A stern warning against “political speeches” made during a Local Councils Association meeting should not be interpreted as an attempt to gag freedom of expression, according to its president.

Mario Fava was commenting when the Times of Malta sought his reaction to a statement issued by the Nationalist Party’s College of Councillors. It said statements similar to those made by Mr Fava, a Labour councillor in Fgura, were tantamount to political censorship.

The controversy erupted following remarks made last Saturday when addressing the association’s plenary meeting.

Reacting to comments made by Opposition spokesman Robert Cutajar, who had criticised the central government on various fronts, Mr Fava insisted the forum was no place to raise such points. Noting he had no problem with politicians taking part in the debate, he insisted the event was ultimately a meeting for mayors and their deputies.

“I will not tolerate political speeches like those made today,” he remarked at the very end of this speech.

Forum was no place to raise such points

In his address, Mr Cutajar expressed concern on the government’s new mechanism to allocate funding to regional committees, saying this would result in a smaller budget. He also criticised the lack of consultation over the distribution of organic waste containers to households.

Moreover, the PN spokesman expressed his disappointment that proposals made by the Opposition on the local government reform had not been taken on board.

Mr Fava denied he wanted to censor anybody, saying he never used such term in the first place. He would not be issuing a counter statement not to escalate what he described as the serene atmosphere between both parties at local government level.

“When Mr Cutajar could not be present for meetings due to commitments abroad, I had requested him to record an address on video to be able to deliver his message. Far from trying to censor him, I did my best to accommodate him,” Mr Fava said.

He added that his remark was also addressed to Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Parnis and was done with good intentions.

Mr Cutajar told this newspaper it was quite ironic that his criticism, which was supposedly out of place in the plenary meeting, was subsequently reiterated by Mr Fava in a statement on Wednesday. Mr Fava lashed out at State waste management company Wasteserv, accusing it of lack of consultation and inadequate planning over the distribution of organic waste containers.