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Of political spins and the inquiry relating to the in genere | Robert Abela

PL candidate Robert Abela writes: Simon Busuttil is not being politically honest when he is stating that the inquiry must find Keith Schembri guilty, on the basis of the evidence he has submitted to the inquiring magistrate

8 May 2017, 1:28pm
The Leader of the Opposition is now trying to disassociate himself from the allegations made with regard to the Prime Minister and his wife
The Leader of the Opposition is now trying to disassociate himself from the allegations made with regard to the Prime Minister and his wife
The distortion of the issues by the Leader of the Opposition with regard to the magisterial inquiry led by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja is worrying. 

The main purpose of such an inquiry is to investigate the facts and preserve the evidence, rather than the investigation of an offence in order to identify the offender. Dr Busuttil is not correct when he states that the Prime Minister should resign in view of the fact that he is facing a magisterial inquiry, because the allegation is untrue that the inquiry – incidentally requested by the Prime Minister himself – is investigating the Prime Minister.  

Simon Busuttil is not being politically honest when he is stating that the inquiry must find Keith Schembri guilty, on the basis of the evidence he has submitted to the inquiring magistrate. Not only is Simon Busuttil trying to act as accuser, prosecutor, judge and jury, but more importantly, at law a magisterial inquiry cannot establish the guilt of any person concerning an offence, but can only conclude whether any judicial action should be taken, and against whom. Such further action, when taken, also regularly results in an acquittal. 

The decree which the inquiring magistrate delivered on 4 May regarding the allegations made by Dr Busuttil against Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna, confirms that the intervention and evidence produced by Dr Busuttil in that inquiry were irrelevant to the facts being investigated, that is, the allegations made against the Prime Minister and his wife regarding their alleged connection with the Panama company Egrant.

The Leader of the Opposition is now trying to disassociate himself from the allegations made with regard to the Prime Minister and his wife when he is being asked what his position will be if the inquiry disproves these allegations. He has resorted to hiding behind others and is saying that these allegations were not made by him. One thing is certain: for political convenience he took advantage of these serious allegations in a manner unbecoming of a constitutional office holder, once he had no evidence in his hands. Political responsibility will have to be shouldered for this irresponsibility at the conclusion of the inquiry.

One also needs to point out that Dr Busutttil started off by undermining the inquiry and declared it as a cover-up, then, after realising that this position was not well received by the public, he requested the Magistrate to allow him to testify in the inquiry and made a U-turn by recognising the legitimacy of the inquiry requested by the Prime Minister.

In the light of his claims that he was in possession of evidence about Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna, instead of immediately asking for a magisterial inquiry to be opened regarding the facts he alleged, for political gain he intervened irregularly in an inquiry which was investigating another matter. This he did in an attempt to confuse the separate issues and manipulate public opinion. The clinical decree issued on 4 May stopped any such further abuse of the judicial process. 

Dr Busuttil then interpreted the Magistrate’s decree as meaning that the Magistrate had formally put Keith Schembri under investigation regarding criminal offences, after having accepted the evidence which he tendered to the Magistrate.

This is blatantly untrue since once a Magistrate even receives mere information from a person, which is not even confirmed on oath – relating to even the wildest allegation that a crime punishable with more than three years imprisonment has been committed – and the subject-matter of the allegation still exists, then the Magistrate is duty bound to kick off an inquiry without entering into the merits of whether that allegation is true or otherwise.

Certainly the actions of the Leader of the Opposition have shattered any credibility that he may still have had, as he has once again confirmed that he is ready to resort to anything in order to gain power. Malta deserves better.

Robert Abela is a lawyer who is contesting the sixth district for the Labour Party

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