Our faith in the institutions

The fact there is so much mistrust in the institutions has turned into the Prime Minister’s main headache. Calling for us to unite behind them, when he knows that there is little or no trust, shows a lack of political foresight

The Prime Minister’s budget speech emphasised that the institutions should not be attacked and that we should unite behind them.

Since when, in a flourishing democracy, are State institutions considered as untouchable? The trust in the institutions very much depend on mutual respect and when the institutions carry out their job. 

The fact that there is so much mistrust in the institutions has turned into the Prime Minister’s main headache. Calling for us to unite behind them, when he knows that there is little or no trust, shows a lack of political foresight. Joseph Muscat is now facing his first real crisis. In the beginning of his second legislature, the façade that all is well is crumbling. For four long years he brushed off all criticism and was vindicated by a second massive victory.

This summer was a perfect one for Joseph Muscat. Gigantic electoral victory, Simon Busuttil’s resignation, and infighting at the Nationalist Party. This came in to an end in autumn with the horrific assassination of his harshest critic, Daphne Caruana Galizia. In her Running Commentary, Daphne pinpointed where the institutions failed. She attacked Muscat for failing to bring order in his own office and Cabinet. She proved, and later Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri had to admit, that they owned offshore companies. The Prime Minister acted in contempt, thinking that we are fools, by removing Mizzi’s energy portfolio, retaining it himself and then transferring Mizzi to the OPM to carry on with the energy portfolio. 

Other institutions have been left with no option but to criticise other failing institutions. The first was Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who on Independence Day told the congregation, which included MPs, that the country was creating a group of oligarchs. A few days later the Chief Justice, at the opening of the new forensic year in full view of the media, criticised the fact that the police and the Attorney General were not discharging their duties impartially and therefore, hindered the rule of law in Malta. Joseph Muscat created a group of untouchables. Untouchable by the police, untouchable by FIAU, untouchable by the Attorney General, and therefore, unreachable by the courts.

On Wednesday the Prime Minister wanted to put more spin. Instead of acknowledging the obvious, he went to list self-proclaimed achievements of his tenure in securing good governance and the freedom of expression. He mentioned that the criminal offence of libel will be removed shortly. Little consolation to Daphne and to present-day journalists who are risking much more than a prison sentence. The Prime Minister tried to give the impression that he will no longer be choosing the judiciary and the heads of various government agencies, but again this is false. The nomination and engagement of these people will be done by him and his government.

The Prime Minister must go because he is the head of a government which has allowed the police to be perceived as incompetent and incapable of fighting corruption and crime

What is being done is merely an additional layer before the decision is taken. The Justice Commission will not be choosing judges and magistrates, but scrutinising their applications. Parliament will not be choosing the Governor of the Central bank or the Chairman of the MFSA or Transport Authority etc. Parliament will publicly scrutinise their nominations and they may still be chosen, irrespective of the fact that the Parliamentary committee may find the nominee unsuitable. 

Another spin is that the Prime Minister asked a magistrate to investigate him. Again, it is the police that have to power to arrest a person, detain that person for 48 hours at a time, carry out searches and arraign suspects before the courts. This is different from a Magistrate who may merely order that a person be arrested or that a search be carried out. This is so much different from when the oil scandal broke out days before the 2013 general election, when Lawrence Gonzi referred the matter to the police and we saw one person after another being arraigned in court.  

The Prime Minister has not understood that away from spin, a person has died. She died because of what she wrote or would have written. The person who perpetrated this murder knew well that what they were doing was not only killing another human being, but was sending a very clear message to all those who dare to investigate the connection between criminality and politics and who dared to publish their findings. 

Yes, the Prime Minister must go. Not because he was not elected democratically. He won a landslide victory, when the main issue was corruption. He must go. Not because there is any evidence that he is directly implicated in the assassination. The Prime Minister must go because he is the head of a government which has allowed the police to be perceived as incompetent and incapable of fighting corruption and crime. He is the head of a government which failed to secure in our country the belief that we are all equal before the law. He has appointed persons who cannot or are not allowed to go above party politics.

In the budget speech the Prime Minister should have announced measures to quell our fears and not a call to rally around institutions that have failed. If that was the best he could do, then accelerate his retirement plan.

More in Blogs