‘We should not give into populism’ says Delia, as PN official praises Salvini

REUTERS/Remo Casilli; Facebook / Justin Schembri

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Partit Nazzjonalista education spokesperson and minority leader on Birkirkara’s local council Justin Schembri has come under fire after he praised Italian Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini for ‘standing up to the European Union and his own Prime Minister on migration’ in a Facebook status on his personal profile on Friday.

Read: PN, NGOs relieved that standoff has ended

Various Partit Nazzjonalista officials have distanced themselves from the comments Schembri made on Friday afternoon by posting on Facebook. Among those who commented are MP Beppe Fenech Adami, former Birkirkara Mayor and local councillor Michael Fenech Adami, PN Executive Committee President Alex Perici Calascione, among others.

On Saturday morning, Schembri wrote a status to clarify his position, saying that his “personal opinion is an opinion shared among many Maltese irrespective of their political beliefs”.

Schembri shared a screenshot of a local newspaper where he commented that far-right leader Salvini ‘maybe dubbed as “racist” by some but he is likely a sensible person because he wants to stop trafficking’. He added that Salvini does not want his country to be an accomplice in “the wave of organised crime”.

Schembri said that in the past, Malta had great leaders who put their feet down to defend Malta according to their beliefs, adding that this is how it should be. He argued that today’s politicians have the obligation to defend what belongs to future generations however they are failing on this front because they are not listening to the “call of the majority” to stand up to these “organised illegalities”. According to Schembri, ‘nobody seems to have enough guts to put their feet down”.

MP Beppe Fenech Adami while not referencing directly Schembri, shared a photo of his father, former President Eddie Fenech Adami holding a child of African descent and captioned “These are the values I cherish. The values of my party. No matter what.”

These are the values I cherish. The values of my party. No matter what

Posted by Beppe Fenech Adami on Friday, August 23, 2019

Former Birkirkara Mayor Michael Fenech Adami shared Schembri’s comments accompanied with the hashtag ‘not in my name’.

#notinmyname

Posted by Michael Fenech Adami on Friday, August 23, 2019

PN’s Executive Committee President Alex Perici Calascione while not referencing Schembri, reminded that the party’s statute lists a number of values cherished by the PN, with the first value being that of human dignity. He added that any thought which weakens or endangers or ignores human dignity goes against the values upheld by the party.

He also quoted Partit Nazzjonalista leader Adrian Delia’s declaration which explicitly said that “Let’s lead by example, rise above populism, and put human lives first and foremost”.

L-Artiklu 2 ta’ l-iStatut tal-Partit Nazzjonalista jaghti lista tal-valuri li jhaddan il-Partit. Fuq nett, bhala l-ewwel…

Posted by Alex Perici Calascione on Saturday, August 24, 2019

Partit Nazzjonalista leader Adrian Delia had urged the government to take action and taken in the people rescued by two charity ships, Open Arms and Ocean Viking, while migrants were stranded at sea, after both Malta and Italy refused to grant them a safe harbor. On Facebook Delia had said that the political action to do the right thing is lacking, whilst reminding that vulnerable people remained stranded.

“We need to rise above populism where human lives are concerned and do the right thing,” the Nationalist leader had urged saying that people should be brought in while immediate action by EU member states should follow, so that migrants are redistributed accordingly.

Malta is a small country. Physically, we're one of the smallest nations in the world. We cannot, physically, assume the…

Posted by Adrian Delia on Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Read: We have a duty to save lives – Adrian Delia

The European Union still lacks a predictable disembarkation mechanism and standoffs between NGO operated vessels and border member states have become more frequent.

In a statement on Saturday, Partit Nazzjonalista expressed its relief after the 356 people from Ocean Viking were disembarked in Hay Wharf following a transfer to an Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) patrol boat, P61, before being brought in to Malta. Partit Nazzjonalista called for a collective solution for migration, saying that “human lives are priceless and people are not pawns in the hands of wrong political agendas”.

Schembri clarifies his initial statement

Schembri later deleted his initial post and wrote a new one to clarify. He said that at no point did he say that a person whose life is endangered should not be helped. Schembri added that his reference to Salvini shows his admiration for the Italian far-right politician who stands up to ‘illegal trafficking (sic.) of vulnerable people’. He added that this shows that Salvini has ‘Italy’s national interest at heart.’

He concluded that his personal opinion is in accordance with the PN’s values of defending the national interest and human dignity.

B’referenza għall-opinjoni tiegħi tal-bieraħ, nifhem li mhux kulħadd fehem jew ried jifhem dak li ktibt u għalhekk kien…

Posted by Justin Schembri on Saturday, August 24, 2019

Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly said that the Italian ports are closed off for civil search and rescue vessels. A stringent security law introduced by his government allows for any search and rescue vessels docking without authorisation to be fined up to €1m and their captains imprisoned.

Non-governmental organisations have become increasingly involved in search and rescue in the Mediterranean Sea in order to fill a gap in humanitarian protection. The relationship between NGO vessels carrying out rescue missions and the relevant coastal states such as Malta and Italy, has become increasingly uncertain.

Legal prescriptions which constitute the building blocks of the legal framework on search and rescue at sea can be found in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Article 98(1) obliges states to require that the master of every ship that flies their flag assist any person found at sea who is in danger. Article 98(2) obliges coastal states to organise search and rescue services and capacities. The International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR Convention) sets out more precise legal obligations.