Yesterday, Prime Minister Robert Abela maliciously twisted the facts and did not give the opportunity to the press to ask questions.
As things stand, there are two allegations:
The Allegation of sabotage on a boat
- On Maundy Thursday (9 April 2020) the NGO Alarm Phone broadcast a recording of migrant passengers on a boat stating that a member or members of the crew of Patrol boat P52, belonging to the Armed Forces of Malta, had cut the cable of the boat’s motor and had left the site. Later, despite a clear order by the Prime Minister that nobody was to be let into Maltese ports, these passengers were saved and brought to Malta. It is to be noted that up to now, no reason has been given regarding why these passengers were brought to Malta.
- This is a very serious allegation. It is an allegation of sabotage on a vessel where seventy persons were left between sky and sea with a broken motor and risking death.
- Up to today, nine days later, neither the Government nor the Army have denied that this incident ever occurred. The fact that this has not been denied, does not mean that the incident did occur.
- Despite the fact that luckily, these persons did not die, because, as has just been stated, for some reason they were brought to Malta, we believe that an allegation as serious as this has to be investigated. I repeat, this is not simply an allegation of damage to an object, but one that indicates an act of sabotage to a vessel that, in these circumstances, could have easily led to death.
- As a result, we filed a report to the police asking it to investigate what actually happened. All the witnesses are here in Malta: the soldiers on board P52, as well as the passengers who were subsequently brought to Malta and who are currently under Government custody.
- We do not understand why the Government is so scandalised at our request. Everyone is subject to the law, and it is not fair for the Army to be tainted with such an allegation if it is untrue. This is not an attack on the Army. When a year ago, two persons, who were soldiers, were investigated and brought before our courts on a charge of racist homicide, nobody blamed the whole Army. On the contrary, in order to protect the good name of soldiers who are just and who obey the law, it is essential that whoever among them breaks the law is removed from the Army and gives account of his actions in front of the law.
The Government’s decision not to save persons who risk drowning
- By a decision that was announced by Prime Minister Robert Abela, Government ordered that no search and rescue operations to help people in Maltese waters should be carried out. The Government’s decision was taken specifically with regard to immigrants coming from Libya.
- On Easter Monday (13 April), late at night, an aeroplane belonging to the Army of Malta noticed a boat with 55 passengers on board. Up to Tuesday evening, no Army patrol boat went out to fetch the persons on the boat.
- On Wednesday 15 April, it became known that five persons on the boat had died, and seven others were lost at sea.
- These deaths could have been avoided had the Maltese Government used the information in its possession and ordered these people to be saved. Despite the fact that Government knew about these people, it left them at sea and some of them died.
- We have asked the Police authorities to investigate whether these deaths came as a consequence of the decisions taken by the Prime Minister and the Commander in Chief of the Army. If this is the case, the persons who took these decisions, knowing that this could result in the death of other persons, have to shoulder responsibility for those decisions. The law is equal for everyone.
The excuse of COVID-19
- Saving people from drowning has no impact on controlling a pandemic. It is not legitimate for a Government to expect us to choose who is to live and who is to die according to the colour of their skin. The duty to save whoever is in difficulty at sea cannot be unilaterally suspended.
- It is unjust for Government to use the excuse of the pandemic to censure and intimidate whoever is asking that investigations are carried out according to the law.
Complaint before the European Court of Human Rights
- On Wednesday afternoon (15 April), we took an initiative to try and help in some way the 55 people who were between sky and sea. We wanted to put pressure on the Governments of Malta and Italy not to let these people die. This is called a procedure of interim measure which ensures that imminent danger of violation of any human right is stopped.
- A short while after we had already recurred to the European Court of Human Rights, we learned, like everyone else, that five people out of the 55 had died, seven others were lost, feared dead, and the rest had been dragged back to Libya. There was nothing left for the European Court to do to protect them, consequently our request to the Court to intervene had to stop there.
- When the Prime Minister presents this as a victory, he simply confirms how he has no feelings for the persons who died as a consequence of his decisions and celebrates the fact that he managed to get rid of them before the Court had the time to intervene.
Accusations of Treason
- The narrative that is being spread is that because of what we did, we are traitors of Malta, we do not love our country and – according to the Labour MP Glen Bedingfield – we are working in the interests of the ‘enemy’. We do not know who this enemy is. But the Government is trying to taint us in order to make us appear as enemies of Malta and Gozo.
- Unfortunately, it would seem that the Government is falling to the temptation to follow the same tactics with us, as the previous Government had adopted with regard to Daphne Caruana Galizia, by trying to isolate us, to paint us as a threat, and to demonise us because we are supposedly the enemy.
- We totally reject these accusations.
- It is in fact very dangerous that the Government is retaliating in this way because somebody is daring to ask an institution of our country to investigate its actions according to the law and in a peaceful way. The Prime Minister’s press conference made us targets and presented us as enemies of the people. Our lawyers are being attacked because they are defending us. This attack is meant to frighten off whoever can help us and deprives us of our basic right to employ lawyers who we trust. This is a democratic right that belongs to each and everyone of us, from the highest to the lowest.
- We love our country. And because we love it, we believe that law and justice have to prevail in our country even when there is a pandemic. If we were to allow this to become an excuse for Government to leave those in danger of dying to drown and to silence anyone who objects, then the country we love so much will lose its democracy.