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Violence a result of government-fostered impunity, not dissent

The police are another institution usurped by the government to tend to its inherent system of patronage.

Photo: Malta police / Facebook.

In the wake of the incident involving PC Schembri, MEP Marlene Mizzi’s suggestion that civil society is to be blamed for generating a climate of violence toward police officers is ridiculous.

Civil society criticises the deeply controversial Police Commissioner for being ineffectual in the wake of corruption and money laundering scandals. His measly efforts to investigate government politicians have been unconvincing. His position is untenable because of apparent political influence exerted onto his role. He had once inappropriately praised his prime minister for his allegedly sizable testicles.

But civil society had nothing to say about the rest of the police corps. If anything, there has always been cooperation between the two – protests have consistently been peaceful.

The Police Commissioner is in many ways different from the everyday police officers who keep the peace. The latter, the men and women who serve the community daily, derive their authority from their badge. They are the people who ought to be thanked for helping to keep Malta one of the safest nations globally. When it comes to instigating high profile investigations, the buck stops with the Commissioner.

On Mizzi’s part, suggesting that dissent has heightened a sense of animosity against the police corps is not only misplaced, but elusive of the responsibility for the erosion of the rule of law in Malta. It exhibits the government’s intolerance of civic engagement outside its own political party and its spurn of civil society.

Mizzi is willing to scapegoat activists for her government’s shortcomings, especially in upholding the rule of law.

There are a plethora of examples to corroborate this. MPs are appointed to government roles freely, undermining the constitutional separation of power. Outside public law, money laundering, a serious crime which carries a hefty prison sentence, is widely being ignored and unpunished, starting with Pilatus Bank and ending with inadequate financial scrutiny in the gaming industry.

The Italian authorities have lamented Malta’s reluctance to cooperate in the fuel smuggling investigations. The suspects are held in Sicily, while Malta continues to be a haven for criminals. If anything, criminals seem to be championed. A registered sex offender was given a top job in Brussels. Konrad Mizzi was awarded a new Cabinet role after being caught with money laundering structures in secretive tax havens.

Recently, much has been said about hate speech not just being disregarded, but encouraged and rewarded by the government itself, as an investigation by The Shift News revealed. The Prime Minister himself led the charge against Daphne Caruana Galizia. Once the big cheeses could get away with anything, somebody decided to get away with murder. To this day, those who ordered her assassination are roaming the streets freely.

Anyone can get away with anything with the help of politicians. Knowing the right people will guarantee it. Whether it is illegal parking, illegal development or illegal zoos, conduct in breach of regulations are rubber-stamped for votes. The police are thus another institution usurped by the government in tending to its inherent system of patronage.

Once the authorities, who should be leading by example, are participating in criminality, people like the underage driver who ruined PC Schembri’s life have no reason to believe the law applies to them. This is a dire situation that has been allowed to develop by the wilful misapplication of the law by our politicians, a situation that puts citizens in danger.

If top government officials and their friends habitually elude the consequences of their actions, the police corps who do their duty in enforcing the law, are regarded as a nuisance. Caruana Galizia was murdered because she was seen in the same way: a nuisance to a culture of favours and back-scratching that ignored the law. While her executioners elude justice, and the politicians who enabled her murder remain in office, other journalists are at risk.

Now the police are in danger for precisely the same reasons. The same systematic undermining of the rule of law by this government has made people think they can assault officers. Mizzi said civil society is responsible. Yet, her own government has admitted that civil society activists are the minority opinion. Coupled with the fact that they have been censored by the state broadcaster, a hypocrisy arises in that the state of our nation cannot be in the hands of individuals and small groups.

If there is a tendency toward violence against police officers, turn to the influential and the powerful as a starting point. The most basic principle why laws exist is to prevent harm in all aspects. Their subversion has already had repercussions which have still not been remedied. Giant steps must be taken to restore the rule of law, and it requires far more than giving constables bodycams.

The Shift News wishes PC Schembri a speedy recovery.

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