PN’s leader letter to FATF takes centre stage on Sunday’s debates / Malta News Briefing – Sunday 20 June 2021

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Covid-19 Update – There was new case of COVID-19 reported on Sunday and three patients recovered, bringing the number of active cases down to 27.

Prime Minister Robert Abela on Sunday criticised the Opposition leader Bernard Grech accusing him of wanting Malta to be grey-listed by FATF, the anti-money laundering assessors.  “If you analyse the Opposition leader’s letter, the last paragraph effectively means that Bernard Grech is inviting the FATF to grey-list our country.  If he’s doing that on purpose or he just doesn’t know how the process works is not up to me to judge; but if you read the last paragraph of that letter – that’s what it means”, Abela said. He added that he was shocked at the letter, saying that in a sensitive period of the evaluation where they should be united, the Opposition was instead calling on the FATF to grey-list the country. Times

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bernard Grech defended his letter to the Financial Action Task Force during an interview on Sunday. Grech said that “everyone knows that the damage to Malta’s name, unfortunately, has already been done. So for every test, regardless of whether we pass or fail, the very fact that we had to sit for this test… already damages the country’s name.” Grech expressed worry about the circumstances, especially in light of the news that those three countries want to vote for Malta’s greylisting. He said he felt he had to be proactive and do his part to defend the country. He said that the PN had previously offered the Prime Minister to help wherever possible to defend the country’s name, but added that the PN has not yet been approached to do anything tangible. “So I did not stay waiting and felt the need to write that letter and declared that we cannot afford to be grey-listed.” He said that he appealed to the FATF given that many people’s livelihoods depend on financial services.  He also said he is working, and if entrusted to lead the country will keep on working, to do all that is needed to earn back the trust and credibility the country deserves. Independent

A 72-year-old has been left with serious injuries following a traffic accident at Triq Dawret San Pawl, St Paul’s Bay. According to police, the accident took place at 9am and involved a collision between a Mercedes car and Kawasaki motorcycle. MaltaToday

Archbishop Charles Scicluna used today’s Gospel reading – as well as Roberto Benigni’s award-winning film La vita è bella – to reflect on fatherly love as he celebrated Mass at the historic St Ubaldesca Church in Paola. Mgr Scicluna observed that the account includes a rare depiction of a sleeping Jesus, who is woken up by his fearful disciples who panic and question whether all is lost. On Father’s Day, the Archbishop reflected on how many fathers strive to do their best to protect and help their children, and recalled Benigni’s film. Mgr Scicluna noted, but at its core was the story of a father who sought to protect his son from the horrors of the war and of the Nazis. The father does his best to protect his son, and isn’t this what God is doing? Jesus keeping watch on his disciples – as well as his sleep on the boat – reminds us that they are in good hands,” Archbishop Scicluna said. Newsbook

Newspaper Review

Malta Today says that the government is fearing grey-listing by the Financial Action Task Force in an upcoming assembly this week. Experts advising the Maltese delegation argued that the country registered higher compliance ratings than other EU members.

Illum quotes sources assisting the government in its bid to avoid grey-listing by the Financial Action Task Force. The experts claim that influential countries including the US, Britain and Germany want to make a political point by punishing Malta.

The Sunday Times says that around €60 billion in cryptocurrency moved through Malta while the country was branding itself a blockchain island. Analysts said that lax legislation on virtual assets raised concerns among international anti-money laundering bodies.

The Independent on Sunday speaks with Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia who said that he was to introduce an aesthetics policy for urban environments as a matter of priority. He said the government is committed to sustainable development.

It-Torċa speaks with Gżira mayor Conrad Borg Manché who said that higher buildings and increased traffic are raising temperatures in urban centres. He warned that, unless the situation is addressed, this phenomenon will cause health challenges.

Kullħadd says that Malta is among the top five destinations for tourists in Europe along with Iceland, Albania, Serbia and Greece. The number of bookings is at around a third of those recorded in 2019.

Il-Mument leads with proposals by the Nationalist Party to rescind the government deal with Steward Health Care. PN Spokesperson for Gozo said that a new public hospital would create centres for specialised care for patients with cancer and dementia.

Malta Today says that PN Leader Bernard Grech is urging his two deputies David Agius and Robert Arrigo to step down in a bid to shake up the party’s image ahead of a general council due to convene in July.

The Sunday Times says that MEP Roberta Metsola turned down an offer by PN Leader Bernard Grech to replace MP David Agius as the party’s deputy leader for parliamentary affairs.

The Independent on Sunday quotes research findings showing an increase in the number of admissions in Mount Carmel hospital for attempted suicide between March and May 2020, when the first wave of the pandemic hit the country.

Illum quotes a report by the Faculty of Social Wellbeing which insists that solitary confinement at prison should be a last resort in restrictive care but only applied under particular circumstances and under strict supervision.

It-Torċa speaks to organic farming specialist Mark Salerno who said the problem with the scattering of micro-plastics in the soil can be solved if plastics used by farmers are collected and processed.

Il-Mument follows a press conference by activists and residents in Marsascala who raised concerns about a design competition launched by the tourism authority for sites in the locality. Residents said they were not consulted on the scheme.

Kullħadd reports that discrepancies in the interpretation of data on early school-leaving across Europe result in higher statistical numbers for Malta. The government is urging EU entities to change data representation models for young people in the 18-24 age group.

Morning Briefing

MEIA warns of escalating situation on social restrictions

The arts sector continued piling pressure on authorities with regard to the current social restrictions, with Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA) president Howard Keith Debono issuing a stern warning on thee situation. Covid-19 measures relating to event organisation need to be eased before the situation explodes. It’s like having a pressure cooker and the valve needs to be loosened; if not, this is going to explode, and it is already exploding”, he said.

Diplomacy best tool to resolve conflicts – Bartolo

Diplomacy remains the best tool for resolving conflicts, according to Minister Evarist Bartolo, intervening yesterday at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum on the Eastern Mediterranean. ​Bartolo recalled that Malta gave birth to the International Law of the Sea and that Malta remains in favour of the peaceful resolution of any cross-border and maritime disputes over oil and gas at sea, through negotiations and within the framework of the law and not through the use of force. Minister Bartolo held that Malta also believes that the United Nations should not be undermined by weakening its resolutions by changing realities on the ground.

Covid-19

No new cases of coronavirus were reported on Saturday, and with three persons recovering, active cases have gone down to 29. Speaking on party media, Health Minister Chris Fearne said that 80 per cent of adults will have received at least one vaccine doses by Sunday.

ADPD says consultations are sham

ADPD- The Green Party lamented that public consultation exercises on environmental issues are flawed and produce vague wishlists. “The intention is clear: government does not want to commit itself to any policy and wants to continue with business as usual, to avoid upsetting anyone” – Ralph Cassar, ADPD Secretary General said.
Cassar insisted that it was “insulting to expect stakeholders to study the documents and give informed views on the subject matter in a few weeks. The public consultation exercise is more often than not a sham.”

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