Tomorrow evening, I am calling on all persons of goodwill to gather outside parliament in protest at the situation in our country. We would have hoped until only a few days ago that Robert Abela would never stoop so low as to forget that he is our prime minister.

In that role, he should have been able to overcome behaving like a partisan leader and rise to the occasion to defend the due process of law, defend the judiciary and stand up for the rule of law. 

Why should it upset the prime minister so much that a magisterial inquiry concluded that his predecessor, together with two former ministers, the current deputy prime minister and the former chief of staff, have, among others, allegedly committed crimes ranging from money laundering to bribery, from corruption to criminal association? 

The truth is that it should matter and seriously worry him but he should have offered all the assurances necessary that the judiciary will be allowed to carry on with the next steps in this process in tranquillity and serenity.

Regrettably, he has done the total opposite of what any decent prime minister in a democratic country would have done. Abela chose to stand alongside those accused of these heinous crimes rather than to stand on the side of the people. He attacked the judiciary, singling out the magistrate who carried out the inquiry. He attacked the independent media. 

He stated that all these belong to some kind of establishment when the only representative of any political establishment in our country is none other than the prime minister. He uses rhetoric that borders on incitement. He allows elements within the Labour Party media, and others, to go even further, to try to intimidate by broadcasting a photo of the inquiring magistrate alongside other information about her.

The president of Malta felt the need to issue an official message warning that the courts and judiciary should be allowed to exercise their functions in a serene atmosphere. She urged prudence in the choice of words spoken and not to allow emotions rule our heads.

A growing coalition of persons of goodwill is coming together to stand up to what we are experiencing. Repubblika, that initiated the magisterial inquiry, have not minced their words about the gravity of the situation. We owe them gratitude for what they have painstakingly been doing with courage and resilience.

Civil society and NGOs have stood up and described the statements by the prime minister as authoritarian and as a threat to democracy; students have organised their own strong protest; the constituted bodies, such as MEA, Chamber of SMEs and the Malta Chamber, have jointly pointed out that “attacks on the judiciary strike at the heart of Malta’s democratic credentials”. 

Our democratic credentials and future are at stake- Bernard Grech

Over 200 university academics have condemned the “intimidation” of the judiciary while, in parliament, the speaker keeps ruling that we cannot even discuss the grave and ominous situation.

With such an avalanche of national sentiment against him, the prime minister has the audacity of claiming that persons standing in his way are against Malta. 

We proudly stand with the people. We have done this already by winning back the three hospitals, and we are proud and determined to carry on bringing about the necessary results for our country. This is not a question of partisan politics. It’s time for all of us to come together.

I am encouraged by the growing number of Labour Party supporters approaching me to point out that they cannot be associated with what is happening. They, like the rest of us, want to do something about it, to stand up to be counted.

Our democratic credentials and future are at stake. If we stand together, we can save them both.

Attending tomorrow evening’s protest as one people is a first step. Voting in the European Parliament and local council elections on June 8 is more significant than ever. We shall not relent.

To succeed, we need all persons who share our concerns and values to stand up with us for the people. It’s not about supporting the Nationalist Party for its own sake. It’s about defending our people and our country.

I would go further and state: it is about making a choice between the regime and the people.

Bernard Grech is leader of the Nationalist Party.

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