Supporters cheer Maltese leader as government faces pressure after journalist murder

Several thousand people rallied in Valletta in a show of support for the government. (Reuters pic)

VALLETTA: Several thousand people rallied in the Maltese capital Valletta on Tuesday in a show of support for the government, which is facing judicial inquiries into alleged corruption and European Union questions over the rule of law.

The rally, organised by Malta’s Labour Party to mark Workers’ Day, took place two days after demonstrators marched through Valletta chanting anti-government slogans and calling for justice after the killing of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Galizia was killed by a car bomb in October. Three people have been charged for carrying out the murder but police have not identified who ordered it.

Addressing the crowd, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Malta was moving forward on issues of justice but he did not mention the investigation into Caruana Galizia’s murder.

He said, however, he had been victim of “the biggest lie” in Malta’s political history, an apparent reference to the journalist’s allegations – so far unproven – that his family had received kickbacks.

After Caruana Galizia’s murder, Malta has come under pressure from European institutions, with a probe underway on its banking supervision by the European Banking Authority, as well as calls for investigations into the country’s rule of law by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.

Organizers said about 20,000 people took part in the rally.

The Mediterranean island is the smallest state of the European Union, with a population of 430,000.

It has experienced an economic boom over the last years, partly fueled by business-friendly measures adopted by Muscat’s government, including a scheme to sell Maltese citizenship to wealthy individuals.

“I have come here for Joseph first, then for Workers’ Day,” said one demonstrator, Joyce Farrugia, 48.