Hunters want political parties to pledge legal reforms to help protect them from facing future referenda, according to the head of the 15,000-member lobby.
The president of the hunters’ federation – FKNK – Joe Perici Calascione, told the Times of Malta he had already met the Nationalist Party to discuss its stand on their referendum law request and would be meeting Labour Party officials later this week.
“The word 'referendum' means danger to us. We want to see the Referenda Act amended so that groups such as hunters can’t be targeted as easily as they already have been,” he said.
A referendum was held in 2015 to decide whether or not spring hunting should be outlawed. The public voted narrowly in favour of retaining the practice.
Asked if the lobby group would be endorsing the party that accepted its call for a referendum reform, Mr Perici Calascione was coy, saying: “We won’t be telling people who to vote for but we will be informing our members of the position adopted by the parties and which party is on board with our proposals.”
The word 'referendum' means danger to us
Mr Perici Calascione said there were a number of other issues on the hunters’ wish list, including a pledge to help negotiate some form of trapping alternative with the European Commission.
The practice of trapping song birds is currently before the European Court of Justice with Brussels hoping to see it outlawed in Malta once and for all.
“We want a future government to help us negotiate with the EU,” Mr Perici Calascione said.
Both political leaders have publicly courted hunters in recent days assuring them that their contentious hobby was safe with them.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Monday penalties for offences by hunters, raised tenfold by his administration, had been “too draconian” and needed a downward revision.
Mr Perici Calascione described the comments as “vital” for Dr Muscat’s chances of securing the hunting vote after having been “too harsh” on them over the past four years.
“Believe me, it isn’t just a few hunters who are saying they will not vote Labour because of the way they have been treated by this government. It was very important that [Dr Muscat] spoke out and said he would address the issue,” Mr Perici Calascione said.
Meanwhile, speaking in Siġġiewi, Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil told hunters on Sunday he considered the spring hunting matter “case closed” after the public voted in 2015.
He said hunters had approached him in recent days after hearing rumours, allegedly spread by Labour, that the PN would call another referendum on hunting.
“All you have to do is ask yourselves which government had called a referendum on hunting. It was Joseph Muscat’s,” Dr Busuttil said.
Mr Perici Calascione said he was concerned about reports that Dr Busuttil had told hunters he was in favour of spring hunting but informing conservationists otherwise.
"If this is true, then it is not right," he pointed out.
Dr Busuttil insisted yesterday that the report was unfounded and were being spread by someone who had a personal issue against him.
Commenting on both leaders’ remarks with regard to hunters in recent days, Mr Perici Calascione said he had hoped the practice would not be dragged into the election.
“There are bigger issues the country should be deciding on here. I was hoping for a ‘hunting-free election’ but, maybe, that was too much to ask for,” he said.
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