A black Hungarian student, who was trying to instil some order in a chaotic queue at the Valletta terminus as some 200 people waited to top up their Tallinja card, was spat on and slapped as a policeman allegedly looked on.

Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela has instructed the Police Commissioner to start an internal investigation into the incident.

Daboma Jack, a chemical engineer studying for a Masters degree in Malta, was accosted by a Maltese woman who spat at him, slapped him and screamed at him to “go back to your country”, according to Mr Jack and witnesses at the scene.

After being spat on three times, Mr Jack immediately reported the racist incident to the policeman, who however, failed to react, he said.

Unfazed, the woman again approached Mr Jack and slapped him in the face. At this point Mr Jack started shouting at the police to take action as this was a racist attack.

Three RIU officers arrived on the scene, wrestled an angry Mr Jack to the ground and handcuffed him. He initially resisted them, shouting they should be chasing the woman, not arresting him. But in the ensuing chaos, the woman escaped.

All this happened against a backdrop of clamour and confusion as the debut of the Tallinja card buses flopped. Buses failed to keep their schedule as malfunctioning cards and machines caused delays on every trip and people queued for hours on end to register for a card. Some fainted in the heat.

Four years to the day yesterday, the Valletta terminus witnessed similar scenes when the previous Arriva bus service was rolled out.

The service is now provided by Malta Public Transport, a company owned by Autobuses de Leon of Spain.