Malta Drydocks, USN Contract Under Scrutiny
Malta's powerful General Workers' Union was scheduled to meet on Monday, January 15, 2001, on whether a contract between Malta Drydocks and the U.S. Navy violates a constitutional ban on allowing superpowers' ships access to Maltese shipyards. Union president James Pearsall refused to be drawn into the controversy over the contract when questioned by the Maltese media, and said Monday's meeting may not necessarily end with the union taking a stand.
The Navy announced the $6 million contract for Malta Drydocks to work on the U.S. Sixth Fleet's flagship La Salle late on Friday. The ship is due in Malta in April. The left-leaning GWU has strong support among Malta Drydocks workers.
Opposition Labor Party foreign affairs spokesman George Vella on Saturday said the contract violated the spirit and the word of the Maltese constitution, which says Malta is a non-aligned country and its shipyards should be denied to the military vessels of the "two superpowers". Vella also said the U.S. Navy contract could mean an end to work orders from countries such as Libya and Iran. The government denies that the contract violates the constitution.
"In whether or not we should carry out work on U.S. Navy ships, we should be guided by our common sense. Common sense dictates that we should go for it." - (Reuters)