Updated - Sceberras Trigona in sharp exchanges with interviewer in PBS programme
Interviewer reacts after former minister's 'insults'
Parts of an interview with PL international secretary Alex Sceberras Trigona on Radio Malta this morning degenerated after the former foreign minister objected to questions asked by interviewer Chris Scicluna on l-istampa kollha.
The temperature started to rise when the interviewer noted that Dr Sceberras Trigona had built strong relations with various leaders, such as Col Gaddafi.
He asked Dr Sceberras Trigona how he felt when he saw Col Gaddafi captured and killed. Dr Sceberras Trigona said he never had a personal relationship and he objected to be questioned in this way. He had worked as a foreign minister or international secretary in the interests of the country. The PN, he said had been waging a disgusting, slanderous campaign where it tried to imply that PL officials had a personal relationship.
The interviewer insisted that he had not asked about a 'personal' relationship.
Dr Sceberras Trigona said he had been asked about relationships. He agreed that medals to people such as Col Gaddafi and (former Tunisian President) Tunisian President Ben Ali were withdrawn, but had Eddie Fenech Adami returned the Al Fatah medal which Col Gaddafi sent him?
Amid arguments with the interviewer, who wanted to move on, Dr Sceberras Trigona insisted he had a duty to explain on the question he had been asked.
He asked how, during the Hannibal Gaddafi controversy between Libya and Switzerland, the PN government had defended Hannibal Gaddafi. The PN in government stuck out its neck for Col Gaddafi's son. Why therefore, did the PN try to imply that it was PL officials who had personal relationships with Libya?
As Mr Scicluna tried to turn to other questions, Dr Sceberras Trigona asked him why he wanted his personal views on Gaddafi when he had not asked the same questions to PN International Secretary John Bonello (who, he said, had not turned up for a previous programme). This was not fair, Dr Sceberras Trigona said.
This was a shame, this was disgusting and approaching the filth seen elsewhere he said - which later resulted to be a reference to BondiPlus. This interview, he warned, was approaching partisanship and filth because it was being held on PBS and the programme should be balanced. This line of questioning was not. He warned Mr Scicluna to be careful as he was on state radio and had to maintain a balance.
Mr Scicluna then played a recording of comments by Beppe Fnech Adami where he said that Dr Sceberras Trigona should resign from his post in the PL because of the relations he had built with Libya and had even organised Dr Muscat's first visit to Libya.
Dr Sceberras Trigona said the interviewer was Dr Fenech Adami's puppet and this was obscene and there was no balance.
Mr Scicluna said he was giving Dr Sceberras Trigona a full 50 minutes to reply.
Dr Sceberras Trigona asked Mr Scicluna why had he not had the guts to get Dr Bonello, the PN international secretary to the programme? This was obscene imbalance which the Broadcasting Authority should see. Why hadn't Mr Scicluna produced a recording of what Mr Bonello would have said?
Mr Scicluna told Dr Sceberras Trigona repeatedly that he had every chance to reply, but he was refusing.
Dr Sceberras Trigona retorted that Mr Scicluna was being arrogant, like the government. He said, however that he would reply, despite the tricks.
Mr Scicluna said there were no tricks. Dr Sceberras Trigona said these were tricks as these questions were not asked to John Bonello.
However, he added, Dr Fenech Adami had no right to demand any Labour official's resignation because he was not a member of the party. He should ask why his father had not returned the medal, how Gonzi had been the last prime minister to meet Col Gaddafi and how median line talks had failed.
Relations should be judged by what was achieved. The Labour governments got the Jerma and Mista village through Libyan investment and financial protocols from Italy. There was nothing under the PN governments. Only words.
Asked about reports of funds having been transferred from Libya to the Labour Party, Dr Sceberras Trigona retorted that the same source also claimed that Malta under the PN was a base for terrorists. 'How would you comment to that?' he asked Mr Scicluna, pointing out that he was a former secretary of then foreign minister Michael Frendo and a government 'puppet'...
'We told you, we issued an official statement, but if you want to stick to that source, tell me how Malta was a terrorist state," Dr Sceberras Trigona said.
Mr Scicluna objected to being called a puppet.
"I am asking you, I have before me the international secretary of the PL and foreign minister at the time..." Mr Scicluna said.
"And I have before be a puppet of the PN government," Dr Sceberras Trigona replied.
He also pointed out he was not foreign minister at the time...
Mr Scicluna said he had not said that he (Sceberras Trigona) had been responsible for the funds.
Dr Sceberras Trigona warned him to therefore hold his tongue about such innuendoes aimed at hiding what was taking place now.
Asked whether the PL had received funds, Dr Sceberras Trigona told Mr Scicluna to ask his source. This was the source that had said the PN was a terrorist state for year. The government had not commented, seemingly ignoring this source. So why should he reply?
He did not know what happened after his term, but, Dr Sceberras Trigona pointed out, this was subject to a libel case.
When Mr Scicluna moved to another clip by Beppe Fenech Adami, Dr Sceberras Trigona again protested loudly of imbalance and said Mr Scicluna should have invited the PN international secretary.
In the clip, Dr Fenech Adami spoke of CIA claims of Libyan funding to the PL, saying the PL had remained silent.
Dr Sceberras Trigona said remarks were made by Joseph Muscat on February 27 and April 13. Other statement were made by other PN officials. And Dr Fenech Adami had not even quoted correctly from the CIA report and made it sound like Libya was funding the Labour Party now. All these were lies. But all this was filth not befitting state radio. This was more suitable for Net. This was total filth.
When he was asked for his views on the situation in the EU, Dr Sceberras Trigona again said he would address his interviewer as a PN puppet.
He insisted that the success or otherwise of Malta's foreign affairs had to be judged by the results for Malta and not what was taking place in the EU or elsewhere. In the case of the EU, one had to see whether it was necessary for Malta to have such financial exposure to the countries facing problems, such as Greece.
And was the government defended Malta's financial services sector amid efforts to introduce a financial transaction tax? The government was not saying anything. The UK had taken a stand when its financial sector was some 7% of its GDP. The Maltese financial sector accounted for 12% of Malta's GDP but was the government defending Malta's corner?
Similarly, in Libya's case, was the government seeking compensation for those Maltese who had lost business?
Asked if Malta was better off in or out of the EU, Dr Sceberras Trigona said some promises had not been realised, like the Lm100 cash injection. However the issue was now final. Malta was in the EU. But there had been a lot of hype about what Malta was to get from the EU but this had not been realised. This was what should be presented to the people to consider.
Earlier, replying to questions about his relationship with Alfred Sant, Dr Scerras Trigona said the breaking point was the fact that Dr Sant had linked confidence in his government to a simple resolution in the House. That, he insisted, had not been a motion of no confidence and the President himself had had the authority not to call the election. That the President - Ugo Mifsud Bonnici - called the election was an exaggeration.
Asked to make comparisons between the party leaders, Dr Sceberras Trigona said that taking a position against Mintoff was like punching a rock, with Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici was like punching water, creating a splash but then things returned to normal.
Comparisons, he said, were odious. But if he could say something about Dr Muscat, it was that he checked matters well and sometimes repeatedly, like Mintoff did. H was a careful man, and this was very commendable in a man who could be a future prime minister.
Dr Sceberras Trigona said he remained in contact with Mr Mintoff, who sometimes visited him at home and they enjoyed discussing the past and the present.
Dr Sceberras Trigona said it was interesting how the PL now had a whole profile of generations within it.
This contrasted with the PN where Louis Galea was no longer there, Guido de Marco had passed away, that was no one's fault, and Eddie Fenech Adami seemed to be trying to make a return but this was discordant since he was a former President and he was taking a position in favour of a small part of the PN against the others, possibly to help his son. John Dalli was also out. Thus the stratum of age in the PL which represented a wide cross-section of the people did not exist in the PN.
The PN had a limited age bracket and people like Gonzi and Gatt had no one above them whose experience they could call on. At the same time, the Gonzi-Gatt age bracket was holding the younger ones from advancement.
Asked whether the PL would win the next election, Dr Sceberras Trigona said one could not say. Were it to be held today, he felt the PL would win, but things could change in many ways.
As to whether he would be an election candidate, he said that in terms of party rules, he could not be a candidate because party officials had to step down from their role two years before an election was due.
In a reaction after the programme, interviewer Chris Scicluna said: "Alex Sciberras Trigona today had 50 whole minutes to express his views freely, without a sparring partner from the PN side. Alex Sciberras Trigona opted to throw a flurry of insults and unfounded allegations at me, as presenter of the show, instead of answering questions about his stance on Libya.
"I am sure that our listeners expected Dr. Sciberras Trigona to show more respect when debating in a civil environment and that his outburst clearly showed he felt uncomfortable when faced with legitimate questions about his past.
"As a presenter, my role is to ask and I leave it to listeners to decide about his reaction when questioned about Libya.
"There was absolutely no need for any of his aggressive outbursts. No amount of insults, bullying, outbursts, condescending adjectives and warnings will stop me from continuing to ask legitimate questions to anyone who holds answers," Mr Scicluna said.
The programme can be access on http://snd.sc/sy6BJa