Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said today that the opposition wants to cooperate and have an open dialogue with the government about security, but that cannot happen if the government continued to be aggressive whenever it is criticised.

Speaking in a recorded Radio 101 interview (since he is currently on party business in Canada), Dr Busuttil said that security is paramount. During the EU-African summit and CHOGM, the government was right to re-establish border controls.

But the government was wrong to grant 7,000 visas in 18 months for applicants from Algeria. That was extraordinary and no one knew what had become of these people. There were also other highly questionable matters, such as the high number of applications as soon as the consulate opened, the way people were selected to man the consulate and how a website even claimed visas could be bought.

Just as worrying was how 14,000 residence permits were issued last year for non-EU nationals. What had become of these people? People had even been taken to court accused of bribery.

These episodes were a threat to security. They involved non-EU nationals, and yet the government was stopping Schengen arrangements for EU nationals even after CHOGM closed. What sense did this make?

And then the Opposition which pointed this out was insulted and called names. 

ALTERNATIVE GOVERNMENT

Dr Busuttil said the launching of the PN document on the economy last week was an example of how the PN had changed gear and was now showing itself to be not just a constructive opposition, but an alternative government.

The PN needed to gain the people's respect by presenting fresh ideas. It would therefore make public its ideas, in contrast to what Joseph Muscat had done when in opposition. In two years, the Opposition had already presented more ideas than Labour did in 25 years of opposition. 

Dr Busuttil said the PN wanted to see an economy at the service of the people, not the other way around. The PN wanted fair distribution of wealth. It wanted an economy which included everyone in a modern, digital economy, and it also wanted Gozo to be part and parcel of the economy, not an addition to it. 

The reactions to the document were very positive Dr Busuttil said, and the PN would continue to receive suggestions and ideas. 

The basic concept, he stressed, was that the people would know what the PN stood for and what they could expect from a PN government.

AGGRESSION IN PARLIAMENT

Turning to goings-on in Parliament, Dr Busuttil said he was very disappointed by the aggressive behaviour of the government in parliament over the past two years. But the aggression against Marlene Farrugia had further harmed matters. 

The people could now realise that what the Opposition had been saying about the government was true. That the aggressive behaviour came from the oldest, most experienced Labour MP, Joe Debono Grech, set a bad example and undermined the dignity of the House. 

The subsequent Speaker's ruling was an insult to injury, having treated Dr Farrugia and Joe Debono Grech in the same way. The victim was put at the same level as the aggressor. 

The debate on Wednesday on an opposition motion about the ruling, confirmed how the opposition was right, with Mr Debono Grech having issued a letter of apology, thus assuming responsibility. Clearly, Dr Busuttil said, the Speaker's ruling was 'one to be forgotten'.

The bottom line from this issue was that when one tried to criticise the government, the government tried to blow him/her off the earth, Dr Busuttil said. 

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