Back
Register for SMS Alerts
or enter your details manually below...
First Name:
Last Name:
Email:
Password:
Hometown:
Birthday:
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.
Existing users
Email
Password
Sorry, we couldn't find those details.
Enter Email
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.
michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon

The politicians vs the people

The ideal of having three branches of government – the executive, the legislative and the judiciary – balancing each other out in a system of checks and balances remains simply an ideal

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon
28 February 2017, 7:49am
Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar: if the PANA committee did not find anything new, it has brought to light the lack of serious police investigations and action when these were so obviously warranted
Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar: if the PANA committee did not find anything new, it has brought to light the lack of serious police investigations and action when these were so obviously warranted
Ever since humanity come together to form societies, there has always been a search for the ideal form of government. No wonder the Greek playwright and poet Aristophanes is quoted as saying that ‘under every stone lurks a politician.’

Over history, the search for an ideal management of society has taken many forms. Sometimes it was the priests using religious influence. Many times it was a warlord who protected his own supporters. Occasionally it was the anarchists who never got anywhere, or the capitalists or the ‘workers’ or the nobility, or the oriental strongman... as well as the dictator, of course.

The search for the ideal political system still goes on today as societies keep changing. One idea that proved Karl Marx right was that every thesis creates its own anti-thesis and so the search goes on. However, there is one common factor in all these ideas: it is the inherent characteristic in all humanity that we are essentially selfish beings and that we will always grab a chance to better our lives.

After many experiments, the Judeo-Christian culture of the West evolved liberal democracy: free elections, the rule of law, an independent judiciary and a free unhindered press.

All these institutions work together to check the inherent selfishness of the ruling class and it is for this purpose that political parties evolved with society guaranteeing their freedom to act without fear of retaliation. 

Cynics say ‘set a thief to catch a thief’ but there is no doubt that an effective opposition ready to take over the government is one of the most powerful tools to ensure the good behaviour of the politicians who are in effective power. The allegation that when in government the party in opposition did the same sort of abuse being carried out by the current party in government is an attempt to weaken the value of the opposition’s role in a system of checks and balances. Even if this were true, the government should still be subject to the opposition’s monitoring. The opposition might have its own skeletons in the cupboard and might indulge in silly exaggerations but its role is still vital in a democracy.

Moreover, the institutionalised giving up of power by the ruling party when the people decide to ditch it is the one great strength of our democratic system. 

This balance is not easy to achieve as a government needs the power to govern... but the catch is all about what happens if the ruling politicians abuse the power given to them by the electorate. History teaches us that Hitler was democratically elected. So was Donald Trump...

A democratic society also needs an independent judiciary that curbs the power of the executive when it over-reaches itself.

The ideal of having three branches of government – the executive, the legislative and the judiciary – balancing each other out in a system of checks and balances remains simply an ideal.

The acid test for these checks and balances in the US constitution is looming on the horizon.

In Malta, we have practically no real effective distinction between the executive and the legislative. The Police force is practically in the hands of the executive and – as we have seen – is beyond checking its abuse of power. 

If the visiting MEP delegation did not find anything new, it has brought to light the lack of serious police investigations and action when these were so obviously warranted. The delegation avoided entering into the merits of the internal political rows in Malta as some seem to have expected. We still have to learn that we have to solve our problems and not expect ‘big daddy’ in the form of the EU to do it for us. 

Then there is the media, whose freedom we should jealously guard. In today’s world, the checks and balances in society must include the role of the media: the people have to know what is really going on in order to decide what is best for them. Once again history is full of examples when people were manipulated. Goebbels used the then new media – radio and cinema – to successfully alienate an otherwise well educated German nation. Donald Trump has an avid love for twitter to bypass a critical media and go directly to the roots.

Suppressing information to the people is the first step to control their behaviour and hence to dictatorship. Presenting fake news and ‘alternative facts’ as the truth reinforces the evident manipulation. Alleging that the truth is fake news complicates the mess even further.

Add to this the binning of the meritocracy promise with the distribution of benefits to the unworthy as long as they are loyal. 

Is it any surprise that in this scenario, the ham-handed reaction of the – metaphorically – axe-wielding Minister Cardona reminded many of the bad days of old Labour? 

It is indeed an unfortunate moment to extend the press law to news blogs on the internet, not because it is not – if well done – really needed, but because in the way it is drawn up, it can be abused as many laws can be. Just as Minister Chris Cardona so foolishly demonstrated with his application of an existing law in such a way that threatens freedom of speech.

The government had to somehow mend the fences and subsequently proposed that such a procedure should not be applicable to civil cases where damages as a result of libel are being sought. Now we have the sorry spectacle of a Minister applying a law that the Cabinet has decided should no longer be applied in the way he applied it. The Minister agrees with the proposed law – meaning that he agrees he should not have done what he did... but he is still doing it anyway!

What message are we supposed to get by this kind of behaviour?

This, together with the sad performance of the ruling class – the elected and the unelected – calling all the shots, in the face of the European Parliament delegation visiting Malta this week should give us all some food for thought.

At the end of the day, as the maxim – attributed to French philosopher and politician Joseph Marie de Maistre – goes ‘every country gets the government it deserves’.

This, of course, begs the question: Are we up to it?

[email protected] 

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon is a former government minister who served under several Nationalist admini...
DealToday
follow us on facebook