Updated 7.30pm, adds Bernard Grech's address
The Vitals-Steward deal struck down in a court judgment a few days ago translated into €20,000 stolen from each person who attended the PN protest in Valletta on Sunday, former party leader Adrian Delia told the large crowd that packed into Republic Street.
And that money has to be paid back, Delia said.
Speaking just after Delia, Opposition leader Bernard Grech called on the Prime Minister to file a lawsuit against Vitals-Stewards for this money to be returned to the Maltese and Gozitans.
"File this case as soon as possible, because until you do, we will keep returning to the streets to be the voice for the people because we want a better Malta,” Grech said.
Sunday's was the second protest in a week after thousands gathered outside Parliament on Monday following an urgent Parliament debate on the court judgment striking down the deal, which had handed three state hospitals to Vitals/Steward.
The protest was called by the Nationalist Party.
Carrying Malta flags, many gathered outside Castille Palace, before marching on to Republic Street.
Leading the protesters was Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech, alongside Delia, who had filed the court case, and UĦM secretary Josef Vella.
They walked in front holding a banner reading Int Jixraqlek Aħjar (You deserve better).
In its judgement, the court annulled the "fraudulent" privatisation deal for the running of three hospitals and concluded that Gozo General Hospital, St Luke's Hospital and Karin Grech Hospital should be returned to the state, because contractually agreed upon targets were never met.
Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale delivered the judgment after 44 hearings in the case filed by Delia, the former PN leader.
Theft of €4,000 million from taxpayers stopped - Delia
“Malta has won. But what did we win? We won back the three hospitals which were taken away from the Maltese and Gozitans," Delia said in a passionate address.
Delia said the country won because it stopped the theft of €4,000 million from taxpayers.
“That’s €20,000 from you, €20,000 from you, and another €20,000 from you, all the way at the back,” Delia said, pointing to groups of people at the far end of the protest as he spoke.
“Then they go and give you cheques and speak of bonuses. We are here today to say one thing, ‘give us our money back.”
Delia called out Prime Minister Robert Abela, Health Minister Chris Feanre, Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg and other key players in the Vitals-Stewards deal.
“Each and everyone one of them went to court to say they carry no responsibility, but the court has called them out for being corrupt,” he said.
He noted that, earlier in the day, Abela had promised to build a new hospital in Gozo.
“This promise comes after Stewards-Vitals had promised they would build a new one.
"And while they are paid thousands, one of our hospitals is left in complete abandonment, the same hospital that they promised to fix,” he said.
He also appealed to those present not to “insult” PL voters as he said there are “thousands of Labourites” who feel angry, deceived and betrayed”.
“This was the greatest ever betrayal of the people,” Delia added.
He called for the people to come together with “one voice” and speak out for justice, truth and righteousness.
“When the Maltese are robbed, we stand together and say Malta deserves better,” he said to applause.
Speaking after Delia, Grech said the government did not have the guts to file a court case because it knew the truth.
It continued to seize control of institutions that should protect the public.
“Where is the Police Commissioner? And the standards Commissioner? Why are they not taking action against those who are corrupt and protect the people,” Grech asked.
The PN, Grech said, will continue to put the interest of the people first. The crowd present showed that many will no longer accept Robert Abela getting away with doing what he wants, he continued.
Opposition to table motion for public inquiry into death of Jean Paul Sofia
Shifting topic, Grech said the government had also ignored calls for a public inquiry into the death of Jean Paul Sofia, the 20-year-old who had been crushed to death in a collapse at a construction site on December 3.
So the PN would be tabling a motion in Parliament calling for a public inquiry on Monday, he said.
“A mother deserves to know the truth, to understand what went wrong. We also have to address problems once and for all.”
“We cannot continue to protect the cowboys of construction, we need to understand what happened. And I appeal to Robert Abela to do the right thing and ensure that all MPs vote in favour of the motion.”
Grech also spoke about Bernice Cassar, the mother-of-two murdered in October. He noted that an inquiry had shown that the state failed Bernice.
He also referred to a fresh case of domestic violence saying that, according to the summons, the court case will only be heard in October 2024.
“You (the government) have abandoned everyone but your criminals,” Grech charged.
He concluded his speech calling for the public to continue fighting for justice and against corruption and to remain vigiliant.
“We need to stand up and be counted,” he said.