Their actions sullied the AFM’s reputation – Brigadier Curmi

Interviewed on Andrew Azzopardi on 103, the commander of the AFM opens up on key issues

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Recommendations made by the internal inquiry following the murder of Lassana Cissé are being implemented slowly with the help of external experts. This was declared by Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi, commander of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) on 103 Malta’s Heart.

Curmi was participating on Andrew Azzopardi on 103, on Saturday 12 December. “It was the darkest day in all my time in the military” said the Brigadier about the alleged involvement of two soldiers in the racial murder of Cisse. Their actions, he said, sullied the AFM’s reputation and hurt the other soldiers that carry out their duties meticulously and with dedication.

Azzopardi countered that reports say that the internal inquiry did not find leads towards racist cells within the army, however, the report was not made public. Curmi replied that the reason for withholding the report was that it contained ethical and sensitive matters.

The AFM has already carried out the recommendations that could be carried out internally and, added Curmi, where advice was needed, it was requested from experts, including that of the University of Malta

While not everything is rosy in the AFM, said Curmi, he refuted the possibility of the existence of serious issues within the armed forces.

Psychological support is available for soldiers

Curmi said that based on the inquiry recommendations psychometric tests for new recruits was introduced. In the past, he added, these type of tests were carried out only on soldiers applying for Officer ranks.

Azzopardi recalled that the soldiers routinely face very stressful situations including death, frequently in dire circumstances. He asked if psychological support would be made mandatory to avoid stigma.

Curmi said that AFM is already offering psychological support on basis of confidentiality to soldiers that require it, and other initiatives such as meetings with professionals. He acknowledged that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, was par for the course in these circumstances and that the Richmond Foundation was a great help.

The Brigadier recalled how, as an explosives expert, he encountered various gruesome bombing scenes. These situations may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Brigadier said that support from the Army and camaraderie amongst colleagues helps to deal with the situation.

On firing Godwin Schembri

The controversial dismissal of Private Godwin Schembri was also mentioned during the show. Schembri was fired after he was filmed making a joke about an ineffective gate at Pembroke barracks. The video went viral on social media. Godwin Schembri since then he made a series of allegations on the AFM leadership.

When questioned on the case, Curmi said that he cannot reply to Schembri’s accusations for ethical reasons and legal reasons since the case is pending in court.

Still the Brigadier made oblique references to stories published by the Labour Party media back in 2019, in which it was alleged that Godwin Schembri was fired for serious breaches to the military code. 

Curmi declared that decisions are taken by him and he is responsible for the decisions taken. The AFM chief affirmed that he took the decision with “a clear conscience” while reminding that within disciplined corps discipline is required.