to his victims to withdraw their complaints against him.

The Shift also contacted Renee Laiviera, the Chair of the NCPE, who recently launched the ‘Beat the Silence’ campaign encouraging women to report harassment at work. 

In a statement issued on Monday, the NCPE said, “Employers in both the public and private sector are bound to take action against persons who, following fair internal investigations, have been found to have engaged in sexual misconduct. This duty applies even if there are pending Court proceedings against the individual accused of misconduct.”

Labour Party president Ramona Attard did not reply to The Shift’s questions, neither did the lobby groups Malta Women’s Lobby and the Women’s Rights Foundation.

Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg’s campaign on sexual harassment at the workplace.

Other reactions to Axisa’s reinstatement have been from independent MEP candidate Arnold Cassola, the PN and ADPD.

In three separate statements, Robert Abela’s government was criticised for a decision considered a slap in the face to all those women who have experienced sexual harassment at work.

The PN condemned the move, saying the prime minister was sending the message that “sexual harassment is not just excusable but also acceptable. It is sending a message to those survivors of abuse that they should keep quiet and not report it because whoever commits this abuse could have the blessing and protection of the government”.

ADPD said, “An alleged perpetrator, undergoing criminal proceedings, seems to be able to use his party membership as a ‘get out of jail free card'”.

According to established rules, public employees facing criminal charges should be immediately suspended from their duties and put on half-pay until the court proceedings conclude. Yet the Office of the Prime Minister allowed Axisa to be given back his role.

The lifting of Axisa’s suspension and his work reinstatement is the latest in a series of similar events over the last few weeks. At least 36 civil service employees have already been reinstated despite undergoing criminal proceedings.

Sources at the home affairs ministry told The Shift that the prime minister disregarded the parliamentary secretary and the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) when deciding to reinstate Axisa.

Axisa denies all the charges. 

Article has been updated to include the NCPE statement.

                           

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