Warm greeting for Libyan PM

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat welcomed his Libyan counterpart Fayez al-Serraj to talks on migration and bilateral relations at Castille on Wednesday. Dr Muscat said the level of commitment from the Libyans to tackle migration had grown over the past year.

What made the headlines

Migrants in Malta after 19 days at sea: A group of 49 migrants, most of whom were left out at sea for 19 days, were brought to Malta from where they will be redistributed among eight European countries, namely Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said a majority of a separate group of 249 migrants brought to Malta in December will also be taken to other EU countries. A group of 44 Bangladeshi migrants who were among these 249 will be repatriated. Dr Muscat said that out of the total 298 migrants, Malta will be hosting 74.

Corinthia Group chairman Alfred PisaniCorinthia Group chairman Alfred Pisani

PN to ‘block’ Corinthia deal in Parliament: The Nationalist Party said it would vote against a deal allowing the Corinthia Group to develop public land in St George’s Bay, originally meant for tourism purposes only, into residential and commercial real estate. Corinthia Group chairman, Alfred Pisani, gave a presentation about the project to the PN parliamentary group but, according to party sources, he failed to convince the Nationalist MPs.

Delia under pressure: Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia held talks with the heads of two high-ranking party organs over his future, amid growing pressure to resign over serious allegations against him, the Times of Malta reported. Dr Delia met Mark Anthony Sammut, president of the executive committee and MP David Stellini, who heads the administrative council, which deals with issues of a disciplinary nature. Mr Sammut remarked that he and Mr Stellini had shared their views “on what we believe should be done”. Meanwhile the Times of Malta also reported that local PN committees and members of the PN’s general council are being pressured by senior party officials close to the leadership to publicly declare, in writing, their loyalty to Dr Delia. However, it was reported online that the PN Sliema sectional committee on Friday rejected a confidence motion in favour of Dr Delia by 10 votes to three. Meanwhile Dr Delia has not yet called a meeting of his parliamentary group to discuss the PN’s situation. Dr Delia had other problems: Earlier in the week the Times of Malta reported that a leaked e-mail showed that, apart from an €81,000 tax bill he reportedly settled last year, Dr Delia still owed the exchequer €64,000.

Judge rules against Panama Papers probe: A magistrate’s decision to launch an inquiry into Panama Papers revelations was revoked by an Appeals Court which ruled that Simon Busuttil had not presented enough evidence to substantiate his allegations of wrongdoing. Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti said the former Nationalist Party leader had listed a series of allegations and attributed ulterior motives “without indicating in detail the facts which constitute crimes” and which, in the absence of further evidence, “qualify as speculation”. The case had kicked off in the weeks following the 2017 general election, with Magistrate Ian Farrugia deciding there were sufficient grounds to investigate possible money laundering by government officials and others, stemming from revelations laid bare by the Panama Papers. That decision was appealed by seven key individuals, among them the Prime Minister, Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri. Dr Busuttil, who had filed the intial request for an inquiry, subsequently objected to the appeal being assigned to Judge Antonio Mizzi, who is married to Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi. That recusal request was turned down by the courts just weeks before Judge Mizzi was due to retire. The case was subsequently assigned to Mr Justice Grixti.

Almost all teachers experience aggression at school: Nearly nine out of every 10 teachers who took part in a Malta Union of Teachers’ survey said they experienced aggression at their school over the past two years. Twenty three per cent claimed they experienced aggressive behaviour daily, while another 23 per cent said they did so every week. Three-quarters of those who experienced such behaviour said the perpetrators were students.

Fuel stations ‘will stop operating’: Fuel stations will stop operating unless an agreement is reached over an increase in their margin of profitability, the Chamber for Small Businesses (GRTU) warned. Discussions between the GRTU and the government have been dragging on since 2014, and operators are expected to refurbish fuel stations by next year – an expense that could reach half a million euros.

Decade in jail for man who raped his cousin: A young man began sexually abusing his cousin when she was just seven years old and raped her when she was 10, a court ruled. The man, who is now 25, sat stunned and expressionless as Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera expressed disgust at his “barbaric and animal-like” behaviour and sentenced him to a 10 years behind bars. 

What trended

‘Always a mess left behind’

By the time you read this, Marsaxlokk residents will have decided whether or not they want the town’s seaside market to close by 3pm.

The impromptu referendum prompted anger among hawkers, who told the Times of Malta that early closures would put their livelihoods at risk.

Readers did not seem overly impressed by that line of argument, though.

“The only reason tourists start arriving at around mid-day is because tour operators know that the market is open till sunset,” argued Ray. “Residents and the public have the right to enjoy the place without any ‘objects’ hanging in front of their faces”. 

Marius was delighted by the council initiative, noting “there is always a mess left behind and the smell of stinking fish is always unbearable”.  

His relief was shared by James, who insisted that it was about time the monti sellers stopped getting a free pass.

“Why should the local council be saddled with the filth from those making money and leaving a mess behind?” he fumed.

Not that all readers had a great deal of sympathy for the local council’s position, with many suspecting its sudden zeal for having a cleared-out promenade by the late afternoon was not entirely altruistic.

“The only reason why the local council wants the hawkers to close at 3pm is to clear the promenade for the restaurant owners to set the tables,” sniffed Charlene.

“Just like they did in Valletta,” sighed Mario.

Dismay over bank charge

HSBC came in for a tongue-lashing by readers when we reported that it would be charging corporate clients, including sports clubs and other civil organisations, upwards of €300 a year for the privilege of banking with it.

The news was met with dismay by many readers.

“We are lucky to end the year with a profit margin of a couple of hundred euros at most,” wrote a member of a local scout group.

“This move has left us with no choice but to move our accounts elsewhere.”

That might be a short-term solution though – at least if other readers, who said they now expected other retail banks to follow suit, are to be believed.

DM, though, reckoned that it made perfect sense to charge a fee for a well-run service.

“The Satabank experience  shows that solid, well-run banks should be appreciated rather than constantly criticised,” he wrote.

What they said

“We do not want to stay here in storms anymore, please. It makes us sick, all of us – 32 people – in one room on a boat, like animals. We are not happy, this is not fair. There are women and children and everybody is scared. We just want to be safe.”

Diamond, a Nigerian asylum seeker aboard the Sea-Watch 3, making a plea to be allowed into Malta.

“One cannot simply turn a blind eye to such allegations. What is going on? What is the way forward? These are the questions I am being asked right now during house visits.”

Nationalist MEP candidate Michael Briguglio speaking to the Times of Malta about the allegations levelled against PN leader Adrian Delia.

“I am saying that every case is being investigated. In some cases, you cannot go in front of the public, comment, say what you have in hand and prejudice the case. The police work in silence.”

Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar replying to a question on whether the 17 Black case was being actively investigated.

“How can we, as European nations of goodwill, have allowed the mental, physical, and emotional distress of innocent individuals, to take place, over such a long period of time?”

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, addressing heads of diplomatic missions to Malta, lamenting that the stand-off relating to migrants on two NGO vessels at sea had dragged on for too long.

“Unbelievable. This cannot be right. Where can we go for justice to be served in Malta?”

Former Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil reacting to the news that an Appeals Court had revoked a magistrate’s decision to launch an inquiry into the Panama Papers revelations”

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