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Joe Grima resigns, admits language in 'cockroaches' comment may have been excessive

Resignation came after former minister said he would file three libel cases

Joe Grima has resigned as Malta's envoy to the World Tourism Organisation after he posted comments yesterday about the newly elected Muslim London mayor Sadiq Khan, which many deemed as racist.

In a Facebook statement today, Mr Grima said he had stepped down out of respect to the Labour Party and the prime minister after his comments yesterday raised controversy because of interpretations which he viewed as mistaken.

Mr Grima said that on reflection, his choice of language might have been excessive and he could have been more specific so as to be understood by all. However his comments had not been directed at Sadiq Khan.

Mr Grima regretted that he would not be able to continue promoting a (tourism) project for the Mediterranean which he had created with the approval and cooperation of the WTO and the prime minister. He thanked all those who had cooperated with him on the project.

It is not yet known whether Mr Grima resigned voluntarily or whether he was forced to step down after once again going one step too far with his Facebook comments.

Sources told Times of Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was "very unhappy" with Mr Grima's comments. 

Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said Mr Grima's resignation was inevitable.

"His position had become untenable the moment he made yesterday's comments," he said.  

The decision comes hours after the former Labour minister said he would sue Times of Malta, Malta Today and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia for libel, claiming they had misinterpreted the comment he made in reaction to the election of Sadiq Khan.

"His position had become untenable the moment he made yesterday's comments."- Edward Zammit Lewis

Mr Grima posted on Facebook: "The writing is on the wall. The cockroaches have invaded dear old London. Londoners thought they were buttering their bread by voting in an Islamic Mayor but with the butter they allowed in the cockroaches."

His statement was condemned by the Minister of Tourism, among many others.

Mr Grima, a former Labour minister, in a statement earlier today said he was in favour of freedom of expression but he claimed his statement had been twisted and misinterpreted. 

The liberal bunch will not miss an opportunity to misinterpret anything which does not suit their agenda

"The liberal bunch which is reigning, because a good number of them are close to the people in power... will not miss an opportunity to throw dirt, claim motives and misinterpret anything which does not suit their agenda."

Mr Grima tagged his comment to a story uploaded by the pro-Israeli website supportisraelnow.com

Labour mayor Sadiq Khan beat Tory Zac Goldsmith to become London mayor, ending eight years of Conservative control, with the largest personal mandate of any politician in UK history.

Last year, Mr Grima stirred more controversy after he attacked President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca for urging migrant integration. He has also described human rights NGO Aditus Foundation as “cultural rapists”.

In August 2012, he resigned as show host on the Labour Party’s TV station after he launched an attack on a priest who had written a critical obituary in The Catholic Herald of former leader Dom Mintoff.

 

 

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