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'I was misinterpreted,' Labour MEP says, after post links hit-and-run case to politics

Comment draws sharp criticism

Updated 5.45pm with PL's reply to Beppe Fenech Adami's statement

Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi has kicked up controversy by linking Tuesday's hit-and-run incident with politics.

A police constable was grievously injured when he was run over by a car which he stopped because it was being driven by an unlicensed 17-year-old.

Ms Mizzi uploaded her comment in a tweet and on Facebook that what happened to the traffic policeman "is the collateral damage caused to society by whoever undermined the authorities to fuel an agenda – usually a political one.”

Among the first to reply was Corinne Vella, Daphne Caruana Galizia's sister.

“The authorities” are doing a good job of undermining themselves if even an MEP reads from their standard crib sheet. Simon Schembri was mowed down by an unlicensed teenaged driver, not by protestors demanding justice and a competent police commissioner.” she said.

Others called the implication "absurd", "disgraceful" and "out of context".

“Authorities doing their job are supported by everyone. It is when the authorities fail to act in a proper manner that they get called out. All about the context of the situation Marlene,” Donal Kelly said.

“One would expect an MEP not to confuse instances such as these and to have a clear mind. Unfortunately, from your comment, it does not seem you have what it takes. You are here trying to gain political and biased leverage,” read another reply.

Tina Urso, the young woman attacked for recently organising a protest against the prime minister in London also had a sharp reply:

“You have no shame, Marlene. Instead of protecting those who fight for justice, set a good example and call out those who harass and threaten civil society, you instil more hate in people. You are there to serve all the people. Do the job people pay you to do.”

An anonymous commenter said: “You are not fit for purpose. Statements such as these coming from people in positions such as yours only serve to divide Maltese citizens from its police force. Of course, in a dictatorship, confusion and division are assets. So well done for serving your puppeteer, Marlene.

Others agreed that there was malice by sections of society against the police, but the Labour MP got only one message of support, on Facebook, with Connie Muscat saying "Proset Marlene”. 

'I was voluntarily misinterpreted' - Mizzi

In a statement early on Thursday afternoon, Ms Mizzi said she was sorry to see her post had been "voluntarily misinterpreted and spun in this manner".

Her comment, she said, was not addressed at any group or anyone in particular but a comment made with regards to what resulted when the institutions and state authorities were undermined.

"It is a general statement and I pointed fingers at nobody."

"The thrust of my comment was that when institutions are undermined (and, yes, this is usually done for political reasons) then society will suffer, and likely to produce ugly results as we have seen this week.

"The link to politics was with the undermining of institutions, NOT the incident. That is why I called the incident as collateral damage."

Ms Mizzi said she failed to understand the comments made by Ms Vella or Ms Urso, and others because she was not in any way referring to them, their group or anyone in particular.

"Therefore I do not understand their umbrage and why they thought I was referring to them - or to anyone in particular."

"Having said so it is sad to see that a statement, offending nobody, and basically calling for respect for our institutions and State authorities is misinterpreted in this way, and that it would attract such vitriolic reactions."

Opposition statement

The PN's spokesman for national security, Beppe Fenech Adami, condemned Mrs Mizzi's statement, which, he said, politicised the incident.

He said the Nationalist Party expressed solidarity with Mr Schembri and his family and with all members of the police force who put their lives in danger daily to defend honest citizens from criminals.

PL's reply

In a reply, the Labour Party said it was pleased that even Beppe Fenech Adami, who it referred to as the PN's deputy leader, was stating that unfortunate incidents or acts by irresponsible individuals should not be politicised.

This was because it was not the first time that Dr Fenech Adami politicised incidents which hurt people or cases about which steps had been taken and people were arrested.

Mrs Mizzi's comment, the PL said, was nothing compared to Dr Fenech Adami's behaviour in the past months.

The PL expressed solidarity and support with Mr Schembri and his colleagues now and throughout the year.

The was because police work should be respected year round without exception, it said. 

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