Covid cases down to 13: Malta News Briefing- Tuesday 20 April 2021

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Latest Update- News Portal Briefing

Times of Malta reports that hackers have threatened to leak “valuable” Nationalist Party documents, unless the party agrees to “communicate and cooperate” with them in 10 days. 

MaltaToday reports that no new taxes will be introduced and no tax increases will take place in the foreseeable future, Clyde Caruana has pledged despite a rising deficit.

TVM reports that the European Court of Justice decided that the Prime Minister’s power to select candidates for the judiciary, selected for eligibility by an independent commission, does not breach the EU law.

Newsbook reports that the two men charged with planting the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia have asked the President to ignore the government’s recommendation to reject their request for a pardon to provide information on who was behind the murder.

Updated 1300

Covid-19 Update

Covid-19 cases were down to 13 on Tuesday, the lowest figure since last Summer.

With 62 recoveries, the number of active cases has gone down to 563. Two men died in the past 24 hours aged 57 and 81, taking the death toll up to 411.

Government registers € 1.3bn deficit

In 2020, Government registered a deficit of €1,300.2 million, equivalent to 10.1 per cent of GDP. The General Government debt amounted to €6,960.0 million or 54.3 per cent of GDP. The balance is calculated as the difference between total revenue (€4,677.8 million) and expenditure (€5,977.9 million) of General Government. When comparing 2020 to 2019, total revenue decreased by €378.1 million, while total expenditure increased by €972.1 million.

The fiscal results for 2020 were largely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent government measures to mitigate the economic, social and health risks associated with the pandemic.

ECJ sees no issue with PM selecting judges

The Prime Minister’s authority to select judges from a shortlist does not breach EU law, the European Court of Justice decided. EU law does not preclude national constitutional provisions such as the provisions of Maltese law relating to the appointment of members of the judiciary, the ECJ said in its decision.

“It does not appear that those provisions might lead to those members of the judiciary not being seen to be independent or impartial, the consequence of which would be to undermine the trust which justice in a democratic society governed by the rule of law must inspire in individuals,” the ECJ ruled.

Newspaper Review

The Times reports that the Cabinet has advised the President against granting a pardon to brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio. The alleged hitmen in the Caruana Galizia murder volunteered information in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

The Independent says that Minister Carmelo Abela has recused himself from the Cabinet’s decision to pardon the Degiorgio brothers, following allegations that he was connected to a botched bank heist in 2010. The minister rejects the allegations.  

L-Orizzont quotes a government press release explaining that the decision to refuse a pardon request by Alfred and George Degiorgio was taken in line with advice by the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner.

In-Nazzjon quotes a reaction by the PN to the government’s announcement that it turned down a pardon request by the Degiorgio brothers. The party said it respects the decision but argues that the public is entitled to know the reasons behind it.

L-Orizzont speaks to a paediatrician who warned that the perception that children do not contract Covid-19 is misguided. An eleven-year-old boy recently died in Italy after a long battle with the disease.

In-Nazzjon quotes a ruling by the House Speaker who said that witnesses summoned by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee are obliged to testify but have the right to silence. The opposition requested the ruling following Brian Tonna’s refusal to answer PAC questions.

The Times says that Dar tal-Providenza has decided to postpone upgrading works on a home for persons with disability after a technical glitch in the Winter fundraising telethon slashed the organisation’s income from donations by half.

The Independent quotes tributes posted on social media after the teenage victim of a traffic accident on Sunday was identified as law student Julian Spiteri. The 19-year-old was driving a car which crashed into a tree on the outskirts of Rabat.

Morning Briefing

Brian Tonna to be grilled by PAC

Nexia BT partner Brian Tonna is expected to be recalled before parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to answer questions related to the Electrgas deal. Last week Tonna had refused to answer any questions, arguing that he may be a suspect in ongoing police investigations into the matter.

However, on Monday afternoon, Speaker Anglu Farrugia decided that Tonna would be hauled back in front of the PAC. The ruling had been requested by Committee president Beppe Fenech Adami. The PN MP noted that wwhile there were legal proceedings against Tonna regarding alleged money laundering involving Allied Newspapers and alleged kickbacks in the sale of passports, the committee did not know of any criminal proceedings against him over the Electrogas contract.

PN claims attack on IT systems

The Nationalist Party said on Monday evening that it had been the victim of an attack on its information technology systems and potentially some party information could have been accessed without authorization.

PN General Secretary Francis Zammit Dimech said in a statement that the Nationalist Party immediately took all necessary measures to minimize the effects of this attack, informing both the Data Commissioner and the Executive Police to begin their investigations.

Govt, Church discuss rent reforms

Mgr Charles J. Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta, met with Minister for Social Accommodation Roderick Galdes to discuss the reform of pre-1995 controlled rents.

During the meeting, Minister Roderick Galdes explained that social justice is the fundamental principle behind this reform, and that through this reform, past injustices will be addressed while those in need will be protected.
“We have created an adequate balance between the landlord, who deserves fair compensation for the gesture made towards society, and the tenant, who duly deserves reassurance and certainty. We are talking about people’s assets and their shelter. This is why the government felt the need to intervene and compensate the accommodation expenses of those vulnerable persons and pensioners”, stated Minister Galdes.

Archbishop Mgr Charles J. Scicluna welcomed the principles of the controlled rents reform and stressed that the government has a duty to address suffering while reassuring the peace of mind and mental health of citizens. He also highlighted the fact that from a challenge there can be potential, and with a concerted effort and principles, an example may be created that leaves a positive impact.

PN proposes public ERA meetings

The PN has presented three proposals for more transparency in safeguarding the environment, in particular through the work of the Environment and Resources Authority, ERA. The Party said that the ERA’s board meetings should be open to the public and that the latter will be able to make its representations. Another proposal is that ERA’s board agenda is communicated early to Non-Government Organisations so that they will know what will be discussed. PN is also proposing that the board’s vote and decisions are public.

MPs Robert Cutajar and Kevin Cutajar said that the Opposition is aware that environmental organisations maintain they are not being heard and therefore, they added that these proposals will be presented as a private member’s bill.

Covid-19 Update
60 new coronavirus cases were reported on Monday while another 41 patients recovered. This means that active case edged up over 600 again, reaching 614.
Total cases have now exceeded 30,000.
There were no new deaths on Sunday.
276,516 Pfizer, Moderna and Astra Zeneca vaccine doses have been administered, 84,933 of which are second jabs.