Repubblika does not agree that Malta give special treatment to the American military through a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States and does not understand why the government has chosen to take this step. The explanations and official denials do not make sense and there os no logical explanation for the Labour Party’s about turn on a position which has been established for decades.
Repubblika believes that any interpretation of the Constitution cannot ignore its spirit and intention:
1. Malta is one indivisible state. This means that Malta has one body of legislation that is applicable to all. Exceptions to this are very rare. On the basis of reciprocity, Malta exempts only diplomats from the jurisdiction of Maltese law. This shows how rare and exceptional it is that we would depart from the principle that the law is applicable equally to all.
2. Malta is a state that actively seeks peace. (See Article 1(3) of the Constitution). This does not necessarily mean that we are hostile to military visits, or to repairs of and supply to military services. It does however mean that foreign military services do not benefit from exemption from the application of the law.
Even during the presence of British Military bases in Malta, Maltese laws and Maltese courts had full jurisdiction over crimes committed by British military personnel.
In 1979 , the government of the time referred to the closure of the British Military bases as “freedom”. If there was any kind of freedom at the time, this was because Maltese law and jurisdiction became applicable in the entire Maltese territory, including in former military bases like Pembroke and Imtarfa.
With SOFA, the government is reversing that “freedom” and abolishing the equal application of Maltese law as it was pre-1979, this time depending on the person’s nationality.
We can never understand how if a French or Chinese soldier stabs you or damages your property they are hauled before the Maltese courts but if an American soldier does the same, they cannot be touched.
Apart from all this, this is yet another example of obscene governance and a thoroughly bad manner of policy making in Malta.
The Labour Party has long been categorical about this subject matter. In June 1988, the Labour Party organised a blockade of Grand Harbour to stop the entry of the British aircraft carrier The Ark Royal. In 1991, the Labour Party established a policy which prohibited American soldiers from even setting foot on Malta. In 1996 the Labour Party objected vehemently that to the repair of American military vessels in the Dockyards so much so that because the Dockyards were controlled by the Labour Party this work was not carried out. Upon his taking office on the 28 October 1996, Prime Minister Alfred Sant’s first action was to inform the United States that Malta was withdrawing from NATO’s Partnership for Peace.
In 2011, Wikileaks had published internal communications of the American State Department. These leaks had shown that the United States were putting pressure on Malta for a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). In response to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ employee’s less than categorical that Malta would not be entering such an agreement, then Labour spokesman George Vella had raised hell in Parliament. (See Parliamentary Minutes of 30 November 2011 and Minutes of the Permanent Committee for Foreign Affairs and the European Parliament of 12 June, 2012.
On that occasion the Labour Party spokesman:
a. criticised Government for talking to the Americans without consulting the Opposition;
b. criticised Government on the basis that this was a matter for Parliament not just the Government.
We would therefore like to know what the position of President George Vella is today, both as a person who built a career on an ideological hostility to this sort of agreement as well as a the “guardian of the Constitution” not only on the basis of its letter but also its spirit.
The Labour Party has every right to change its policy if it has changed its mind, however we are not aware of any open debate within the Labour Party leading to a U-turn in the ideological principals – pacifist and against military associations – of the Party.
The leadership of the Labour Party has no right to change the spirit of the Constitution. In a democratic country, this happens only in open Parliament and not after secret talks between a small posse with the country being presented with a fait accompli.
The government has every right and duty to promote between Malta and other countries, however regarding positions on which existed parliamentary consensus for decades, the government must consult before completely changing position.
The government is denying that it succumbed to American pressure that would have seen them support Malta with the Financial Action Task Force as is being reported in the media. The governments denials are not credible, and we now expect the American government to issue a similar denial.
Since 2013 Joseph Muscat and Robert Abela’s government has trashed Malta’s reputation with the world and has denied us of our credentials and credibility. For the continued impunity of the cabal that President George Abela less than a year ago declared to have taken over Malta, they have transformed this country into a laundromat for criminals. Now the government is desperate to avoid grey listing for Malta. Possibly the government is also desperate to avoid consequences in the American courts for those responsible for this disaster.
It was always difficult for a small country like ours to resist pressure from the American Government, but we had managed so far. We maintained our sovereignty. Our law remained applicable in Malta for everyone.
It seems that now American soldiers will be able to walk our streets with visible or hidden arms, without being accountable to the Maltese authorities. The Malta police will not be able to stop them, and should they use their arms illegally or abusively, our Courts will not have any jurisdiction in their regard.
If the government signs this agreement, it will have redeemed the moral debts incurred since 2013 by selling our country’s freedom.