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NEWS | Sunday, 13 April 2008

‘We’ll raze Malta to the ground’

Charlot Zahra
David Darmanin

Four people are under police arrest in connection with the circulation of an inflammatory SMS among the hunting community, which incited hunters to take part a protest at Ta’ Qali today at 10am, and to “raze the country to the ground”.
The text message published by the police during an urgent press conference yesterday, read as follows: “A huge carcade and a spectacular protest on Sunday at 10.00, the hunting season has arrived and we cannot go out, our tempers are flaring up and we will raze this country to the ground. Bring with you iron bars, wooden bars, stones, knives, petrol and matches. Send this message to other hunters you know don’t cry about sending a 5c message. Let’s all meet at Ta’ Qali at 10.”
Addressing the media, Assistant Police Commissioner Josie Brincat said that the persons were arrested on Friday and are expected to be arraigned in Court in the next few days for incitement to violence.
“Such SMSes are illegal and the police are duty bound by the law to investigate them. We have no intention of tolerating this kind of messages whatsoever,” he insisted.
If found guilty, the four persons, about whom the police gave no further details, could face a prison term as well as a fine.
He said that nobody had applied for a permit to hold a protest at Ta’ Qali today. “Those who gather at Ta’ Qali (Sunday) morning at 10 am will be liable for prosecution for illegal assembly,” Brincat warned.

He said that the police had also investigated messages on “a particular website”, but the hunt proved futile.
Asked by MaltaToday to specify the name of the site that was investigated by the police in connection with the incendiary SMS, Brincat refused. “It is not ethical to reveal the name of the site,” he claimed.
In the past few days, the FKNK site has been buzzing with anxious messages from the hunting community after the decision by the European Court of Justice on whether to impose temporary measures to stop spring hunting immediately, has extended well beyond the start of this year’s spring hunting season.
Assistant Commissioner Brincat appealed to the public to phone the police on telephone numbers 191, 21224001, to give any information it might have about this case. “We guarantee that confidentiality will be ensured,” Brincat said.
Referring to the police investigations about the arson attacks on two cars belonging to Birdlife Malta officials in February, he said that the police were still conducting their inquiries about this case.
“Such investigations are not completed immediately. You might obtain information about a case a long time after the offence is committed,” Brincat explained.
Meanwhile, speaking during a press conference on Friday, FKNK secretary-general Lino Farrugia and public relations officer Joe Perici Calascione said the federation “disassociates itself completely” from that SMS, and urged hunters “to remain home and await developments”.
On his part, Birdlife Malta executive director Tolga Temuge said: “The FKNK has passed on similar messages in the past – be it on their website or officially – where to say the least, violence was incited. I’m not surprised that now, individual factions are also resorting to inciting violence. In any case, I expect the FKNK to come round this situation.”
Asked whether Birdlife received any threats lately, Temuge said: “No, I wouldn’t call them threats, but we have received aggressive phone calls at Birdlife offices recently. We are talking to hunters calling in, as it is quite evident that most of them are misinformed. FKNK is misleading them into believing that we want to abolish hunting all year round, and this is not the case.”
Contacted by this newspaper, FKNK president Lino Farrugia cut the conversation short by saying: “I don’t give comments to MaltaToday.” Several attempts to contact the federation PRO Joe Perici Calascione proved to be futile.
Condemning such actions outright, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister stated: “This is unacceptable. There is nothing that can justify this situation.”
Asked whether the Prime Minister could have acted in a way to prevent this type of tension to escalate among the hunting community, he said: “Nothing can prevent something so unacceptable to happen, on the grounds that it is totally unacceptable.”
In the run up to general elections last February, Birdlife was joined by 13 local personalities in a collective appeal to the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition to take action on the spring hunting issue prior to the impending European Court ruling in the regard. However, the OPM spokesperson explained that: “Court proceedings are out of the Prime Minister’s hands, he does not have the chess clock on this one. Moreover, the decision of the commission to take interim procedures was made at the end of January this year, clearly indicating what was going to happen.”
Asked why the government did not take a decision itself, rather than leaving the issue in the hands of the European Court, the spokesperson said: “Why should the government decide on this?”
On the other hand, conservationists have repeatedly answered this question by suggesting that since the European Courts are more than likely to decide against the re-introduction of the hunting season, the Maltese government should avoid the embarrassment and speed up the whole process by deciding for itself. But the spokesperson for the Prime Minister insisted that: “we do not have any information whatsoever indicating how the European courts will decide.”

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