An intrepid juggler

The PN should organise a monitoring system of the state broadcaster and flood the BA with complaints

Robert Abela. File photo
Robert Abela. File photo

Prime Minister Robert Abela is being assailed from all quarters that are not beholden by the Labour Party because of the way he is speaking about the ‘establishment’ - a convenient term that, in the way he uses it, can mean nothing or any convenient enemy imagined by the average Labour ‘ġaħan’.

I believe his words, which have raised the hackles of so many are nothing but bluster that is not backed by action. In fact, when The Times asked him whether he would report Magistrate Gabriella Vella to the Commission for the Administration of Justice, the Prime Minister said it was up to the electorate to scrutinise the judiciary.

How come? If the magistrate did something that she should not have done, the Prime Minister is obliged to bring up the matter for the consideration of the Commission for the Administration of Justice. Dismissing this possibility in such a terse manner goes on to show that the Prime Minister does not really think she went out of her way for political motives.

On the other hand, there were a lot of unsaid words in Joseph Muscat’s warning on Facebook: ‘Those who dirtied themselves with this injustice or looked the other way instead of fixing it will be judged harshly by the people in the short-term, justice in the long run and by history forever.’ Who are those who ‘looked the other way’? Who was Joseph Muscat accusing here? Surely not the phantom establishment!

Last Thursday, the GWU daily, l-orizzont, dedicated most of its front page to give prominence to the advice of the President of the Republic Myriam Spiteri Debono, who -in an official message - said that the judiciary should be left to work in a serene atmosphere. This indicates where the ‘establishment’ (Ah that word!) of the Labour Party is really heading.

The funny thing about the situation is that it is rife with reverse psychology. The more the Prime Minister is criticised for his ‘dangerous’ words, the more he is being helped to persuade Labour (and Joseph Muscat) diehards to go out and vote in the EP and local council elections - a few days after many of them had vowed they will not.

Interestingly, no surveys of voting intentions carried out after Magistrate Vella concluded the magisterial inquiry on the Vitals/Steward deal have yet been published. I bet these circumstances gave a boost to Labour.

The late Guido de Marco used to say that when assessing Malta’s history, few consider the importance of the decades Malta was part of the Byzantine Empire - some 300 years between 535 and 870. In fact, evidence of these three centuries of Byzantine rule in Malta is limited and sometimes ambiguous. De Marco considered the way of thinking by the Maltese as very much like what is traditionally considered as Byzantine. Whether this was a direct result of those three centuries is, of course, doubtful. But there is no doubting that the way many Maltese look at things and take action can only be considered as Byzantine.

The Byzantines were adept at surviving and Robert Abela has the dubious honour of having to strive for the unity of his party while staying in power. This is not an easy task - hence his having to act as an intrepid juggler.

In our ‘Byzantine’ psyche, the end justifies the means. One can be evil if the end is morally correct (shades of the Inquisition) and one can use morally correct means to achieve an evil end.

One can argue that the Prime Minister is giving the unity of his party in government more importance than the interests of the country. Again, using Byzantine thinking, one can consider that the survival of Labour in government - and avoiding the political chaos that an overt split in Labour would cause - is in the national interest! Many, of course, disagree and think this is preposterous. The issue then becomes a purely party political issue.

It is only the fact that a former prime minister is being formally accused in court of different crimes committed when he was in power that is actually something unheard of. It can only mean that the wheels of justice in Malta still move, even though they are rarely oiled.

In a few months time, the case against him and so many others will be buried in the plethora of court cases and postponements that our justice system is so known for.

On the other hand, if these cases are dwelt with swiftly... that will be a surprise indicating that there was political interference in the system!

But everybody is against political interference in court cases. Hence, I doubt whether there will be a final judgment on these charges in my lifetime.


PBS imbalance

The PN has finally started to take legal action against the illegal political imbalance that PBS unashamedly exercises daily.

In a recent Court case, Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff found that the Nationalist Party’s fundamental rights were breached when the Broadcasting Authority failed to provide an effective remedy after PBS did not broadcast footage of the angry scenes in and outside parliament when the vote on the Jean-Paul Sofia inquiry was taken last July.

Labour MPs had voted down an Opposition motion for the holding of a public inquiry into the building collapse in which Sofia was killed - a decision later overturned by the Prime Minister in his notorious U-turn about the case.

The judge said the footage of what happened afterwards would ‘certainly have had an impact… on viewers’, and would have put the out-voted motion in a different light.

The court deemed that €2,000 paid by BA and PBS each would be a ‘just and sufficient compensation’ for the PN. Moreover, it ordered PBS to report a well-explained and faithful summary of the judgment, allocating a prominent spot during TVM’s 8pm news bulletin by not later than one week after final judgment.

The PN should not rest on its laurels. This decision highlights the fact that the PN has been acting laggardly in cases of political imbalance continually being exercised by PBS.

The PN should organise a monitoring system of the state broadcaster and flood the BA with complaints.

Otherwise, both the BA and the PBS will just dismiss this important judgment, rather than considering it a motivation to change their ways.