Jason Micallef's comments on Caruana Galizia spark tension in the Netherlands

Owen Bonnici in the hot seat during meeting at Leeuwarden

Jason Micallef.

Jason Micallef.

Justice and Culture Minister Owen Bonnici and Valletta 2018 were accused of “legitimising and embracing Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder” by the CEO of the Leeuwarden-Fryslân foundation 2018.

During a tense meeting with journalists and the deputy for the Province of Fryslân Sietske Poepjes, LF2018 CEO Tjeerd Van Bekkum insisted that Dr Bonnici and the V18 foundation had legitimised the situation by refusing to publicly condemn V18 chairman Jason Micallef’s comments.

Mr Micallef had attracted controversy when he wrote on Facebook: “there are happy people everywhere you look. The situation is desperate”- a twist on the final words of Ms Caruana Galizia before she was killed in a car bomb.

Leeuwarden, which shares the European Capital of Culture title with Valletta, cut off ties with V18 after Mr Micallef’s comments. Dr Bonnici's visit was a bid to improve relations with the Dutch city - which seems to have failed, leaving as much tension if not more.

Dr Bonnici did not take Mr Van Bekkum’s comments lightly, saying he “strongly disagreed” and that his comment was “a bit much”.

Mr Van Bekkum later insisted that by refusing to condemn Mr Micallef, V18 and Dr Bonnici were legitimising “the situation”.

During the meeting, Dr Bonnici refused to distance himself from the comments made by Mr Micallef: “I will never ever, even by a whim of thought, do something which conditions the way a person speaks or exercises his freedom of expression,” he said.

Dr Bonnici noted that Mr Micallef had also criticised him in the past.

“Yeah, but you’re not dead,” a journalist quickly retorted.

Mr Van Bekkum also said that he would have fired Mr Micallef had he been in that position. V18 should make a public statement about the comments of its chairman, Mr Van Bekkum said.

Ms Peopjes said that she would not have allowed comments similar to the ones by Mr Micallef from members of LF2018: “If people were expressing views like Mr Micallef, there would’ve been a lot of trouble from people and politicians,” she said.

Listen to the recording here

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