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Freedom Day ceremony marked by anti-PfP protest

Graffitti activists staged a protest (right) with anti-PfP placards during the official celebrations marking Freedom Day in Vittoriosa, yesterday. 	Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

Graffitti activists staged a protest (right) with anti-PfP placards during the official celebrations marking Freedom Day in Vittoriosa, yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

Official celebrations to mark the 29th anniversary of Freedom Day were held yesterday at the Freedom Monument in Vittoriosa as members of the leftist Graffitti Group protested peacefully against the government's decision to reactivate Malta's participation in Nato's Partnership for Peace.

As President Eddie Fenech Adami and Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi laid flowers at the monument - where the British flag was replaced by the Maltese flag to mark the withdrawal of the British military base on March 31, 1979 - Graffitti activists shouted slogans against Malta re-joining Partnership for Peace on a loudspeaker from across the creek in Senglea. At Vittoriosa, Graffitti members carried posters with their message and pictures of war victims. Another cause for the protest were visits by military warships in harbour - 19 this year so far, a Graffitti activist said.

The ceremony, which otherwise passed off without incident, started with an Armed Forces of Malta contingent accompanied by the AFM band marching off from Gavino Gulia Square to Vittoriosa where a guard of honour was mounted.

The President, Prime Minister and AFM Commander Brigadier Carmel Vassallo were accorded a salute by the AFM as they reached the monument.

The President then inspected the guard of honour before placing flowers on the monument, accompanied by Dr Gonzi.

At this point, members of the group used loudspeakers from across the creek to shout slogans such as "No to Nato, Yes to peace and neutrality" and "No to the Partnership for Peace" among others. The sound of a siren, similar to that heard during air raids in wartime, rang out.

Another dozen members of the group stood behind the Armed Forces guard of honour displaying anti-PfP placards such as "Malta kompliċi fil-gwerra. Qtil ta' nies innoċenti" (Malta an accomplice to war. Murder of innocent people).

"The Government's decision to become part of the PfP is of concern for the way it was taken as well as for its implications," Angele Deguara of Graffitti, said after the ceremony.

It was very strange that a decision of such importance was taken unilaterally without any form of consultation and without featuring In the political manifesto of the Nationalist Party.

She said there were suspicions of political pressure from the US. The decision had nothing to do with Malta's EU membership, since the PfP was not an EU programme and many of its affiliates were not EU member states. The anniversary was marked by the Malta Labour Party and the General Workers' Union in two separate ceremonies at the same monument on Sunday morning.

Freedom Day was also celebrated in Gozo, during an activity presided over by Giovanna Debono, Minister for Gozo.

It started with a band march by the police band from Sabina Square to Independence Square in Victoria. After a flower-laying ceremony the band played the national anthemn and marched along Republic Street.

Żminijietna - Voice of the Left said in a statement that it was ironic that Malta celebrated Freedom Day in the shadow of Nato.

It described the government's decision to reactivate Malta's application to join PfP as "rash, undemocratic and contrary to the spirit of neutrality".

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