15 March 2006


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Business Today



Police treating arson attack “seriously”

Matthew Vella

A spokesperson for the Commissioner of Police said the police force are treating the suspected case of arson against vehicles belonging to the Jesuits with the utmost detail and seriousness.
The spokesperson yesterday said the police could not rule out anything as the cause of fire: “it could be a short circuit or a former student. We cannot exclude anything at this stage and we will look into everything.”
Speculation is alight over a possible right-wing retaliation against the Jesuit order, which is one of the main organisations which support refugee rights and assist migrants who land in Malta.
Labour MP Gavin Gulia said he did not have “the smallest doubt” that the arson attacks were associated with a “vile expression of racism” from groups intolerant towards immigrants in Malta.
“This cowardly act cannot be ignored as if nothing happened… when violence and vandalism are accompanied by racism and xenophobia, these are not only targeting the criminal justice system but also seriously challenging democracy and safety in our country.”
Gulia appealed to the police force to double its efforts in the investigations into the arson attacks.
Alternattiva Demokratika’s chairperson Dr Harry Vassallo said the perpetrators on the Jesuit community in Birkirkara and on a private house in Pembroke must be brought to justice. “There is nothing more dangerous to a society than its submission to threats and assaults of the kind. It is not only the Jesuit community that has been attacked but all of society which witnesses these acts and is placed under threat. Another arson attack on a private residence in Pembroke some days ago may also be linked to the latest incident.
“The indications of who may have caused the damage in both instances lie clearly in the opinions expressed by the victims who have publicly denounced racism and xenophobia and also in the fact that in both cases the offenders have not felt the need to claim responsibility for these acts of intimidation,” Vassallo said.
Vassallo said that if the authorities fail once more to be firm with such offenders they become accomplices in all the consequences that may ensue. “This is terrorism and not merely a chance act of vandalism and should be dealt with accordingly.”
Sunday’s arson attack occurred just days after the order broadcast its views against racism and xenophobia. Four cars and three vans at St Aloysius College were set on fire and completely destroyed. Duty Magistrate Joseph Apap Bologna has launched an inquiry.
A similar incident occurred in November, when two cars and a motorcycle belonging to the Jesuit community at Tal-Qroqq, Msida, were also burnt out. The Jesuits have publicly stated both events took place immediately after a press conference given by the Jesuit Centre of Faith and Justice on the National Conference on Racism and Xenophobia and the Jesuit Province to promote racial tolerance. Sunday’s arson attack came a day after the publication by the Jesuits of an EU commissioned report on racism and xenophobia in Malta.
The right-wing website which hosts adherents to far rightist Norman Lowell, vivamalta.com, was yesterday alight with discussions on the issue. Unidentified commentators posted items such as the following: “I heard from the grapevine that last night all the Jesuits’ cars parked in St Aloysius College grounds were burnt,” a comment read. “That’s nice. Were any Jesuits grilled?” was the reply. “Too bad. If Jesuits had been grilled we could have had a holocaust memorial day of our own in a year’s time. Better luck next time arsonists.”

mvella@mediatoday.com.mt



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