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Clean the Palace stables

It is bad when a lawyer raises the issue of perjury while questioning a colleague testifying in the superior court. It gets far worse when the presiding judge tells the witness he does not believe a single word she is saying and that her warrant could be at stake.

This happened in a civil suit a number of individuals have instituted against the President, her secretariat and the organisers of the Paqpaqli għall-Istrina after a 2015 car show incident when 23 people were injured, some seriously.

The Malta Community Chest Fund insists the event was organised by third parties. Who organised the ill-fated event is now at the heart of the civil lawsuits. In fact, the victims have asked the presiding judge to first rule on who was responsible for the incident before quantifying the damages.

It was only at the end of her long testimony – transcribed over 50 pages – that lawyer Lisa Brooke, a member of the Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation’s board of administration, agreed that board chairman John Camilleri had said during a meeting they should say Paqpaqli għall-Istrina was a third party event. And even then she qualified her reply saying she had heard this from the media. Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff interjected noting the witness did not need to qualify what she had just said. “You said yes,” he insisted.

Throughout most of her testimony, Dr Brooke said she could not remember when asked about the functions of her board, the events organised and a meeting held before board members were expected to testify in court, among other things. Throughout most of the evidence, the witness said the meeting was called to put their mind at rest, to let them know what was likely to happen and to urge them to say the truth, but could not recall the details.

What weight should Dr Brooke’s evidence be given within the framework of the civil lawsuit is, of course, up to the judge to decide. However, her behaviour on the witness stand sends all the wrong messages and the Commission for the Administration of Justice, the Chief Justice and the Chamber of Advocates should look into the matter urgently.

Dr Brooke’s position within the Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation is untenable, for her performance on the witness stand casts a very dark shadow on her credibility and trustworthiness.

The same applies to Mr Camilleri, who is also the President’s chief of staff. He too had a rough ride when testifying before Mr Justice Mintoff.

Mr Camilleri kept insisting that Paqpaqli għall-Istrina was a third party event and that there were no contacts between his board and the event organisers. How, then, he was asked, could he have made a sworn declaration that “all necessary precautions had been taken by the organisation committee”.

He replied he believed the same had happened over the years and the judge pointed out that a witness could not base his testimony on assumptions.

It is imperative the President has a very close look at the Palace stables and spend summer ordering a thorough clean-up. It is not only her reputation which is at stake but the success or otherwise of a very noble cause, which is the Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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