More than 100 left-wing and socialist activists have written to the prime minister and his cabinet, urging them to not even consider, let alone enter, into any agreement that gives foreign soldiers special status in Malta.
The signatories include former president Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, former prime ministers Alfred Sant and Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, the daughters of former prime minister Dom Mintoff - Ann McKenna and Yana Mintoff, the former chair of the Malta Drydocks Sammy Meilaq, and other people from the academic field, the clergy and civil society.
Last month Times of Malta reported that the cabinet had agreed to back a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in the hope of securing the US' support to help avoid Malta being put on the international money-laundering list.
The deal has been high on the US embassy’s wish list for years but always faced local resistance, primarily due to concerns about how it would impact Malta’s constitutional neutrality.
It later transpired that the controversial deal had been shelved after US defence secretary Mark Esper rejected the watered-down proposal Malta's cabinet had agreed to.
Letter warns against SOFA deal
In the letter addressed to cabinet, the signatories called on the government to actively pursue peace, security and social progress among all nations, while refusing to participate in any military ventures.
A SOFA with any foreign government would undermine the sovereignty, jurisprudence and neutrality of Malta's government, contravening the spirit and letter of the Constitution, they said.
"Any such agreement is likely to create a de facto two-tiered legal system which
discriminates between members of the US armed forces and Maltese residents," they added.
"Countless incidents involving US military and locals, from places as diverse as South Korea, Italy and even the UK, indicate that such a two-tiered legal arrangement is detrimental to the interests of the locals."
The signatories said recent history has shown that military interventions in the Mediterranean region and beyond have been detrimental to peace, security and well-being and were catalysts for war crimes.
They warned that any such agreement could turn Malta into an outpost for US armed forces to project military force into neighbouring countries.
"In doing so, we would likely make enemies of our neighbours with serious repercussions to the lives, health, livelihoods and safety of our citizens. A strong military presence would deter tourism and foreign investment, which
have been the main propeller of our economy."
Malta should retain the best relations possible with all nations, they say, adding that the island's neutrality was "sacrosanct and the key" to its security.
They called on the Labour government to honour the word and spirit of the Constitution, and urged the Cabinet to "publicly agree to comply with this request".
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