Adrian Delia: A trial by Whatsapp

The mess the PN is in is driving down the level of debate and the way we do politics. We all need to pause and return to a sense of normality and civility in this country

Opposition leader Adrian Delia
Opposition leader Adrian Delia

In September, the Supreme Court in India lambasted one of its lower courts on a case which ended up in front of it. ‘Is this some kind of a joke?’ asked the Supreme Court. The case was one about a riot, but the Supreme Court was incensed not on the issue itself but on the process.

The Supreme Court heard how one of its lower courts, the state court of Jharkhand, carried out proceedings through WhatsApp – I am not kidding. The process was basically thrown out and the Supreme Court threw the spotlight not on the accused in the case, but on the state itself for bringing the law into disrepute.

In Malta, another kind of trial by WhatsApp is taking place and in this case the situation is even more ludicrous if it wasn’t so tragic. The leader of the Nationalist Party and the Opposition, Adrian Delia, is being subjected to an unprecedented trial by WhatsApp.

I won’t get into the merits of the case, since I don’t know any of the details, and the Opposition leader certainly doesn’t need me to stick up for him.

But one cannot not acknowledge that we’ve hit a new low in Maltese politics. The way a marital breakdown has been weaponised to reach a political goal is a sad low for those who do politics in our country. Who needs the courts when WhatsApp has video?  

Of course, there is plausible deniability by the people doing this whispering campaign. It’s being done on WhatsApp and through trusted journalists, allowing them to keep a shield of secrecy and deniability that it was them. There they go, the same people, mostly lawyers, who have thrown tantrums against the government over data protection over innocuous things, sharing and sending the intimate details of someone’s marriage, in the hope that destroying a marriage means also destroying a person’s political career. What a sad bunch they are, in their little WhatsApp groups.

This is the kind of malevolence that people associated with the Labour Party had to endure for years. They held back from retorting in kind despite the abundance of it. Family, sons and daughters, disabilities, sickness... all of these were all used to dehumanise and demonise Labour politicians.

The parable of the mote and the beam comes to mind. When will we understand that people in Malta hold a disdain for such behaviour?

What next – should we discuss this in Parliament? It is abhorrent that politics in Malta is further moving away from the concept of discussing policies and ideas, and into personal attacks. The mess that the Nationalist Party is in is driving down the level of debate and the way we do politics.

We all need to pause and return to a sense of normality and civility in this country. We’ve thrown common sense and decency out of the window and this will have an effect on politics in the future. Let us have robust scrutiny of our actions and let us hold politicians to account but lynching each other undermines democracy and citizenship in every way.

Can you imagine a young, well-meaning individual in their 30s or 40s looking from the outside into this political jungle and telling his or her family that they’re entering politics?

Because this is the worst part of it all. The more we drown the quality of our politics, the more likely well-meaning people will stay away from it.
Pope Francis put this very well in his opening remarks for 2019: “It is scandalous seeing some people who go to church every day but then live to hate others, gossiping and bad mouthing other people. One is better off being an atheist. If you go to church you ought to live a life in a brotherly way. The first thing a Christian knows is that he holds sin just like everyone else.”