Here’s What Went On During The Awkward Meeting Between Prime Minister And Protestors

'You are using your popularity to control all institutions...like what is happening in Hungary and Turkey'

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A group of women activists from the OccupyJustice Movement met up with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in Castille this morning, four weeks since the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

Muscat was accompanied to the meeting by justice minister Owen Bonnici, parliamentary secretary for reforms Julia Farrugia, and EU affairs minister Helena Dalli. 

However, the long-awaited meeting turned out to be a very short one - with the activists refusing to engage in discussion with Muscat after reading out to him a statement which decried the state of Malta’s democracy. 

After reiterating their demands for the resignations of police commissioner Laurence Cutajar and Attorney General Peter Grech, the activists took aim at Joseph Muscat himself. 

“We have watched you exploit your position by appointing your sympathisers to most of the key positions within all the institutions that are meant to provide the checks and balances that are so fundamental to a democracy,” they said. “On a daily basis, you are using your popularity to control all institutions. This is not democratic but autocratic. It is what is happening in countries such as Hungary and Turkey.”

“This is what your legacy will be. That you have exerted absolute control with no check nor balances on your Government. You have run roughshod over anyone who is not a direct supporter of your party and your people have targeted anyone who dared criticise. In fact you have turned on the full power of your media machine – which incidentally now also includes the Public Broadcasting Services – onto these people.”

They accused the Labour Party’s media station One News of demonising and dehumanising Caruana Galizia during her lifetime to such an extent that some people had rejoiced at her assassination. 

“Everyone who demonised her has blood on their hands today,” they said. “This is not about political creed. Every decent human being should be horrified at what has happened. No “ifs” or “buts”. To justify it or provide excuses for it is to be part of the problem. Daphne Caruana Galizia symbolised the fourth pillar of our democracy. With her gone, that fourth pillar is weak and the rest will crumble.”

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Some 200 women gathered outside Castille to protest

“Everyone who demonised her has blood on their hands today,” they said. “This is not about political creed. Every decent human being should be horrified at what has happened. No “ifs” or “buts”. To justify it or provide excuses for it is to be part of the problem. Daphne Caruana Galizia symbolised the fourth pillar of our democracy. With her gone, that fourth pillar is weak and the rest will crumble.”

“We can no longer boast that Malta is a safe country. That Malta is a good place to bring up our children. And this has happened under your watch. Prime Minister, you are ultimately responsible.”

Muscat kept his cool, telling the activists the police commissioner could only resign if the majority wanted him too and that there is no grounds to impeach the Attorney General in Parliament. 

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The protestors are demanding justice for slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia 

“I don’t agree with many things your movement is saying but I respect your right to say them anyway,” he said, adding he was determined to see Caruana Galizia’s murderer brought to justice, despite the journalist having been his harshest critic.

After the opening statements were read out and the media was kicked out of the meeting, Muscat offered to continue discussions. However, the activists told him they had nothing else to add to their statement and walked out of Castille, where some 200 women had gathered to protest.

Muscat’s communications chief Kurt Farrugia questioned why the activists refused to continue discussions with the Prime Minister. 

“An "autocratic" Prime Minister who invites protesters to discuss the issues they are protesting about in his own office in the presence of three ministers, but OccupyJustice had nothing more to add to a pre-written statement,” he said. “The government is open for discussions.”

Similarly, Julia Farrugia Portelli tweeted that discussion is essential in a democratic society 

“We're open for discussion on any topic. So why did #OccupyJustice activists not endorse this principle and walked out shortly after the cameras stopped rolling?When asked specifically to continue discussing they bluntly refused.”

Sociologist and PN councillor Michael Briguglio dismissed Kurt Farrugia’s statement as “typical arrogance from the government’s spin doctor”.

Were the activists right to refuse a discussion with Joseph Muscat? Tell us what you think in the comments' section

READ NEXT: Maltese Women Explain Why They Are Camping in Castille Square This Weekend

Written By

Tim Diacono

Tim Diacono tends to clam up when asked to describe himself.

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