Muscat is a ‘Citizen Joe’, just like everyone else

Joseph Muscat cannot be allowed to twist the sharp corners of the way the law gets applied

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Judging by the reactions to last Wednesday’s raid on former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s residence: it is clear that we have not really learnt the lessons of our recent history.

Despite all the widely-known problems with Malta’s governance and rule-of-law framework – in particular, its ‘culture of impunity’ – there are still numerous people who continue to treat their own cherished political leaders as being ‘above the law’.

Some are even accusing Prime Minister Robert Abela of ‘failing to intervene’, forgetting, it seems, that the entire reason Malta’s reputation has been dragged through the mud, since 2017, is precisely because of political interference in the wider administration of justice.

Truth of the matter, however, is that – evne after his disgraced exit from politics in 2019 – Joseph Muscat is ‘Citizen Joe’... a regular man in the street just the same as everybody else. So exactly why he – or his followers – should expect to be immune from investigation, is anyone’s guess, really.

This does not mean that the raid itself raises no questions of its own. Yes, the timing might be considered ‘irregular’, because Muscat had requested to place himself at the disposal of an investigating magistrate, back in November 2021, when the Times’s Accutor story was first published.

Nonetheless, the police still have to execute the orders of the magistrate; when (or if) these are forthcoming. And Muscat knows all this only too well: just as he knows that even his children’s devices have to be seized in such raids. After all a PEP’s [Politically Exposed Person] immediate relatives are also considered to be PEPs; so, despite their tender age, his daughters’ devices were also necessary for a thorough investigation. Moreover, the same has happened in other situations, such as Melvin Theuma’s raid by police.

As a newspaper we must view the process of law and order dispassionately. We cannot allow Muscat to twist the sharp corners of the way the law gets applied.

One may understand that Muscat has a right to criticise the process of the law, or the way it is administered. But to suggest – as many of his supporters are now doing – that he shouldn’t be investigated at all… that only takes us back to the impunity that lies at the heart of Malta’s glaring ‘rule-of-law’ problem.

And while Prime Minister Robert Abela insisted that the government has full trust in the institutions, this implicit trust should ideally be recognised without excessive verbosity. This is particularly relevant, because Muscat’s Facebook video – as well as his interview to the Times on the same day of the raid – is also the product of a seasoned, astute politician who knows how his words can inspire (or weaponise) a strong Labour following: still seduced by the former Prime Minister; but also loyal to a strong, Labour party-in-government.

So Muscat’s threat of ‘making noise’ – widely viewed as an implicit threat to Robert Abela, to do a Berlusconi-like run for politics so as to avoid investigation – could equally prove a threat to the Nationalist Party. It could help ‘bring out the vote’, and return Labour to power with yet another super-majority.

It is a knife that cuts both ways. Whether or not Muscat is truly capable of guaranteeing Labour’s third consecutive landslide win, is a factor that affects Abela’s own political future: as he tries – unsuccessfully, so far - to sever any loyalty for his ascent to the Labour throne, to the former party leader.


Metsola’s abortion volte-face: predictable, but necessary

It didn’t take long for all the congratulations to newly-elected EP President Roberta Metsola, to turn into a chorus of indignation at her apparent ‘volte-face’ on abortion.

However, such reactions only betray a fundamental misunderstanding of how the European parliament functions.

As EP President, Metsola will now be taking positions representing the majority views of the House as a whole; hence her decision to accede to Emanuel Macron’s request, and sign the Simone Veil charter on abortion.

Nonetheless, a volte-face it remains: for Metsola, of course, was never a champion of women’s reproductive rights; and her agreement comes on the back of a three-party agreement (EPP, S&D, Renew) that included recognition of abortion rights as a condition for party support.

So far from any conviction on Metsola’s part, this is typical political wheeling and dealing. It is a case of political expedience. It is unlikely that Metsola would be signing up to those same rights in a different situation.

Still, this newspaper welcomes this development. Metsola’s voice can do much to change a lot inside the Maltese political scene, both for the Nationalists and Labour. Above all, it should spell an end to the weaponisation of abortion in Malta as a ‘taboo’ with which to batter political opponents. And that, in itself, is no bad thing.