Sunday, 31 July 2011

Times: Beyond divorce legislation
Sunday, July 31, 2011, by Fr Joe Borg

The Curia in Floriana. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Less than two months after the absolute majority of Maltese voting in the referendum said aye to divorce, Parliament passed the law through all its stages. This haste is commendable, as the country needs to move on from the discussion about divorce to the reality of divorce.

No one proposed divorce as an ideal. It was proposed as a remedy for people whose marriage had broken down. It is the duty of government, civil society and the Church to face this reality by taking all the necessary measures so that the number of those having to recourse to divorce will be the least possible. This means the country should strive to have the least number of broken marriages.

It is very natural that in the first few years there will be a considerable (possibly a great) number of people seeking divorce. The backlog of people in broken relationships is quite substantial.

If concrete and concerted actions are not taken in earnest then more families will be broken and divorces will keep on increasing. This is one type of increase no one hopes for.

So instead of wasting time discussing ways of undermining the institution of marriage through the liberal agenda that is now pushing for the legalisation of gay marriages (a contradiction in terms if there ever was one) we should take concrete steps to strengthen the real institution of marriage. (Gay couples can have their rights safeguarded without calling their relationship a marriage.) We do not need platitudes but concrete actions.

Another potential alienation could be the move to amend the Church- State agreement on marriage. I had criticised a particular aspect on more than one occasion and am not against revisiting it. But let us be conscious of the fact that such discussions with the Vatican will take time.

It is better to spend energy on the most important and urgent task ahead: taking concrete policies to strengthen families.

The ministry responsible for the family has a key role to play and should be the government’s core ministry. Its budget should reflect government’s commitment to help problem families and marriages in difficulty.

Prevention is better than cure. Why not offer marriage preparation courses for those who opt for a civil marriage?

Will more family friendly measures be taken to guarantee a better family/work balance?

Many marriages break down due to socio-economic pressures. Such breakdown could be lessened.

The Church has been doing a lot for a very long time to help Maltese families. Will it now respond to the new scenario with the needed alacrity and effectiveness?

Two months after the referendum the Church has not even managed to set up a commission to conduct a post-mortem of the result and many are still in denial mode.

We were abysmally absent in the Parliamentary debate on divorce. In a clear abdication of duty, no Church group contributed anything to make the draft better than it was.

There’s a serious perception prob­lem about the workings of the Ecclesiastical tribunals. Deborah Schembri’s suspension seems inane now.

The Church’s budget should now give priority to the family on the diocesan and parish levels. The Church should invest, for example, in the Cana Movement’s activities as much as in the valid work done in the Ecclesiastical tribunals.

Can the family clinic model adopted in Gozo be evaluated to see if it can also be adopted in Malta?

The pro-family agenda is long.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

MaltaToday: Video | Cyrus Engerer on Cyrusgate [Pt.1]

SUNDAY, JULY 31, 2011

In the first part of his interview Cyrus Engerer speaks with Saviour Balzan about the investigation he is facing, the media fallout stemming from the leak of his charges, and who knew of the allegations made against him.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on MaltaToday's website.]

Times: Muscat defends Cyrus Engerer: ‘Judge him on his track record’
Sunday, July 31, 2011 , by Christian Peregin

Labour leader Joseph Muscat has downplayed the criminal case being faced by Cyrus Engerer as a personal issue on which the Sliema deputy mayor should not be solely judged.

Dr Muscat defended Mr Engerer from the start even as the extent of his charges became clearer. Mr Engerer is accused of e-mailing pornographic photos of his ex-boyfriend to his employer to spite him, after their acrimonious break-up.

“People are judged not on single personal decisions, including highly emotional situations such as these, but on their track record,” he told The Sunday Times.

Asked whether he would react in the same way as the Prime Minister if one of his ministers faced similar charges, he reiterated his position that this was a private matter which had nothing to do with politics.

“We think some issues are strictly in the private realm. In the past few years there were at least two clear instances where prominent members of the government and the Nationalist Party were involved in issues which we deemed were of a purely personal nature.

“We responsibly decided this is a red line which should not be crossed in Maltese politics, even though in one case there was an admission to criminal charges.”

Dr Muscat said he was saddened by the fact that Mr Engerer’s ex-boyfriend Marvic Camilleri was “exposed nationally” when this issue looked like it would have been solved amicably within the context of a renewed friendship.

On Friday, Mr Camilleri told The Times he and his employers wanted justice, even though he was willing to forgive Mr Engerer for what he had done.

Meanwhile, Dr Muscat said “far too many coincidences” had occurred since Mr Engerer exercised his freedom of expression to join Labour. Days after Mr Engerer resigned from the PN, the police arrested his father for marijuana possession. A few days later, police acted upon Mr Camilleri’s case and filed the charges against Cyrus Engerer.

Dr Muscat likened this case to the sudden prosecution of former Alternattiva Demokratika chairman Harry Vassallo on minor VAT filing offences on the eve of the last election. “A coincidence for sure,” he said, sarcastically.

“What still remains to be cleared in this case is the casual manner in which the Prime Minister is tackling the fact that his chief of staff phoned the Police Commissioner to ask him to do something that, according to the latter, he could not do. It would seem this was not a unique instance. This has exposed the Prime Minister’s mantra that his government does not interfere in police work as mere lip service.

“We condemn the fact that the Prime Minister has so far shunned our request for public inquiries to shed light on the actions of his chief of staff and the recent coincidences.”

Dr Muscat declined to answer whether Mr Engerer will remain a prospective candidate for the Labour Party in the next election.

Mr Engerer, however, seems to be feeling secure in his new party, writing on Facebook: “It has been a tough week, but I felt an overwhelming wave of support, for which I sincerely thank you. I realised through the difficulties and words of encouragement that there still is a lot to accomplish. Success is ours when we work together in determination.”

He also spoke positively about the Labour Party’s summer barbecue, where he said he met “many friends, all working to bring the much needed change to the country”.

In a statement yesterday, the PN accused Dr Muscat of “playing dangerous games with democracy” after painting himself into a tight corner in Mr Engerer’s case.

The PN admonished Dr Muscat for attacking retired judge Albert Manché who has an “unblemished reputation for honesty and integrity” and for suggesting Labour should have a representative on the inquiry board of a case that involves one of his candidates.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Times: President signs divorce bill - set to become law today
Friday, July 29, 2011, 10:40

President George Abela has signed the Divorce Bill and it is due to be published in the Government Gazette today, thus becoming law.

The law is expected to become effective on October 1, giving the government time to set up the administrative mechanism needed for people to be able to apply for divorce.

The House of Representatives approved the Bill by a large majority on Monday.

The Bill had been presented as a private member's motion by Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando in July last year. It was subsequently co-sponsored by Labour MP Evarist Bartolo.

A referendum in May approved the introduction on divorce based on the no-fault concept. Estranged couples must be separated for four of the preceding five years in order to be eligible for divorce, and provision has to be made for the care of the children. Arrangements made in separation contracts are not affected.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

MaltaToday: President George Abela signs divorce bill

President George Abela has signed the Divorce Bill

Divorce in Malta has become law today, following its publication in the Government Gazzette after President GeorgeAbela formally signed the bill.

Coming into force on October 1, the bill was voted in Parliament by a vast majority after long hours of debate from both sides of the House, that also put forward and approved a number of amendments.

The bill - originally submitted by Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando on July 1, 2010 – soon became known as the Pullicino Orlando-Bartolo bill after it was co-sponsored by Labour MP Evarist Bartolo.

The bill brought division within the PN that also took a stand against the introduction of divorce in Malta, while Prime Minister and party leader Lawrence Gonzi declared himself against, and even voted against the bill throughout all its stages in Parliament.

On May 28, 53% of the Maltese electorate voted in favour of the introduction of divorce in Malta.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on MaltaToday's website.]

Times: Ex-boyfriend forgives Engerer but still wants justice to be done

Drops his lawyers over their connection to politics
Friday, July 29, 2011 , by Christian Peregin

[The alleged victim in the police case against Sliema deputy mayor Cyrus Engerer says he is willing to forgive him but still wants justice to " run its course".]

Marvic Camilleri admits he went through phases after reporting Cyrus Engerer to the police, sometimes wanting to press charges and sometimes wanting the case to end as soon as possible." It's not only me who wants justice. It's also my employers and colleagues. Our right to privacy was invaded," Marvic Camilleri said.

This is the first time he has spoken out since Tuesday, when The Times reported that Mr Engerer was being charged with distribution of obscene images, computer misuse and the vilification of Mr Camilleri.

Mr Camilleri filed a police report in January 2010 after nude images of him were stolen from his computer and circulated via e-mail to his employers and friends, and he suspected this was the vindictive work of his former boyfriend, Mr Engerer.

After a police investigation involving the Cyber Crime Unit, the police filed charges against Mr Engerer on Monday. Mr Engerer is insisting that whoever leaked the charges wanted to tarnish his reputation. After the item on the charges against Mr Engerer appeared, Mr Camilleri appointed Andy Ellul and Vince Micallef as legal counsel and, in his presence, they told The Times he was willing to drop the charges.

But yesterday Mr Camilleri decided to dismiss his lawyers, primarily because of their connection to the Labour Party after the case became too politicised. Although they told him they were active members of the party and he initially overlooked this he eventually realised it could become a problem, he said.

The way the case has developed, he said, made their political connection " odd".

The PL has claimed there was an orchestrated effort to get back at Mr Engerer because of his defection from the Nationalist Party earlier this month. " Anyway, I'm only a witness in this case. I don't need a lawyer," he said.

Originally, Mr Camilleri had sought the advice of his lawyer friend Marion Camilleri but she directed him to the other lawyers because she had worked for the Sliema local council and thought there could be a conflict of interest.

Mr Camilleri confirmed what Police Commissioner John Rizzo said on Tuesday, that he never formally told the police to drop the charges.

"I had called the Cyber Crime Unit some months ago to see what I would need to do to drop the charges.

"They said I would have to inform the Valletta police station. I never got down to doing it. It's not that I had changed my mind, it was just something that I never did.

"When something like this happens, part of you wants justice and part of you wants the case to end as soon as possible, so you go through phases."

Mr Camilleri had in the past been involved in the PN but has no active role in the party today.

Clarification: Marvic Camilleri appointed lawyers Andy Ellul and Vince Micallef this week (on Tuesday) when the story about the case was published in The Times. Mr Camilleri filed the police report in January 2010 without the assistance of any lawyers.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Times: Activists fume after Italy rejects anti-homophobia bill

Tuesday, July 26, 2011, 22:13

Italian gay rights activists have slammed as "outrageous" parliament's rejection of a bill that sought to combat homophobic attacks, and called on the European Union to intervene.

"This parliament has betrayed justice and civility and has decided to support the violent," said Paolo Patane, head of gay rights association Arcigay.

He called on the EU "to help us face this extremely dangerous rise in homophobia, xenophobia and racism that the Italian parliament has decided to legitimise."
Italy's chamber of deputies voted for a second time on the bill, which gay and lesbian activists said was urgently needed given a rise in the number of homophobic attacks throughout predominantly Roman Catholic Italy.

The bill, supported by the centre-left opposition Democratic Party (PD), specified "homophobia aggravation" as a crime, while seeking to allow police to act more firmly and encourage victims to report abuse more easily.

"Most of parliament chose today to side with the violent and not with victims of violence and discrimination," said PD member Anna Paola Concia, who had fought to get the bill approved after a failed first attempt in 2009.

Ruling party lawmaker Fabrizio Cicchitto defended the governing coalition's decision and denied accusations of anti-gay sentiment, insisting that "our position is to consider gays as citizens who are the same as everyone else."

"It is for that reason that we challenge legislation singling out individuals as different under the law ... which is essentially unconstitutional," he said.
But left-wing politicians and gay rights campaigners described the move as a "shameful" act by "anti-gay parties who ditch a useful measure for fighting discrimination and make themselves ridiculous in Europe's eyes."

Italy is one of the few European states that lacks specific legislation against homophobic violence and has no provision for gay civil unions.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Times: Cyrus Engerer case: Commissioner insists police acted correctly - Minister orders inquiry

Cyrus Engerer asked for his case to be concluded quickly - Court proceedings to go ahead
Tuesday, July 26, 2011, 16:30

[Click here to watch the video of the Police Commissioner explaining the case.]

The Home Affairs Ministry has appointed Judge Albert Manche to chair an inquiry to establish whether the police had acted correctly in cases related to Sliema deputy mayor Cyrus Engerer and his father Chris.

The inquiry was requested by Police Commissioner John Rizzo earlier today.
In a letter to Judge Manche, minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici said the board should establish whether there had been any negligence, non-observance of procedures, abuse of authority by officials of the police force or others involved in both cases, or external pressure.

The board should go into every ancillary and relevant aspect and make recommendations in line with its conclusions.

Earlier, Mr Rizzo insisted that the police had acted normally with regard to cases involving Cyrus Engerer and his father Chris and investigations were in no way motivated by political considerations.

There was a storm of protest during the day after The Times revealed that Cyrus Engerer, who crossed from the PN to the PL a few days ago, is to be taken to court to face charges of keeping and/or circulating pornography and computer misuse. He will also be charged with vilifying Marvic Camilleri, a former employee of the Nationalist Party and a former member of the PN youth movement (MŻPN).

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Rizzo said the police did not act in the interest of any political party.

He said the police received information related to drugs on July 6 and subsequently carried out a search on Chris Engerer, who was at the time smoking a joint, and found him carrying 5gms of the drug, which is enough to make 10 joints.

The police also searched his house on June 21 and the beach club he managed. At his house, they found a cannabis crusher and smoking paper.

At that time Mr Engerer claimed the search was motivated by Cyrus's defection to the PL.

Mr Engerer was arrested, interviewed and released, as was normal procedure. The case is continuing.

Mr Rizzo said it was an insult to the police and it hurt him personally when people claimed that the police were politically motivated. They had acted only on the basis of information received about drug abuse, Mr Rizzo said. This was information which they simply could not ignore.

Mr Rizzo said he did not think that the informant was politically motivated. It was more likely that it was related to the drug business.

He said that while Chris Engerer was already known to the police with regards to drug investigations, Cyrus Engerer had nothing to do with the case involving his father.


On Cyrus Engerer, Mr Rizzo said he only learnt of the case and the investigations yesterday. He said that on January 15, 2010 a report had been made by Marvic Camilleri to the police cyber crime unit alleging that someone was circulating pictures of him in sexual acts with other persons. It was alleged that this pictures were being accessed from his computer and e-mailed by Cyrus Engerer.

The police launched an investigation. This involved a lot of work and results were achieved by the cyber crime unit.

But because of a number of factors, including that Mr Engerer was abroad for quite a long time and that the police were involved in other investigations, the police could not interview him before June 23.

On July 9, Mr Engerer himself asked for investigations to be concluded as quickly as possible. The police inspector was also told by Mr Engerer's lawyers to take the case to court as soon as possible.

The inspector consulted his superiors and yesterday charges were filed in court.
Mr Rizzo said Inspector Grech was insisting that he never passed a copy of the charge sheet to any Times journalist. Indeed, once the charge sheet was filed in court, it was public information. Therefore he could not understand how the police were accused of leaking information.

Mr Rizzo said he would request the government to conduct an inquiry to establish whether the police had acted correctly in these cases.

The Commissioner said that the police would continue the court proceedings ex-officio, despite reports - which had not been made to the police yet - that Mr Camilleri wants the charges to be dropped.

Mr Rizzo said that while there were coincidences between the police investigations and other events, it would be a very sad day if the police were deviated from their investigations into allegations of crime. God forbid that investigators would consider anything other than the cases before them, he said.


Asked whether he had received a phone call from Edgar Galea Curmi (from the secretariat of the Prime Minister) Mr Rizzo said he could confirm the phone call was made on July 21 to enquire about the Chris Engerer case, but he did not have details at the time. Cyrus was near Mr Galea Curmi when the phone call was being made.
Mr Galea Curmi told him that Mr Engerer's lawyer was claiming that the investigation was motivated by the fact that his son had moved to the PL. Mr Rizzo told Mr Galea Curmi this was not the case and Mr Galea Curmi asked him to explain this to his lawyer.

But Mr Rizzo said he did not as he felt he did not owe Mr Engerer's lawyer any investigation.

Mr Rizzo said he only learnt of the Cyrus Engerer case yesterday, and received no phone calls about it.

The Home Affairs Ministry only asked if there was an investigation involving Cyrus Engerer through an SMS but there was no political involvement in the investigation.
Mr Rizzo said he gave his best to the police corps - even to the detriment of his health - and he was personally insulted whenever anybody imputed that he was led or directed by Castille or by anyone else. He never was, and would not tolerate anyone being so directed, Mr Rizzo stressed.

"We do not choose the dates when we conduct our investigations. We are not happy about the coincidences, but we have no control over them," Mr Rizzo said, adding that he was considering libel action against MaltaToday.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Prime Minister strongly denied a claim that it had leaked any information about the charges against Cyrus Engerer to the media.
It said that such a claim, made on MaltaToday was "a blatant lie" and "completely unfounded."

The OPM said it was not even in possession of such information.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

COE: Clear laws needed to protect trans persons from discrimination and hatred

Council of Europe (COE) Human Rights Commissioner
Posted on 2011-07-26 09:15

Trans persons face severe discrimination in many areas of life, not least in employment, education, health care and leisure activities. Bullying at school is common-place. Surveys have demonstrated that about half of trans persons hide their gender identity at work for fear of losing their job. Forty-one transphobic murders have been reported in Europe since 2008.

Newborns are recorded as a boy or a girl and this distinction becomes a legal and social fact from then on. What is characteristic for trans persons is that they experience problems in identifying with the sex assigned at birth. It does not correspond with their deeply felt individual experience of gender; their gender identity.

Gender identity includes the personal sense of the body and other expressions such as dress, speech and mannerisms. Trans persons often present themselves differently from the expectations of the male or female gender role given to them at birth. They may choose to undergo hormone treatment and surgery to modify their body appearance to reassign their gender.

Today trans persons often lack specific protection against discrimination based on gender identity – protection that has proven to be urgently needed.

Transphobic prejudice and hatred

A report published recently by my Office demonstrates that attitudes towards trans persons show ignorance, prejudice and even hatred. The fact that "transsexualism" and "gender identity disorder" are often found in medical classifications for mental illness can stigmatise trans persons and restrict their decisions in the choice of treatment.

At worst, trans persons are victims of violent hate crime. A trans murder monitoring project carried out by Transgender Europe has reported 41 transphobic murders taking place in European countries since 2008. The countries concerned are Albania, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Serbia, Turkey, and United Kingdom.

Yet transphobia is rarely addressed specifically in national penal codes. In fact, only Sweden and Scotland explicitly cover transphobic hate crime in criminal law. While more general provisions found in some countries about incitement to hatred may be applied in such cases, this is not enough.

Discrimination based on gender identity

All human rights should apply equally to everyone regardless of gender identity.
Yet, gender identity is not always clearly identified as a prohibited ground of discrimination. International human rights treaties do not usually refer to gender identity specifically.

International law is however interpreted by courts and human rights monitoring bodies to include gender identity as a ground of discrimination. This year's Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence became the first human rights treaty which refers to gender identity explicitly. The EU has also applied directives on equality between men and women to provide some protection to trans persons.

At the national level, only nine Council of Europe member states have included gender identity explicitly in their non-discrimination legislation: Albania, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Montenegro, Serbia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Even in these countries, the terminology used varies which may limit the scope of protection. Eleven other member states apply equality law between men and women in line with EU practice. In the remaining 27 member states the coverage of trans persons under equal treatment legislation is unclear.

Reform legislation and monitor progress

Too often politicians and policy makers have ignored the human rights of trans persons when drafting legislation and designing public policies. There is a need to close this gap and start serious reforms and initiate social change. National non-discrimination legislation should specifically include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination. Transphobic hatred should be recognised as a possible motive for bias-motivated crime and hate speech.

National and international medical classifications should also be reviewed to eliminate any stigmatisation or obstacles trans persons may face in accessing the treatment they need and making choices regarding care. The current revision process of the WHO International Classification of Diseases provides a timely opportunity for doing so.

National and international monitoring is needed to measure progress. National equality bodies and Ombudspersons should have a clear mandate to promote the human rights of trans persons. Change is only possible if European governments show a more genuine political will to address this problem, and much more determination to fight prejudice and discrimination.

Thomas Hammarberg

Human Rights Commissioner

MaltaToday: 'Edgar Galea Curmi asked me to do something I couldn't' - John Rizzo. MaltaToday, 'we will not be intimidated'

Edgar Galea Curmi (C) flanked by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi (L) and Gordon Pisani, (R) during a visit to Latvia last year

MaltaToday responds to Edgar Galea Curmi's libel threat and says that "it is not in this paper's character to bow down to intimidation". Police Commissioner John Rizzo admits to receiving a phone call from Castille the day after he got to know about Cyrus Engerer's father's arrest.

Commissioner of Police John Rizzo has called on government to launch an inquiry into the way the police force has handled the criminal cases related to Cyrus Engerer and his father Chris over the past weeks.

Engerer, a PN councillor who recently defected to Labour, is being charged with holding explicit pictures in his PC - a day after his father Chris was arrested over possession of 5g of cannabis.

John Rizzo admitted to having received a phone call from Edgar Galea Curmi - the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff - the day after Cyrus Engerer's father was arrested over possession. According to Rizzo, Galea Curmi called asking about the Chris Engerer case.

Rizzo said he did not know how Galea Curmi had come to know of the arrest, but understood that Cyrus Engerer was next to him while he was making the call.

Rizzo said that Galea Curmi told him that Chris Engerer's lawyers were calling the police investigation being politically motivated and asked the Commissioner to meet up with the lawyers to explain the investigation.

"He asked me to do something which I couldn't do," Rizzo said. "I told him that one day or another the truth would come out in court, and I didn't need to explain anything to the lawyers. God forbid the police would have to work in this way ..."

At the same time that the Commissioner was holding his press conference, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a statement to deny allegations of "fingers being pointed towards Castille".

The statement was also addressed to MaltaToday: "The Office of the Prime Minister categorically denies being in possession of, and passing on, any such information to any media house.'

Chris Engerer's arrest

John Rizzo has insisted that it was unfair to accuse him of being "led by Castille" in the investigations and defended his integrity by stating that throughout his long career, he was never "politically motivated".

John Rizzo said that the Cyrus Engerer charges had "absolutely nothing" to do with his father's arrest, and added that although Chris Engerer was known to the police this was part of the police drug squad's priorities.

The police chief revealed that an informant had called Assistant Commissioner Neil Harrison on July 6, who in turn followed up the case. Rizzo said a search warrant was then issued in respect of Chris Engerer, who was later found to be in possession of five grammes of marijuana.

When asked by journalists why the police had acted now on Chris Engerer and not before given that they knew about him, Commissioner Rizzo was evasive and repeated that the force has "priorities to investigate." Rizzo had said that Chris Engerer was not a new name with the police force.

The Police Commissioner said he felt personally 'insulted' that allegations were being levelled at his integrity and towards his officers.

Cyrus Engerer's charges

With regards to charges being brought against Cyrus Engerer, almost two years from when they had been lodged by his former boyfriend, John Rizzo said that this was a Cyber Crime Unit investigation over a report by Marvic Camilleri.

Camilleri - he said - reported that explicit pictures of him were being circulated by email and the investigation took long because Cyrus Engerer was working abroad and could not be reached for interrogation. Rizzo also added that investigations by the Cyber Crime Unit take time.

Police Inspector Grech, of the Valletta police station, was responsible of the case as Camilleri had filed his report there. Rizzo, said the investigation continued on June 23. Reportedly, Engerer approached Inspector Grech to have his case sped up and brought before the courts.

The police inspector has meanwhile denied forwarding a copy of the charges to the media as they were presented to court yesterday.

PM’s Chief of Staff replies

In a statement issued through the Department of Information, Edgar Galea Curmi – the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff – admitted to phoning the Commissioner of Police when in the company of Cyrus Engerer, and discussed Chris Engerer’s arrest.

Galea Curmi also admitted to being Cyrus Engerer’s godfather at confirmation. He also admitted to asking the Commissioner to meet with Chris Engerer’s lawyer Carlo Bisazza.

The statement

“On Friday 22 July late morning I received a phone call from Cyrus Engerer. I took the phone calland promised Cyrus to phone him back as I was in a meeting. I phoned Cyrus back around 1330 and, while speaking on the phone, I bumped into him outside the Xara Palace Hotel in Mdina.

Cyrus told me that he was speaking to me as a friend because his father had been arrested. This was the first time I got to know about Chris Engerer’s arrest. Cyrus told me that his father’s lawyer, Dr. Carlo Bisazza, had told him that “he was to expect such incidents now that he had taken the plunge and resigned from PN. I told him that I was only hearing about this incident from him and immediately phoned the Commissioner of Police, in front of Cyrus and in a way that he could hear every single detail of the phone call.

The Commissioner of Police stated to me that report on Cyrus’s father had been filed before Cyrus’s resignation from PN. I explained to the Commissioner of Police what Cyrus had said that Dr. Bizazza had told him. The Commissioner of Police categorically denied any relationship whatsoever between Cyrus’s resignation from PN and the arrest of Cyrus’s father. I asked the Commissioner of Police to meet Dr. Bizazza and explain to him the facts. I understand that the Commissioner of Police decided not to follow my request to meet Dr. Bizazza and I respect his decision.

All the above can be testified by the Commissioner of Police and Cyrus himself.

On a personal level, I am Cyrus’s Confirmation godfather and care a lot for Cyrus and his family. I am deeply upset by the way certain elements in the media are manipulating two unfortunate incidents of people I deeply care for with the sole aim of defaming the Prime Minister and the people around him. As a result of these malicious stories, I have instructed my lawyer to institute libel proceedings against MaltaToday.”

MaltaToday: 'We will not bow down to intimidation'

In a statement, MaltaToday replied to Edgar Galea Curmi and said that it will continue to report the truth about everything that is in the public interest. "It is not in MaltaToday's character to bow its head down to intimidation by libel, and we promise our thousands of readers that we will continue to bring forward any information that is in the public interest."

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on MaltaToday's website.]

MaltaToday: PM meets ex-porn star after all

Emanuel Cini

Prime Minister Gonzi yesterday met hunger-striker EmanuelCini for two hours. The meeting followed an article published in sister paper Illum on Sunday, which revealed that Gonzi had intended to meet Cini but cancelled the appointment after discovering his past porn career.

“I think I’ve achieved enough. An apology from the PM is the most one can expect from this country with its lack of accountability. At least we’ll have our routes back to Mater Dei and the Senglea route to St Thomas Bay too,” said Cini on the phone to MaltaToday.

Cini stopped his hunger-stike after meeting the PM. His voice sounded much better than the past few days. He also said his eyesight is also getting better. He started eating fruit and other light foods for now. He’ll build up his diet slowly in the next few days.

According to Cini, TV presenter Peppi Azzopardi visited his house yesterday, after reading the story on MaltaToday portal. Azzopardi told Cini he haven’t spoken to Gonzi for the past few weeks but had left a message with one of Gonzi’s secretaries about his concern on Cini’s state of health. Yesterday Azzopardi, during the house visit, phoned directly the PM to encourage him to meet Cini, which he did.

Cini also recalled the phonecall Gonzi made to Austin Gatt during their meeting.

“The PM phoned Austin Gatt in front of me to check if the route from Senglea to Marsaskala actually got to St Thomas Bay, which it didn’t. He made him phone Arriva and fix the route there and then, which he did.”

On Facebook yesterday, the hunger-striker posted: “I met the PM for 2 hours. He agreed an apology was more than due. He asked me if he apologised will I eat. I told him not to me but to the people. He said ok. I ate a kiwi and we shook hands. I think that serves a purpose of sorts.”

After the meeting, Gonzi sent this email to Cini:

“Dear Mr Cini,

Thank you for your email dated 23rd July.

Thank you also for the opportunity to meet with you this evening and to discuss your concerns regarding the new bus routes announced as a result of the Public Transport Reform.

I have personally apologised for the fact that this reform has so far failed to achieve the high standard of service which I and my government expect as a result of the agreements that had been negotiated with the operator. More importantly, I confirm my government’s determination to address the public’s complaints and to deliver a reformed Public Transport system that achieves European standards both environmentally and operationally.

I take this opportunity to send you my best regards.

Lawrence Gonzi

Prime Minister”

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PM doesn’t meet with hunger striker after discovering his past porn career

MONDAY, JULY 25, 2011


TV presenter Peppi Azzopardi convinced Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi to meet up with hunger striker Emanuel Cini, who is calling for Transport Minister's Austin Gatt resignation.

Sister newspaper Illum reports how Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi cancelled a meeting with hunger strike Emanuel Cini after discovering that he had been a gay porn star up to a few years ago.

Xarabank Presenter Peppi Azzopardi had known about Cini's porn history and had wanted him to appear on one of Xarabank's programmes about two years ago - a request which Cini never accepted. Whilst Azzopardi advised Gonzi to visit the hunger striker, he had omitted mentioning Cini's past.

Cini has worked in the hardcore gay porn industry under the name of 'Manu Maltese'. He did 12 films in all, 11 of which with his partner at the time, Edu Boxer, also a porn star. Cini also modelled for male erotic magazines and calendars.

Read the story and exclusive interview with Cini about his past in Illum’s digital edition


SUBMITTED ON MON, 07/25/2011 - 22:22.


Dear Mr. Cini.
Thank you for your email dated 23rd July.
Thank you also for the opportunity to meet with you this evening and to discuss your concerns regarding the new bus routes announced as a result of the Public Transport Reform.
I have personally apologised for the fact that this reform has so far failed to achieve the high standard of service which I and my government expect as a result of the agreements that had been negotiated with the operator. More importantly, I confirm my government’s determination to address the public’s complaints and to deliver a reformed Public Transport system that achieves European standards both environmentally and operationally.
I take this opportunity to send you my best regards.

Lawrence Gonzi


MaltaToday: A weather-vane politician? | Cyrus Engerer

Cyrus Engerer: 'The question I posed to myself was: should I remain a spectator, or should I be part of the change I wish to see?'

In the space of two weeks, Sliema Vice Mayor Cyrus Engererwent on from addressing the PN’s general council to joiningLabour. What does this say about his credibility?

In his speech to Nationalist councillors on 19 June – just two weeks before he joined Labour – Cyrus Engerer proclaimed his loyalty to the party which, according to him, still had the “best leadership” team.

“Whatever those of the Labour Party say, and however they try to picture us, we are needed because we have the best team, and this includes our Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi... who has the ability to govern this country.”

Did Engerer really believe that the PN is the best party to lead the country, and does he still think so?

“The PN had a team which changed the country and I was sure that if the team adapted itself to present realities it would have been a very good team,” replies Engerer.

But he puts his speech in a political context.

“However, during that general council there the feeling that the party was about to open up and change was felt. I also warned the party about the risks of not accepting change. But still, there was hope.”

Engerer reveals that immediately after the referendum – in which he had campaigned actively for a Yes vote – he went to the party’s headquarters to talk to the PN information director Frank Psaila.

“I told him that I was no longer feeling comfortable in the party. Frank asked me to give it one last try by attending the general council, and I agreed.”

During this meeting, Psaila also encouraged Engerer to contest the general election with the PN, an offer he refused because of his disagreement with the party’s leadership.

Engerer also reveals that he had informed Psaila that he would resign from the PN “if the Prime Minister votes No to the divorce bill.”

But although all the speeches made during the council – including that of the Prime Minister – were all about the importance of opening up to change, Engerer experienced a reality check when parliament started discussing the divorce bill.

“In parliament, the party was doing the exact opposite of what the council was saying.”

He refers to the Prime Minister’s speech before the divorce vote in parliament as “shocking.”

“He always says ‘judge me according to what I do and not on what I say’. But while in the general council he was saying that we should be inclusive and open to everyone in parliament, he said that he would keep his ears shut to those calling on him to change direction.”

Engerer also reveals that the Prime Minister never made an attempt to talk to him face to face after the referendum.

“I understand that the PM could have been too busy… but is it possible that not even Paul Borg Olivier had the chance to talk to me?”

Faced with my scepticism on jumping ship from one party to another in such a short timeframe, Engerer makes it clear that his conversion did not happen overnight.

“For the past year I was noting that the party was becoming more and more conservative, especially on those issues which affect my life. The party was closing ranks, and becoming more confessional.”

But it was his interaction with young Labour activists during the referendum campaign which facilitated his move to Labour.

“During the referendum campaign, I worked closely alongside members of the Labour Party such as Nikita Alamango, Daniel Micallef and Aaron Farrugia, and I realised that the vision I had for the country was the same as theirs. At the same time, I realised that I did not share the same vision with members of the MZPN.”

Could it be that Cyrus Engerer was simply in the wrong party in the first place? After all, isn’t conservatism a trait in the PN’s DNA?

Engerer disagrees, insisting that he felt perfectly at ease working in the Nationalist Party between 2000 and 2008.

“I became active in the party during the EU referendum campaign in 2003. At that time, the Nationalist Party was a movement open to everyone who shared its vision.”

He attributes the party’s existential problem to its lack of vision.

“The problem with the party today is that it lacks a vision. While back in the 1980s it had democracy as a battle cry and later it had the vision of taking Malta in to Europe. Today, there is no common goal for which people can work together. The moment it stopped having a common goal, the party closed ranks, becoming more conservative and thus betraying expectations raised by EU membership…”

But Engerer insists that for most of the time, he was “on the right side of history.”

Doesn’t that mean that the party you are joining now was on the wrong side of history? I interject.

“Yes they were... But things have now changed.”

Engerer insists that Muscat had immediately left a good impression on him by declaring his personal stance for the introduction of divorce, speaking about gay rights and endorsing the EU membership project with enthusiasm.

Addressing the PN’s general council for the first time in 2009 Engerer praised “Lawrence Gonzi’s government” for building “solid foundations” (pedamenti sodi) and that thanks to this, Malta was saved from the ravages of the global economic crisis.

Despite joining Labour, Engerer still praises the Nationalist Party for “sparing Malta from the global recessions and for manoeuvring its way in a way which kept Malta stable.”

Unlike most prophets of doom and of gloom who predominate in his new adoptive party, Engerer recognises that “at the macro level”, the PN has been successful.

“The effort done to introduce the euro was phenomenal and resulted in the reduction of the deficit… the government’s performance at the macro level is satisfactory with regards to keeping unemployment level stable.”

But he qualifies this by posing the question: “are people at the micro level feeling that the economy is doing well? My answer is no.”

One of the problems, according to Engerer, is that although unemployment has not reared its ugly head, the kind of jobs on offer are of the precarious kind.

“In reality, are people finding jobs which fulfil their aspirations, or are they only finding part time jobs?”

Engerer is now the member of a party whose flagship goal is the reduction of utility bills.

But he immediately makes it clear that utility bills should be based on the price of oil.

“And this is the way they should remain. If one were to subsidise water and electricity, one would have to find the money from somewhere else”.

But there is also another side to the story, according to Engerer.

“One should also look at the various inefficiencies in this sector. Even the Nationalists themselves recognise this.”

And under the PN government, these inefficiencies are increasing.

“Just look at the way tenders are being awarded.”

Why didn’t he raise these issues when he was still a member of the Nationalist Party?

He insists that he raised them internally, because he was loyal to his party.

Engerer was elected as a councillor elected on the Nationalist Party’s ticket. Probably, some of the 600 voters who voted for him would have never have done so if he contested with the Labour Party. Doesn’t he owe these people a resignation?

“I don’t have to resign because people voted for me, and I didn’t just have Nationalist votes. I had many voters who voted for me first, then proceeded to vote for Alternattiva or Labour.”

He insists that his first loyalty is towards all Sliema residents.

“I was elected on the Nationalist party ticket on my own steam as I did not have the backing from any established MP as others had. I had my own campaign.”

He is also convinced that people recognise his commitment towards the council to which he dedicates approximately six hours a day.

“None of the other councillors do that.”

He also recognises that some people were “hurt” by his decision to switch sides. The majority, however, welcomed his choice.

“Many people feel that the Nationalist Party is a completely different party to the one they had voted for in 2008. Most people have urged me to remain in the council, telling me that you are the only one on whom we can count.”

But wouldn’t his conversion to Labour have been more convincing if it was seen to be the result of process in which he had enough time to digest his new party’s policies?

“It all happened so quickly. The Prime Minister voted no, then I wrote on Facebook that he should resign. I had no doubt that he would not in fact resign… on that same day, I contacted persons within the Labour Party, informing them that I was going to resign.”

He justifies joining Labour immediately by referring to the relationship he had developed during the referendum campaign with young Labourites who shared his vision.

“We need change. The question I posed to myself was: should I remain a spectator, or should I be part of the change I wish to see?”

According to Engerer, the first thing Joseph Muscat told him was: “welcome on board, but I’ll tell you one thing: our party is not perfect.”

But did he join Labour simply because it is presently perceived to be the winning horse?

Engerer replies by pointing out that personally, he stood to gain by remaining in the Nationalist Party.

“For me, personally remaining in the PN was the most comfortable thing to do. In Sliema I managed to build a strong support group, and I would have had better electoral chances by remaining in the PN. But I am willing to sacrifice myself for that change.”

Turning to gay issues, I refer to the irritation felt by many in the gay community to Joseph Muscat’s declaration that while he agreed with the institution of same sex partnerships, he believed that marriage should be always be between a man and a woman and that he disagrees with adoptions by gay couples. Engerer disagrees with his own leader’s stance but believes that Labour is more open to change than the PN.

“I see a fundamental difference between the Lawrence Gonzi and the PN and Joseph Muscat and the PL on this issue... the good thing about Muscat is that although we disagree, he invited me to convince him that his opinion is wrong. He told me that he would even change his position if convinced. The difference between Labour and PN is that Labour listens to everyone.”

He recalls various incidents in the PN where he was not even given a chance to express his views on gay issues.

He recalls that two years ago, as the MZPN was organising a seminar on family friendly measures, Engerer immediately pointed out that that they should talk about different types of families, including same sex couples.

“The reaction was that in here we do not mention these things.”

Engerer believes that Muscat will be convinced on this issue.

“People change their opinion on things and I believe if we manage to convince him, he will change his position.”

Engerer describes himself as a liberal. Liberals tend to look at immigration as an opportunity, rather than as a problem. But in Malta, Muscat has taken a hard-line stance on immigration. He even went so far as to suggest suspending Malta’s international obligations towards asylum seekers if the EU does not heed its call for burden-sharing.

Engerer’s views on immigration differ from Labour’s emphasis on its more problematic aspects.

“I see immigration as a need which has to continue growing and I fully agree with a multicultural society, and I base this on my experience of living abroad.”

He defends his new leader from any insinuation that he would be willing to let people drown rather than rescue them.

“The impression given by the media that would let people drown is not true… what he is saying is that the EU should help Malta in this problem in the same way it helps countries like Greece or Ireland, both of whom are facing bankruptcy. Why should the EU only intervene on economic issues?”

But Engerer concurs with me that migration has many positive impacts which are never mentioned by Labour.

“Three years ago, the European Commission produced a report on the need for more people from outside the EU to come to work in the EU to make up for the shortage of workers in certain sectors, as well as to contribute to pension schemes. When immigrants – irrespective of where they come from – contribute to the economy, they create more wealth.”

I face Engerer with the criticism that on various issues – including divorce before the referendum – the Labour Party stands on the fence by not taking a position. How can we be so sure that the party represents positive change?

“Labour is presently listening. Changes do not happen overnight. Let’s not forget that the grass roots of the Labour Party might not all share the same opinion about various issues.”

Isn’t Muscat simply saying what everyone wants to hear: reducing bills, proposing a living wage, improving public services and decreasing taxation? Doesn’t this contrast with the fire and brimstone that governments all over the world are imposing on their constituencies?

“The government is saying that it has reduced the deficit, and that the GDP is growing and boasting that we fare better than Spain and other countries… that is why the Labour Party is saying that if things are doing so well, why not decrease some of the hardships?”

He also lashes out against the poor level of discussion in the PN, expressing his sense of relief about now forming part of a party which is open to new ideas.

“We used to learn what the government is doing from the media. Policies should first be discussed by the party and then enacted by government, but in many cases in the PN it was the other way round, with some Ministers expecting the party to rubber stamp their decision.”

Engerer has now found his place on Labour’s policy making think-tank: the Fondazzjoni Ideat.

Surely, Engerer’s interpretation of Maltese history is bound to irk hard-core Labour Party supporters.

Just a few days ago, he was reminding Nationalist councillors that Eddie Fenech Adami “read the signs of the times and brought democracy, justice and first liberties,” and that it was the PN in the 1980s “which understood that the people wanted to live in a democracy where everyone’s dignity is respected… something which was threatened in the 1980s.”

Does he feel at ease militating in a party where personalities from ‘Old Labour’ still occupy strategic posts?

While defending his interpretation of history, he insists that the Labour Party is changing.

“I see a great change in the new generation of Labour activists who are completely different to Old Labour…. I now feel very comfortable in the Labour party and will contribute to its modernisation.”

But doesn’t Engerer feel that he turned himself into a liberal trophy, which Labour can exhibit to win over the liberal vote without even making any grand commitments?

He reverses the question on his former party.

“I was a liberal trophy for the Nationalist Party. I was the token liberal in a conservative party which was not willing to discuss the issues.”

Cyrus Engerer was interviewed for last Sunday's edition of MaltaToday, but his interview was printed before the Chris Engerer incident.

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