Hunters’ lobby CEO attacks government official

(Right) Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK) CEO, Lino Farrugia

The CEO of the Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK) attacked physically the head of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU), Richard Lia, earlier today during an ORNIS Committee meeting. Immediate action was demanded from Ministers by Birdlife Malta.

Birdlife Malta’s communications manager, Nathaniel Attard, said in a statement that the ornithological conservation NGO had written to ministers asking swift action, including the suspension “once and for all” of hunters’ lobby CEO Lino Farrugia from the ORNIS committee. Farrugia allegedly assaulted Richard Lia, the chief of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit, according to Birdlife. As a result, the Committee Chairman had to call the meeting to a halt.

The NGO said it requested Farrugia’s suspension to ensure the “safety and security” of the committee’s other members. The ORNIS committee gives recommendations to the government on hunting and trapping seasons and other issues. The ORNIS committee includes both the FKNK and Birdlife. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss proposed legislative changes to Malta’s bird-ringing laws, which Farrugia’s FKNK is pursuing in order to incorporate the hunting community as registered bird ringers.

BirdLife Malta’s CEO Mark Sultana

IBirdlife Malta said that Farrugia’s “aggressive attitude and physical attack” astounded him. The incident occurred after an altercation with top government official Lia during an ORNIS committee meeting on Wednesday. BirdLife Malta’s CEO Mark Sultana stated that they were requesting this in their request for Farrugia’s suspension “in order to rally around Mr. Lia while also conveying a clear message that such behaviour is no longer acceptable in society, let alone in government-appointed organisations We also ask for this for the safety and tranquilly of all other Committee members, including those from BirdLife Malta, who deserve to feel comfortable at such meetings. One can debate arguments in a civil manner but resorting to physical abuse is not to be accepted and needs to be deplored by all.”

When contacted, Farrugia confessed that the two had clashed and that he had a shouting match with Lia about an agenda item, but that he had defended himself against Lia. He alleged, “He got up for me and I shoved him.” When probed by local news media, he clarified that they had not come to blows. He refused to explain what they had fought over.

Birdlife issues a ‘false science’ warning in response to hunters’ attempt to establish a bird ringing system.

Because it will enable various bird ringing programmes in Malta that are not associated with the European recognised EURING ringing scheme, a proposed legislation amendment might jeopardise scientific bird research.

Before the tussle amongst ORNIS committee members, the amendment was on the agenda of an ORNIS Committee meeting convened today Wednesday by the Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK). BirdLife Malta, whose ringing programme was established in the 1960s and is associated with EURING, is concerned that other schemes would not aid science but instead endanger birds, pointing to third parties “who have every purpose to promote phoney science.”

Following prior modifications to the law, BirdLife Malta’s CEO Mark Sultana stated that hunters and trappers can also become licenced bird ringers after completing the required training. “We feel Prime Minister Robert Abela is being deceived and mislead about the current bird ringing ideas,” Sultana stated.

In Malta, approved ringing schemes must be associated with EURING, a European-wide network that recognises highly scientific bird ringing schemes in order to ensure that scientific bird studies, particularly those involving bird migration, are properly networked and of a high standard.

“BirdLife Malta is requesting Prime Minister Abela to put any legislative modifications on hold until a full dialogue with all stakeholders is held in order to avoid Malta becoming embroiled in yet another humiliating scenario with the European Commission over transparency.”