The news that former Police Commissioner John Rizzo had been nominated by the PN to sit on the Permanent Commission Against Corruption was good.
This is a gentleman whose sense of duty and propriety is well known. Enough has been written in his praise, so I won’t add to his blushes by putting in my own.
The idea behind this short piece is to take a look at the minor flurry of controversy that greeted the nomination.
The problem, highlighted by blogger Manuel Delia, was that the law regulating the Commission appears to render the nomination faulty on the basis that Rizzo had been a public officer within the ten years preceding it.
The problem arose from the faulty wording of the relevant section of the Act, which in one paragraph appears to refer only to “sitting” public officers as being ineligible, while in an immediately following paragraph, the necessary implication is that even former public officers are ineligible.
The Government did not seem to think that this was something to worry about.
Totally ignoring the fact that it is not the Executive but the Judiciary that is charged with interpreting the law, it accepted the nomination, sparing itself the ignominy of rejecting an entirely appropriate nomination and the Opposition the embarrassment of having shot itself, once again, in the foot.
I trust I will be forgiven for taking the somewhat cynical view that it was enlightened self-interest that prompted the Government’s apparent magnanimity. Its record in being nice to the Opposition is less than stellar, though the ‘New Way of Doing Politics’ might yet take us down a novel route in this regard.
I would love to see a copy of the legal advice given, because it must be a pretty dexterous piece of verbal gymnastics, to ignore the glaring dichotomy in the law itself.
The PN has also let it be known that advice was taken on the matter, though it seems that this was only partially in line with the Government’s, because their other nominee, to a different body, was rejected for reasons that appear not a million miles away from those which were not deemed sufficient to blackball the Rizzo nomination.
Let me stress, again, that Rizzo is an entirely fit and proper individual for the position, but this is not the point.
Rules about eligibility in the context of these types of nomination are there for a reason, which is an obvious one relating to the notion of conflict of interest. It is not within the Government’s gift to put the rules to one side because it is convenient or “because it’s happened before”.
Appropriate standards of respect for the law are not established by the Government and Opposition having a meeting of the minds. After all, the consequences of ignoring the law might not be so obviously acceptable next time around.