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Playing it safe at the beach
The case of a key 'wetness'
Will the appeal against the man accused of ‘vote rigging’ lead to Anglu Farrugia’s revenge?
1 August 2010, 12:00am
The most interesting bit of news in the newspapers yesterday was that the Attorney General has appealed a court judgement that cleared a businessman of threatening his employees in an attempt to make them vote for the PN in the last general election.
The case resulted from a dossier of some 200 vote-buying allegations famously put together by MLP Deputy Leader, Anglu Farrugia who then went on to hand it over to the Commissioner of Police. Anglu turned the occasion into a veritable media circus with journalists photographing him as he went in the Police Headquarters (where he knows his way quite well). Anglu had claimed that hundreds of votes had been ‘bought’ by the PN.
However when push came to shove, only one case ended up in court: it concerned an employer’s efforts to persuade two employees to vote PN by allegedly telling them that they would lose their job if Labour was elected. The Magistrates Court threw out the case saying there had been no evidence to prove beyond all reasonable doubt the claims that had been made by one of the employees.
The court also found that the accused did not influence another employee or perform any form of corrupt practice. It said it believed that the fact that someone encouraged another person to go to vote or provided a means of transport to go to vote could not be seen as being an illegal influence or corrupt practice, otherwise the electoral offices of the political parties which arranged transport for those who did not have it would also be guilty of illegal influence and corrupt practice.
But Anglu Farrugia would have none of this. Speaking in Parliament, he urged the Attorney General to appeal against the court decision asking whether the court had correctly interpreted the law. Anglu Farrugia's statement prompted a strongly-worded statement from the PN depicting the Labour deputy leader as being unfit to occupy his post after he questioned the court judgment and described Dr Farrugia's actions as "dangerous and seriously lacking in respect towards democracy, human dignity and the judiciary's autonomy".
The Attorney General, it seems, ignored the political mileage that the party in government tried to get and instead 'heeded' Anglu Farrugia’s advice – no doubt because it independently concluded that the court had made a mistake or incomplete appreciation of the evidence as it had not allowed the prosecution to cross-examine a key witness on the basis of a statement that she had previously made.
By an unlucky misprint, The Times reported that the issue revolved round a key ‘wetness’, not a key ‘witness’! The may well turn out to become a cause célèbre in the political history of Malta with Anglu Farrugia getting his revenge and laughing the last laugh.
Many, who were surprised at this turn of events, do not realise that the Attorney General enjoys absolute independence from the judiciary and from government of the day when he takes such decisions and the filing of the appeal has sent the right message in this regard. The Government of the day, of course, appoints the Attorney General and the members of the judiciary but it then has absolutely no say on their decisions. This is a basic democratic principle.
What is curious in our system is that many an Attorney General was nominated judge… by the Government of the day, of course. By sheer coincidence, the same day the appeal was filed Government appointed two new judges and a magistrate, clearly indicating how our system works.
Michael Falzon is a former government minister who served under several Nationalist admini...
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