A total of 885 promotions were given by the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) during the 33-day-long electoral campaign, with more than half of the soldiers getting a salary increase.
The exercise, which, according to Michael Farrugia, appointed Home Affairs Minister after the election, involved three different phases, continued unabated throughout the election campaign, with a list of new promotions published in the Government Gazette on June 2 – the official day of silence on the eve of the election.
AFM officials told this newspaper the number of promotions given before an election was unprecedented in the army’s history and expected to raise its wage bill substantially.
The majority of promotions involved backdated appointments, some of them going back more than 20 years, to 1996. The soldiers will receive arrears for an alleged “injustice” suffered when they were not given a promotion on time.
“This has never happened in the history of the AFM since its establishment in 1973. Although some of the promotions were somehow justified, most of them were connected to political appeasement on election eve following years of pressure by personnel who felt aggrieved by previous promotion exercises,” the sources said.
Details of the promotion exercise were given recently in Parliament by Dr Farrugia following a parliamentary question from Nationalist Party deputy leader Mario De Marco.
Providing a list of the 885 promotions issued by the AFM between May 1, the start of the election campaign and June 2, Dr Farrugia said the promotions incorporated three different exercises.
Apart from the ‘normal’ annual promotion exercise, which involved personnel given new ranks as from the beginning of the year, the majority concerned soldiers who had turned to a newly formed ‘injustices board’ appointed by the government to address grievances occurring before Labour’s return to power in 2013.
The latter exercise involved hundreds of promotions, most of them backdated to the year that the alleged injustice took place.
In most cases, the backdated promotions go back more than a decade.
The injustices board was made up of former AFM commander Brigadier Maurice Calleja, who had to resign from the army when his son, Meinrad, was caught for his involvement in the importation of drugs, retired commanding officer Rafael Farrugia and a representative of the ministry.
“It is incredible that in the case of Mr Farrugia, who was the commanding officer responsible for promotions in the First Regiment until his retirement, he agreed to give promotions to some soldiers backdated to the time when he was responsible for the same promotion exercise when the alleged injustice took place,” a senior army official told this newspaper.
He added that following this recent exercise, many soldiers among those who were not promoted now felt that an injustice had been done.
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