Right of reply: Army promotions exercise
The Armed Forces of Malta would like to avail itself of the right of reply granted under the Press Act in respect to the article by Neil Camilleri, first published online on the 6 October at 3pm with the heading “2 promotions in fortnight: AFM officers, including brigadier, say advancement not ‘accelerated’”.
The Armed Forces of Malta is of the opinion that the captioned article provided an unfair and misleading portrayal for reasons hereunder. Since the case is still sub judice and an appeal from the judgement delivered on 5 October is still possible, this right of reply shall limit itself to actual factual inaccuracies which cannot stand uncorrected.
The case has been filed against the Commander of the Armed Forces of Malta and the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security who respectively are vested with the legal and judicial representation of the entities in question. In view of this, any statement that “Four army officers…told a court” is false since none is personally a respondent in the case.
Moreover, evidence submitted before the Court so far has been limited to the question as to whether the case was timebarred or not given that it was filed two and a half years after the promotions contested took place, that is in September 2013.
Hence, no evidence was submitted nor testimony given in relation to the assertion by the plaintiff that accelerated promotions took place. For the avoidance of doubt, it is also noted that Brigadier (retd) Martin Xuereb and former Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia have not testified in the proceedings. It is unclear how this newspaper arrived to the conclusion or assumption that “[T]hese details emerged in court.”
The report is also incorrect in stating that an application was filed to dismiss the case. The respondents filed a number of pleas in their defence, amongst which the plea that the case may be time-barred was also raised. The date when the judgement was actually delivered was also wrongly indicated, although this fact being very easily ascertainable had proper and diligent research been carried out prior to publication.
Furthermore, the report states that the defendants claimed that the “the court did not have jurisdiction over the matter because internal AFM affairs did not fall under the Administrative Act.” In view of the fact that no “Administrative Act” actually exists under Maltese Law, it is impossible for the respondents to have made such an absurd statement where they quote an inexistent legal instrument.
In addition, the AFM is of the opinion that that report in question was selective in its quoting, ignoring numerous and salient other pleas raised by the respondents. In noting Lt Col Andrew Mallia’s argument that according to him he had seniority over those promoted and that the other officers could not possibly be more qualified than him, the report fails to also note the respondent’s rebuttal that (i) some of the officers he complains about have actually been serving in the AFM longer than him and that (ii) Lt Col Mallia is not in a position to compare qualifications and capabilities since those promoted had areas of expertise different from his but likewise essential for the AFM and in any case, Lt Col Andrew Mallia never worked directly with or had the command of those who he considers less qualified or capable than him.
The AFM finally lauds the swift pace with which this particular case is proceeding. Similar cases contesting promotions given in the AFM, with at least one having been filed in 2007, are still sub judice. Other pending suits for damages against the AFM date back even further, back to 1992.
The AFM would like to conclude by stating that at this stage, in view of the ongoing nature of proceedings, it will refrain from elaborating further but this reply is being submitted based on a reasonable expectation that reporting be professional, factually correct and accurate.
Public Affairs Officer 2Lt N. Galea