Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Opposition leader Simon Busuttil yesterday emerged from a two-hour emergency meeting to reassure the public about the country’s Security Service.
I can easily send out the message the service remains one we should have faith in
“I asked for this meeting because I had various concerns,” Dr Busuttil told the press on the steps of Castille, with Dr Muscat and Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia at his side.
“After a long meeting, I raised all my questions and concerns and they were each addressed. I was given assurances on all my preoccupations,” he added, without specifying what had been decided at the meeting.
“I can therefore easily send out the message that the Security Service in our country was and remains one we should have faith in.”
Dr Muscat was equally gracious, saying he convened the meeting at Dr Busuttil’s request because the Opposition’s concerns on various issues were “legitimate”.
The Prime Minister said he was pleased to note that the Security Service in the country enjoyed the respect and confidence of the entire Parliament.
He too refused to say whether there would be any changes to the department, stressing that it was already “exceptional” to give such comments after a security committee meeting.
The meeting was called on Monday in view of the admission by Dr Mallia that he and his chief of staff had attended and participated in the interviews of people who were transferred to the service.
This behaviour by the minister was unacceptable, dangerous and undermined the rule of law and the confidence which the people should have in the Service, Dr Busuttil had said on Monday.
It is not clear how the issue was “addressed” during yesterday’s meeting, which also discussed the alleged transfers taking place since the change in Government.
Asked about the latest international scandal on methods used by the US for national security, both leaders said they supported the EU’s call for assurances from the American authorities regarding tapping of EU institutions.
The meeting yesterday – which also involved Security Service chief Michael Cassar and Foreign Minister George Vella – follows days of criticism by the Nationalist Party about Dr Mallia’s running of the home affairs sector.
Nationalist MP Jason Azzo-pardi, who shadows the sector, on Monday told Parliament that Dr Mallia had undermined the Security Service with the transfer of 11 members who were replaced by inexperienced people.
Dr Azzopardi said that these transfers put the service in a very difficult position to execute its delicate and sensitive mission and claimed that the head of the security service had not asked for these transfers.
A police superintendent who enjoyed foreign respect for his duties was among the people transferred. They included all the MSS members who had been detailed to assist former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.
Dr Azzopardi said Dr Mallia had admitted being present for personnel interviews in the Security Service. On the contrary, Nationalist ministers had never attended interviews or recommended people for such tasks.
He said that transfers in the police force had this week increased to 251 from the 197 last week and claimed that these were vindictive transfers as no person involved had asked for deployment.
He also accused PBS of failing in its duty to mention the controversy surrounding the issue of police personnel serving as waiters during a dinner for European broadcasters.
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