Instead of facing questions from a delegation of MEPs investigating the rule of law in Malta alone, Keith Schembri has chosen to face them in the company of the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and the Minister for European Affairs Helena Dalli.
This sends one clear message; that Schembri has dragged a whole government in his personal offshore business decisions. Once again Muscat has tied his political destiny to that of Schembri. For by taking the role of Schembri’s protector in front of the elected representatives of the European people, Muscat can’t escape the inevitable conclusion that if Schembri falls, he falls with him.
The second message Schembri has sent is that he can’t take the heat alone. After shaming a whole country by opening a company in Panama, he does not have the sense of responsibility of defending himself without dragging the whole State with him.
One assumes that MEPs wanted to question Schembri on his personal financial arrangements and the Prime Minister on why he retained him in office separately.
Instead they were faced with the awkward situation of facing the two men together, with two other ministers to boot. Surely MEPs were free to ask their questions to Schembri but they had to do so under the watchful eyes of Malta’s Prime Minister.
In this way Schembri faced MEPs from a position of power after being elevated to a status equivalent to that of the other ministers sitting on the same side of the table.
The third message Muscat sent to Europe is that Schembri is so omnipotent that he is being put on the same level as the Prime Minister, the Minister for Justice and the Minister for European Affairs.
This may be a simple confirmation of an already known reality. After all it was Muscat who chose to retain Schembri after Panamagate and reconfirmed him after this year’s election despite pending magisterial investigations on Schembri.
Previously the question was : Why does Muscat keep this albatross hanging around his neck? But the question now is: Why is he wearing the albatross like some badge of honour in front of MEPs whose visit was partly triggered by the lack of police investigations on Schembri.
Muscat is so comfortable having Schembri as his sidekick that he had him by his side in the meeting with MEPs. But in so doing he risks having more people asking; Who is the sidekick at this stage; Muscat or Schembri?
Judging by the mood of MEPs in a meeting with journalists yesterday in which the Shift News was present along a representative of the Times and the Malta Independent, there is growing concern on the state of affairs in Malta.
It is clear that MEPs have extended their interest in Malta from immediate concerns on Panamagate and Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder to wider concern on the use of the power of incumbency, patronage networks, the reluctance of both political parties to address Malta’s role in gaming and and the financial services and media pluralism. It is clear that pressure is piling up.
Instead of addressing these problems, Muscat seems bent on carrying on ahead as if nothing is happening.