Malta police arrests: normality and working institutions? That’s a kaleidoscopic hall of mirrors kind of statement…

The Skinny | No 23. Mass arrest of Malta’s traffic police

Don’t say: “Un-bribeable traffic cops?! How do they expect the population to cope with such a dramatic paradigm shift?!” 
Don’t say: “Un-bribeable traffic cops?! How do they expect the population to cope with such a dramatic paradigm shift?!” 

What are we skinning? The arrest of half of Malta’s traffic police for overtime fraud.

Why are we skinning it? The arrest of half of Malta’s traffic police for overtime fraud. There’s a lot in there, and it’s hardly surprising that the international media has picked it up too.

But do you think they would have picked it up on the strength of that ‘headline’, or pitch, alone? And is that even fair? Context is everything, but before you start banging on the “stop bad-mouthing Malta” drum that has also become a favourite instrument of our Finance Minister recently, do consider that there may be something to the inherent attractiveness of this story, both to ‘outsiders’ and ourselves.

Such as? Granted, the move is precisely the kind of shake-up, or wake-up call, that the country may have needed in the wake of the most politically heady autumn we have had in decades. But the police arresting a large chunk of itself, then being made to investigate that same chunk by proxy, does come laced with a healthy dose of absurdity.

Yes, which is why the new Prime Minister’s take on the situation also risks coming across as unintentionally hilarious. Exactly, saying that the arrests prove that our institutions are working when they have been made precisely because a large chunk of our institutions weren’t working all that well in the first place is a kaleidoscopic hall of mirrors kind of statement.

In fact, it’s already giving me a headache. But relax, we’re back to normality now, as the Prime Minister also pointed out not too long ago.

I want to believe that. I want to believe that the country is in a state of normality. But the arrest of 37 police officers doesn’t really put my mind at rest. Think of it this way: that’s 37 corrupt cops we no longer have to worry about. It may not be all of them, and it certainly doesn’t even begin to scratch at the deep-seated structural issues. But it could be a start. For what it’s worth. 

Do say: “One hopes that this mass arrest of allegedly corrupt officers will serve as a legitimate wake up call for both the authorities themselves and the country at large, and be followed up by similarly robust decisions from the top, while never devolving into cheap populism or dangerous authoritarianism.”

Don’t say: “These arrests are deeply, profoundly un-Maltese in every sense of the word. Un-bribeable traffic cops?! How do they expect the population to cope with such a dramatic paradigm shift?!” 

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