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Lost migrants remembered
Archbishop Charles Scicluna on Wednesday was among those who paid tribute to the 850 people who died in an attempt to reach Italy from Libya in 2015. A long-awaited memorial plaque was laid down at the Addolorata Cemetery, where 24 dead migrants were buried in April of that year. Despite an extensive rescue operation, only 28 people survived. Twenty-four corpses were brought to Malta and the remaining 800 drowned when their boat capsized off the Libyan coast.
What made the headlines
Court refuses Delia’s Egrant inquiry demand: A court dismissed Opposition leader Adrian Delia’s claim that a refusal to grant him access to the findings of the Egrant inquiry breached his human rights. Dr Delia had argued before the court that the Attorney General’s refusal to grant him a copy of the full inquiry was discriminatory, seeing that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Labour Party officials had been given access to the same inquiry. However, Mr Justice Robert Mangion dismissed Dr Delia’s argument saying the situation would have been different had both the Prime Minister and Opposition leader been subjects of the inquiry, and only Dr Muscat had been granted a full copy of its findings. Dr Delia vowed to appeal the decision. He said the judgement confirmed that the Opposition had a role to play as a public watchdog, “contrary to the Attorney General’s argument that this was solely journalists’ role”.
Fourth Gozo ferry on its way: Gozo Channel is expected to start operating with four vessels in a few weeks’ time, as the company concluded a deal to lease an old ro-ro vessel to join its three current ships making the crossing between the two islands. Maritime industry sources told the Times of Malta that the deal was given the greenlight by Prime Minster Joseph Muscat and the Labour Party was planning to make an official announcement during a partisan activity in Gozo just a few days before the end of the European Parliament and local councils’ electoral campaign.
Lifeline captain fined €10,000: Claus-Peter Reisch, the captain of the rescue vessel MV Lifeline was fined €10,000 after a court found that the vessel had not been properly registered when it entered Maltese waters after rescuing 200 migrants at sea last June. The court turned down a request by the authorities for the MV Lifeline to be confiscated, on the basis that the vessel was not the property of the accused. A second charge, of using the vessel for commercial purposes without a licence was also rejected. The NGO Mission Lifeline confirmed it would be appealing, and condemned the judgement as a “disastrous verdict that ignored evidence presented”.
Slowdown at Freeport as major clients change port: The Freeport is experiencing a significant slowdown in business activity as one of its major clients – Mearsk – decided to move most of its operations from Malta to other ports in North Africa, the Times of Malta revealed. Industry sources said the Freeport’s management informed unions and other clients that the departure of Mearsk and another associated company, MSC, is expected to reduce business at Malta’s container terminal by some 35 per cent by the end of next month.
Activists demand VGH inquiry over ‘criminal conspiracy’: Three senior government ministers were accused by activists of being complicit in a criminal conspiracy to drain the public coffers as part of the controversial €1 billion Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) deal. In a 150-page application demanding an inquiry into the VGH deal, activists from Repubblika singled out Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Economy Minister Chris Cardona as key facilitators in the “coordinated” act of modern day “piracy”. In the application, signed by Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi, they question why the three ministers, who played differing roles in the deal, were so willing to give a “disproportionate” financial advantage to a company with no medical experience.
Valletta man accused of destroying Floriana arch: Extensive CCTV footage and mobile phone localisation placed Bjorn Grima, a 33-year-old taxi driver from Valletta, at the site of the fire that completely destroyed Floriana’s historic arch last month, a court heard. The 120-year-old arch was brought out from storage for the St Publius feast which Floriana was due to celebrate the following weekend. A father-of-two, Mr Grima was charged in court with arson, causing damage to four cars, destroying cultural heritage, defacing a public monument and being a relapser. He pleaded not guilty and was granted bail by Magistrate Audrey Demicoli.
Sliema-born priest to become bishop of city in New Mexico: Sliema-born Bishop Peter Baldacchino was appointed Bishop of Las Cruces, New Mexico, US, by Pope Francis. Mgr Baldacchino was ordained a priest in Newark, New Jersey, in 1996. He was named Auxiliary Bishop of Miami in 2014. The metropolitan area of Las Cruces has a population of 213,233 of whom a quarter are Catholics.
A workers’ government?
There was much reaction online to the news that a Rabat resident, Noel Ciantar, had filed a case before the Court of Appeal against a decision by the Planning Authority to grant its own minister, Ian Borg, a planning permit to transform a field adjacent to his rural residence into an outside recreational area including a swimming pool.
Mr Ciantar is challenging the tribunal’s decision on various grounds, particularly on the lack of a fair hearing, as the tribunal denied him the right to produce witnesses to corroborate his objections.
“The best of times for arrogance and abuse of power,” Pierre remarked.
To which Peter added: “A workers’ government. The Labour bigheads are all well off.”
“That’s why it is good to be a politician which is the best job on the island,” said S.
“Here is the wealth and power, not in people’s hands,” Victor stated.
Joseph said that such things were happening because “people are turning a blind eye”.
P decided to bring partisan politics into the debate and answered: “You will know who is closing a blind eye after the third and largest defeat for the Nationalist Party”, he said referring to the expected loss for the PN in the European elections.
H was having none of this and told P: “This is not the Champions League, this is about the politicians running our country. Now go back to school; it’s Thursday”.
Joseph was entirely pessimistic: “Malta has gone to the dogs! Shame on our politicians.” He added sarcastically: “As long as we have a surplus!”
Letting down pastizzi makers
Nationalist MEP candidate Peter Agius’s claim that the failure to register traditional foods like the ġbejna, mqaret and pastizzi as genuine Maltese products was placing local producers at a disadvantage with their European counterparts was met with a dose of online scepticism.
“My goodness, really?” J remarked.
“It’s obviously a Labour plan to get us all to eat socialist foods,” George said.
D asked for a sense of perspective: “Well said, Dr Agius. However, please get your priorities right – we’re facing far greater risks than losing pastizzi or ġbejniet, and I am not aware that you have addressed these – even slightly – yet.”
Jennifer, however, thought such a comment was unfair: “You need to follow him on Facebook, TV and radio. He speaks about tax harmonisation, Erasmus, business, trapping, the public sector and how we can make use of EU to benefit Malta and its people.”
Mark Anthony wasn’t impressed with the whole discussion: “How boring,” he simply said.
What they said
“We deal with crises more than we anticipate them.”
Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation, warning Malta not to take its protection from earthquakes and tsunamis for granted.
“Do not lose heart. Be convinced. I am convinced.”
Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia addressing party supporters in Mellieħa on the need to send the Labour government a clear message at next week’s European Parliament and local councils elections.
“We cannot wave a magic wand, but we do have a clear strategy.”
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici speaking during the launch of the government’s Cottonera strategy.
“Our ports are, and remain, closed to migrant rescue boats.”
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini sending a clear message in a tweet, as another migrant stand-off between Malta and Italy appeared to be shaping up.
“After May 25 there will be May 26.”
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, replying to a question about his political future, where he first said that he was only focusing on the May 25 elections.
“This will not go away.”
Archbishop Charles Scicluna speaking in an interview with The Washington Post about his work as the Vatican’s leading sex crimes investigator.
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