The army promotion rush that started in the aftermath of the snap election announcement has reached new heights with a further 136 backdated appointments, some as far back as 1996.
Sources said the latest wave of promotions was awarded on the recommendation of an army grievances board set up at the start of this legislature. They added that, following the 403 promotions awarded three weeks ago, this is being considered as the greatest army shake-up in decades from which Labour-leaning personnel benefitted most.
Officers who spoke with this newspaper on condition of anonymity expressed deep concern that the Armed Forces of Malta’s hierarchy had been significantly distorted and would take years to readjust.
“Going up the ranks is no longer based on merit but an exercise whereby army members are awarded better salary and working conditions.
“Consequently, personnel with limited abilities are now in sensitive posts,” they said.
Questions sent on Thursday to the Home Affairs Ministry about the promotions remained unanswered.
According to an AFM promotion order dated May 24, a total of 136 promotions were made on the recommendation of a complaints board.
Set up by the Labour government four years ago, the board’s remit was initially limited to looking into cases of alleged injustices under the previous legislature, between 2008 and 2013.
However, a closer inspection of the list of promotions reveals cases dating back to March 1996. About half cover the period between 2001 and 2010 while the rest from 1996 to 2000 or beyond 2011.
All subsequent promotions made following the one about which the complaint had been lodged were also backdated, thus making the individuals eligible for further openings that might arise in the future.
The methodology adopted by the complaints board has again been questioned. In 2014, Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi had raised the issue in Parliament amid accusations that this body was nothing more than a fast-track vehicle to award promotions and bypass established channels.
He had wanted the Ombudsman to probe the methodology adopted by the board but it was rejected following a vote in the House Business Committee.
Army sources yesterday pointed out that the latest promotions had only served to reinforce such doubts.
“The commission is renowned for its expediency for the simple reason that investigations are no so thorough due to the lack of available resources. In most cases, complaints are being upheld prompting aggrieved soldiers to ditch proper institutions in favour of this board,” they added.
They noted that even though the election was only a week away, there could be further promotions in the pipeline for the simple fact that those who have missed out were increasingly becoming more vociferous in their criticism of the government.
“In fact, aggrieved soldiers are being summoned by the Brigadier himself in an attempt to address their complaints,” the sources said.