Leaving past convictions behind | Emmanuel Mallia

Reputed criminal lawyer Emmanuel Mallia tells what led him to a change of heart and to contest the forthcoming elections as a Labour candidate

Lawyer Emmanuel Mallia
Lawyer Emmanuel Mallia

The reputed criminal lawyer who led oral submissions before a court which acquitted Safi mayor Peter Paul Busuttil in 1987 on the grounds of a police frame-up over the heinous political murder of Raymond Caruana, will run for Labour, the same political party which Mallia himself had put in the dock back then for abuse of power.

So what is it that makes a man - previously known to be Nationalist leaning - to move to a party which its current deputy leader Anglu Farrugia, a former officer within the police corps, during that infamous era?

"I feel that the Labour Party has moved forward and come a very long way, and in reality it's the Nationalist Party which remains anchored to the past, and seems to be using the past as a tactic to discourage disillusioned voters not to vote for Labour," he says.

Mallia is convinced about the change which has come about within the PL since Joseph Muscat took leadership of the party.

I argue however, that notwithstanding the change he hails, be it a person or party, there still is a baggage which remains to be carried.

"I am against any person or organisation which may have acted in an unfair or dishonourable manner and still persists in the same behaviour, but I laud persons or organisations that admit to mistakes, changes the attitude and moves on to become better..."

"I have come across people who have committed serious crimes, paid their debt to society, and have learnt a tough lesson and grew older to become good, responsible and exemplary family men," he says, insisting that Labour today is not the party it may have been known to be 'yesterday.'"

"This is why I say that the PN remains anchored to the past, because rather than confronting Labour on what it is today, it keeps insisting on the past, when facts show that neither the PN's human rights track record is tainted."

According to Mallia, his experience as a lawyer who defended a number of suspects in high profile trials over the years, led him to challenge the legality of certain aspects of the Security Services Act.

"I was not, and still am not happy with the way certain laws are made in this country, and the Security Services Act is a case in point," he says, adding that while acknowledging that in order to fight crime, one needs certain intelligence, this could still be achieved by providing certain safeguards for the individual.

He explains that it is unacceptable that a ministerial warrant is needed for the interception of phone calls and net services, and the Attorney General remains adamant to insist that warrants need not be exhibited in court or scrutinised.

"This is an anomaly which prohibits the citizen's right to investigate whether permission to intercept a suspect's phone calls was issued before or after it was actually done," he says.

Mallia's argument is similar to what Nationalist backbencher Franco Debono says in a private members' motion he tabled in parliament last November, insisting that authorisation for security services interception must be done by a judicial authority and not by the minister.

"In other words, as things stand today, any individual cannot enjoy any assurance that his phone or computer is not being tapped-into for the necessary purposes of the law."

So should he be elected to the House, Mallia will be pushing for changes to those laws he believes impinge on human rights.

"This is why I am choosing to contest with the Labour Party, because what I am saying has found understanding within the wide-open door policy instituted by Muscat," he says, adding that he found himself "very comfortable to enter those doors which accepted persons - like him - without asking what political creed or beliefs he held."

Mallia - who admits he was a PN voter - who during the 1970's held posts of PN sectional and district committees in Sliema and in Gzira, says that he had remained a PN voter "until Muscat managed to transform the party into a national movement which inspires participation and hope for things to be different and better."

He insists that over the years it was more a case of "public perception" to have him known as a Nationalist supporter, even though he was involved in Guido de Marco's leadership bid in 1977.

"That was the time when I was faced the sour part of politics, given that I had supported de Marco's bid for the PN leadership and things had got rather messy."

But even as the dust settled over that contest which elected Eddie Fenech Adami as PN leader, Mallia remained close to the de Marco's through the family's legal office when the former Statesman was appointed minister in 1987.

Mallia insists that it wasn't difficult for him to take the decision and forge with Labour.

"It was a decision I took after months of good reflection, on my profession and family life," he says as he reveals how he came to know Joseph Muscat and what led him to become close to Labour's young leader.

Mallia explains that he only knew Muscat as a successful MEP, and the two had met on Christmas day in 2008 when both were with their families for lunch at a hotel restaurant.

"That time we had just had our twins and as we sat with our tables practically back-to-back Muscat turned and congratulated me and my partner on the newborns.

"Joseph and Michelle had twins too, and an interesting conversation ensued on caring for newborn twins."

Subsequent to that lunch, an unexpected invitation to a New Year's Eve party placed them at a venue where Muscat and his wife were also among the invitees.

"It was shortly after midnight of 2009 when Muscat - surrounded by a number of people - called me and told me that he wishes that I would contest the general election for the Labour Party," he explains, adding that he immediately replied with a question: "do you know my background?"

'Yes I do," was Muscat's answer and things stopped there until some weeks after he received a phone call from the Labour Party to meet with Muscat, and the two established a rapport which Mallia describes as "quite close."

Mallia explains that apart from being made to feel welcome within the party, whereby he was also given a front seat at the party general conference soon after, he was called in by Muscat to discuss issues related to the controversial VAT charge on car registration.

"Since then we kept regular contact by phone, e-mail and text messages, and we discuss a number of matters."

But is it an infatuation?

"An infatuation? Not at all...Joseph Muscat is a man who listens, and listens well, but is also a man who once informed, takes decisions. These are qualities which I admire in him."

Mallia says that he feels the enthusiasm which Muscat has managed to build within the Labour Party. "He has created a vibrant national movement, made of people from all walks of life, experiences and talents who are united in one goal... that of making this country a much better place, and where things can be done so much better."

He says that a major quality he observed in Muscat is that he dislikes delays or bureaucracy and wants to change the way the country has operated so far.

But a candidate who contests the general elections with a political party must enhance the same party's principles, and does Mallia who was known to be a PN voter, embrace those principles?

"Look, I am surely not doing this for either money or fame. I am not a rich man, but I have a profession and an office which over the years has provided me with a decent living.

"But I am a firm believer in social justice, and while I admit to have and remain condemning what was bad, it was Labour which introduced a number of measures which brought about social justice, such as the introduction of the minimum wage, free education to all, the eradication of poverty, upgrading the working class to middle class, free university for all and equal opportunities in a number of sectors."

He argues that over time he had realised that the Nationalist Party had strayed from a number of principles it declares to believe in and "didn't practice what it preached."

Mallia is hurt at the way the PN allowed certain bloggers to hit out at the personal integrity of individuals and politicians.

"Where is the value of fair play, which I always thought the PN always embraced?" he asked.

"Where is the transparency in the way certain people in office perform their public duties? We now have a system where nobody is accountable for anything, and to add insult to injury - and this is becoming more obvious - that such persons who were or are not acting correctly in their public lives, are defended by the higher posts," he continues.

Mallia questions the PN-led administration on what he describes as "many unkept promises" recalling the pomp by which the Whistleblowers Act was launched but never enacted.

"What about the mismanagement and squandering of millions of euro in taxpayers money within ministries, public departments, the hospital?"

Mallia says that evidence of his disillusionment in the party he once voted to have in government is reflected in the way the PN's maverick MP Franco Debono spoke in parliament last Wednesday during the no confidence motion debate.

"Did anybody challenge what Debono was saying? ...not even one minister or MP challenged Debono's rant over many governance misgivings."

He adds that if a man like Debono - an MP - laments that his voice was stifled, ignored or sidelined, let alone the normal citizen.

"We all heard Franco Debono last Wednesday as he addressed the House to accuse Gonzi of leading a government whereby the Prime Minister and his ministers were prospering in one planet, while the backbench and the people at large were desperate and crying in another planet which was revolving round the other," adding that "if that is not an indictment, then what is?"

So what is Mallia's political forecast following last Thursday's parliamentary vote?

"We all know that the Prime Minister will be away from the island between tomorrow and Tuesday on official business for an informal summit for EU heads of government, but how he hopes to achieve the support he says he aims to get from the party, when he has not succeeded to do so over the past months, needs to be seen."

Does he anticipate an early general election?

"That is the Prime Minister's prerogative. He must take that decision based on whether he still commands a parliamentary majority that would lead him to complete the legislature. He will no doubt have to consider the effects such instability brings to the country and the economy as a whole."

He concludes however, that "in the absence of such clarity, the Prime Minister must go to the people, as it's the people's voice which is the ultimate decider on anything in a democracy".



Dr.Mallia great to have you with our great organization It is another indication that a Labour government is going to be the best government in the history of Malta.
@slicer - l-ewwel ipprova ifhem xi tfisser bniedem bi principju. @lawspit - jien m'ghandi xejn kontra mallia. li ghidt biss huwa li dan mar mal parit laburist ghax ma giex mghoti dak li ried mil partit nazzjonalista. dak jien insejjahlu bniedem bla principju. nerga infakkarkom li sant dam 9 xhur jipprova jirranga ma mintoff qabel ma sejjah elezzjoni. ISSA ghalfejn din l-ghaggla kollha u tridu lil gonzi isejjah elezzjoni malajr. STENNEW ghax baqalkom fl-oppozizzjoni.
Dr.Mallia when I saw you and heard you for the first time on TV, I said, who is this gentleman.I am very pleased that you joined the Labour Party, as this country needs people like Dr.Muscat and you (Dr.Mallia).To be short in Maltese we say IL VERA PROSIT U GRAZZI HAFNA.
Skuzani Sur Fenea. Milli jidher, kontra Dr Mallia, int hadt hafna minghand il partit Nazzjonalista biex ghadek b'ghajnejk maghluqin. Jien kuljum nistaqsi lili nnifsi kif jista' jkun li ghad hawn u jista' jkun hawn nies bhalek li ma jindunawx bil manuvri tal klikka tal mexxejja tal PN. Ma nifhimx kif tali nies ma jikkundannawx lil dal gvern immexxi mil PN tal passi anti socjali li jiehu u mhemmx ghalfejn intik ezempji ghax int u shabek Nazzjonalisti tafu x'jien nghid imma ma tridux tammettu u taccettaw il verita sempliciment ghax twelidtu ghajnejkom blu. Iz-zmien tal partiggjanizmu sfrenat spicca imma intom bqajtu mkahhlin mal passat. Jien Laburist iva imma kont wiehed minn dawk li fl-1987 ma vvotajtx bhala sinjal ta protesta ghax rajt li l Partit li dejjem emmint fih kien zvija mit twemmin tieghu tort ta' elementi fit tregija li mohhom kien biss fl-opportunizmu tal mument. Illum dak il Partit ghamel facelift totali u nefah fih innifsu ruh gdida li lil nies bhali ittini t tama, tama li b'dan il gvern tlifna. Prosit Dr. Mallia u j'Alla jkun hemm aktar nies ta' stoffa bhalek.
@fenea qed turi li int bniedem bla principju ghaliex skont il program elettolari tal PN l-ewwel ma suppost ghamel kien li inaqqas min 35% ghal 25% taxxa, kien hemm ukoll li l-haddiema tat-tarzna mhux sejjer ikeccihom u anki lil ta L-Airmalta, kemm kien hemm weghdi li ghamel Gonzi u ma ghamilomx allura la int ivvotajt ghalih u taf li ma ghamielx li wieghed allura int tigi bniedem bla principju. Din hi il verita skuzani imma nahseb ahjar tghajjar lilek innifsek li ivvotajt lil PN u sallabt lili ukoll billi ghandna Gvern bla principju u giddieb kif qal Franco Debono OK
skuzani sur mallia imma inti bniedem bla principju u mort mal labour ghax ma hadtx dak li ridt min ghand il partit nazzjonalista. taf kemm se jdum moviment il partit laburista? sakemm jirbah l-elezzjoni.
can someone explain why this article has been uploaded 3 times in 24hours? is there a not so hidden agenda by the malta today? he is just a turncoat that is having a geriatric-life crisis. with all the baggage this gut carries, thrashing him by the PN bloggers and media will be a child's play. Nobody doubts his intelligence, but integrity and PL loyalty, hah.
Dr. Manwel Mallia does us, who support the PL movement ,proud to have him amongst us !I invite those genuine "nationalists" who have read the above to think about each word Dr. Mallia said. May they too finally decide to follow him within the movement of progressives and moderates created by Dr. Joseph Muscat. Eddy Privitera
This is what Joseph Muscat means by the New Labour. This is where honesty, morality, ethics and integrity are! Well spoken Dr. Mallia. May ALL Labour candidates follow your and Joseph's teachings. God help us all.
The PL have made a first class signing in getting Dr.Mallia on board its formidable team. There are very few persons who can match his oratorial skills and what I admire most in a debate is his clear line of logical reasoning which allows him to clearly and succinctly present the salient facts and maximise their legal or political impact. Those who try to portray the PL as a party of unsuccessful and unitelligent morons are simply getting one shock after another into their system and the political bile that churn out has solely the effect of ulcerating their stomachs.