All in the family

What happens when loyalty to one’s responsibilities clashes with loyalty to one’s spouse or family? Surely from an ‘incestuous’ small island state, one can expect an ‘incestuous’ House of Representatives!

Judge Antonio Mizzi has refused to abstain from a case because his wife is a Labour MEP
Judge Antonio Mizzi has refused to abstain from a case because his wife is a Labour MEP

Malta has always been a small place where almost everybody practically knows everybody else – or at least knows of everybody else. In this situation one can imagine that nepotism is more rife than in other larger countries.

When I was given Ministerial reponsibilities, I discovered that I had many more relatives than I had previously known about. As the joke goes: the more success, the more relatives!

Even worse, my wife was the niece of the wife of a prominent Labour politician. At one point, Malta even had two brothers one on either side of Parliament. There one could also even find cousins on each side of the divide and sons of Presidents who were MPs. And the intimacy goes on and on.

Surely from an ‘incestuous’ small island state, one can expect an ‘incestuous’ House of Representatives!

The decision taken by two magistrates to abstain from hearing the compilation of evidence in the case of the persons accused of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia started many a tongue wagging. Every magistrate can probably find an excuse to abstain in this case, and people were wondering if this was going to be a farce. Luckily the third magistrate stood her ground and the legal process was initiated. A similar situation – albeit with a longer trail of abstentions – had occurred in a case against the government about Church schools in the Mintoff/KMB days. You see, judges had gone to Church schools or sent their children there, which was a very convenient excuse to abstain from judging the case.

Women’s emancipation and the fact that women in public life are married to other people in public life has given rise to another argument – whether the job of the spouse of a public person can influence, or appear to influence, the public person’s decisions or actions. When the legal provision for the abstention of judges or magistrates was made into law, the responsibilities of the spouse were never taken into account. That is because judges were males married to housewives! The law has been surpassed by events.

Judge Antonio Mizzi has refused to abstain from a case instituted by Simon Busuttil because his wife is a Labour MEP. Personally, I think that this particular judge is correct on this point. Yet the issue has now been dragged to an Appeals Court.

Even more intriguing is the fact that the Caruana Galizia family do not want a high Police official – who is leading the investigation – to have anything to do with this scrutiny on their mother’s murder because he is married to a Labour Minister who had been attacked in Daphne’s blog.

With marriages between same sex persons, I suppose this type of issue is bound to be on the increase.

Where do we go from here?

Malta is a very small island where marriage is not the only bond between different people. We have business partners – and I have known judges to be sleeping partners of businessmen on some deal or other. Nothing that was not above board, of course, but that is a relationship as strong as any other. Then there are other relationships, the covert ones that include both sexual and ‘business’ relationships that skim under the surface of Maltese society.

Can you ask a judge to abstain because of something to do with his undeclared ‘secret’ girlfriend or boyfriend?

Where will all this end?

Of course, this is not something to trouble only the Maltese. When John F. Kennedy was elected US President he appointed his brother, Bobby, Attorney General. That made him part of the Federal Cabinet and nobody raised an eyebrow. But then standards were different. Perhaps.

President Donald Trump appointed his son-in-law – Jared Kushner – Senior Advisor to the President of the United States. In practice he runs the White House for his father-in-law. Relying on family members assures loyalty – or so many think.

It is said that in appointing the 1962-67 and 1967-71 Cabinets, George Borg Olivier had insisted that his brother Paul Borg Olivier assume Ministerial responsibilities even though he was reluctant to do so. In politics loyalty is often more valued than merit! And what better way to ensure loyalty than to entrust a member of your family with reponsibilities?

Which brings us back to sqaure one. What happens when loyalty to one’s responsibilities clashes with loyalty to one’s spouse or family?

I personally think that if a person is patently loyal to sound ethical principles, loyalty to personal relationships should give way. Many are able to do it – but then justice must not only be done but also seen to be done.

This penalises genuinely loyal people to the benefit of those who are disloyal without having an overt reason for being so.

This is a conundrum that cannot be really solved.

The world’s most powerful man

For its ‘Person of the Year’ Time magazine has chosen ‘The Silent breakers’: those men and women who were sexually harrassed in the past and who opted to speak out about it. They have created a world-wide movement that has led to the shaming of well-known personalities in practically all spheres.

President Donald Trump was seriously considered for the ‘Person of the Year’ accolade. In fact he came second – a case of the groped beating the groper, one could say.

The third person considered was none but Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader who is now considered to be the world’s most powerful man. He actually announced that China intends to lead the world in a speech on October 18.

This was a development that had to come sooner or later but what made it sooner rather than later was the way the Donald Trump Presidency actually meant that the US was surrendering the top spot. As Time magazine put it ‘Donald Trump posted an unexpected vacancy, and China readied its application for the slot.’


May I take this opportunity to wish the readers and the editorial staff of MaltaToday a very happy Christmas, to them and to all their families

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