Rivers of tears, time-wasting and money down the drain

Instead of doing their duty, the police shifted the obvious decision to the Courts, wasting time and public money in the process

Gordon-John Manché
Gordon-John Manché

A criminal complaint filed some twelve months ago by ‘River of Love’ evangelical pastor Gordon-John Manché at the Sliema police station led to Matt Bonanno, owner of satirical news site Bis-Serjetà, being charged with making online threats after he implied that the evangelical group River of Love “should be carpet-bombed.”

Bonanno’s site is renowned for its ironic takes on local news. It was never meant to be taken seriously but just intended to raise a laugh.

The police have now served him with a court summons accusing him of misusing electronic equipment to threaten the commission of a crime in a comment he published on Facebook a year ago.

Bonanno rightly said that he did not intend to take this police action lying down and asked for financial help in his “fight against religious extremists for freedom of expression, satire and opinion.”

In his facetious Facebook comment, Bonanno ‘suggested’ relocating ‘River of Love’ to Buġibba, “then carpet bomb. Two birds with one stone”. His comment followed another one of his, in which he argued that the evangelical group should be “treated exactly like ISIS”.

I can understand that Manché has no sense of humour. For example, he does not think it is funny when he starts talking gibberish, claiming that he is talking to God in some particular language that nobody has ever heard of.

The problem with this ridiculous story is the police.

They do not seem to know the difference between what is said in satire and real threats. They need to be given a course of lectures on the right for freedom of expression, of which, apparently, the police do not even understand the most basic notion.

To think that suggesting the carpet bombing of Bugibba after moving the ‘River of Love’ to that place is a serious comment is, of course, complete nonsense – as it was meant to be. Of course, the police, faced with Manché’s complaint, decided to wash their hands of the issue and charge Bonanno in Court, rather than doing the right thing and dismissing Manché’s claim as preposterous.

By opting for this course of action, the Police just shirked their responsibility of dismissing Manché’s silly complaint, as they should have done.

They just decided to let the Courts decide. Instead of doing their duty, they shifted the obvious decision to the Courts, wasting time and public money in the process.

The Courts are known to be overloaded with many spurious cases, but the Police could not care less. They prefer to wash their hands by referring the matter to the Courts, showing a crass ignorance of what the right of freedom of expression implies.

The spurious charge was made a year after the spurious comment was made. It will probably take another year or so for the Court to finally decide the issue. If there is an appeal, the time for a final decision will increase by another two years or so...

Meanwhile, River of Love was not shifted to Bugibba and no one has decided to carpet-bomb Bugibba. Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden need their bombs for use in the never-ending Ukraine war. The impossible comment on carpet-bombing made in a Maltese context was clearly satirical – it was not meant to be taken seriously.

The police taking action as a result of this comment being taken literally and seriously is just waste of public money. This is also the police disparaging the right for freedom of expression. It should provoke rivers of tears.

It is also a waste of precious police time. With so many serious crimes going on daily in this country, the police should have a good look at their duty to serve the public and make decisions based on a realistic assessment of complaints made by every Tom, Dick and Gordon.

If whoever makes a complaint feels that the police have failed them, they have the right to challenge the police decision. In this case Gordon Manché would have to prove that his complaint merited police action.

It did not.

The PN media

After my contribution last Sunday, a PN insider contacted me to tell me that I should have also mentioned the current sorry state of the PN media. In his opinion, it is also in a ‘state of despondency’, giving undue coverage of what the government is doing and never sending the message that the PN has a better alternative for the way this country should be run.

That latter part is practically impossible since the PN presents no real alternative to the people. The PN – or whoever runs it – does not know what it should propose to show that it is ahead of the government where people’s expectations are concerned.

But even worse, the PN media seems to be oblivious of any political strategy that the PN actually has.

The PN media newsroom has been given free rein to publish whatever it thinks merits publication. Often it superficially presents the easiest news at hand. It is a reflection of the current state of mind of those who are running the PN: visionless, lacking strategy and disjointed.

In the PN papers, sometimes the same story is split into bits and pieces so as to fill the otherwise empty pages. Reading the news pages gives people the feeling that they are being spoon-fed as if PN supporters are morons. No wonder the sales of In-Nazzjon and il-mument have dived down to new lows, albeit historically they always sold more when the PN is not in power. The popularity of social media on the internet, it must be said, also contributed to this decrease.

The interests of particular persons have taken over the general interest of the party and nobody is making the effort to present the PN as one unified front. Making inroads into those who vote Labour does not seem to be a preoccupation. It seems less important than the survival of the political career of particular individuals – at the expense of others, of course.

Again, this confirms that rather than sorting out its problems, the PN is just holding out until it faces yet another big debacle in the European Parliament and local council elections next year.

Expect the worse after those results are known.