Word has it that when the Venice Commission report on Malta finally reached Joseph Muscat’s inbox a couple of days ago, the Prime Minister instantly broke into song and his rendition of Shaggy’s ‘It wasn’t me’ echoed down the corridors of Castille.
The catchy chorus soon caught on and chief back vocalist and government propagandist Kurt Farrugia made a dash to his his desk to write a press release that would make Donald Trump turn green with envy.
The Venice Commission came in and caught the government red handed but government retorted ‘you can’t blame us, we’re innocent. Blame the bloody laws and structures we inherited from previous governments and the British Empire.’
Now, the Venice Commission did not really shout ‘Eureka!’ upon setting their eyes on Malta. For long years we have known that Malta’s democracy is in very bad shape. The Maltese State and all of its institutions and branches have long been hijacked by Labour and the Nationalist Party.
The winner takes all system enabled the two major parties to bake the cake to their liking and eat it themselves. No outsiders are allowed in unless they’re ready to abide by their rules.
The very same State institutions which should keep government in check are kept in check by the party in power.
Loyal lackeys are handpicked to lead vital institutions such as the police, the secret service, the armed forces, the national broadcaster, the electoral commission, industrial tribunals, the broadcasting authority, the planning authority, the national airline, the attorney general, the anti-money laundering agency, the financial services regulator, the gaming authority, the water and electricity service providers, the waste agency, the environmental agency and so on and so forth.
It’s easier to name the few institutions which, against all odds, to a certain extent managed to maintain their independence. The only two which come to mind are the National Audit Office and the Office of the Ombudsman.
This almost complete control over the State has allowed each and every government since Independence to act above the law. The only significant changes made to our Constitution since 1964 related to electoral law and the outcome has only strengthened the hold Labour and the Nationalist Party have on the State.
The very same State which has been reduced to a tool with two primary functions; help the party in power win the next election and use taxpayer money to make the few richer and keep the many happily duped.
Given that there is nothing new about the sorry state of our democracy, we should, as a nation, ask ourselves a couple of questions.
Firstly, why now? Why has it taken so long for the Council of Europe to conclude that Malta is not in compliance with various “essential requirements of the rule of law”?
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) requested an opinion of the Venice Commission on Malta’s constitutional arrangements and separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary and law enforcement bodies because of Joseph Muscat’s actions.
Having failed to take action against Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri who opened secret companies in Panama with the clear intention of receiving kickbacks and the complete mishandling of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case, Muscat has nobody to blame but himself. The same goes for the commodification of citizenship and his cosying up to Pilatus Bank and Henley and Partners.
Muscat cannot blame all this on previous governments or the 1964 Constitution given to Malta by the UK.And Labour apologists disguised as independent columnists can belittle the Venice Commission at their own convenience but nobody can deny that Muscat failed to sack his two close friends or that a journalist was murdered on his watch.
Labour’s media mercenaries will spin the damning report like their livelihood depends on it but Muscat’s contempt for the rule of law and the assassination of a journalist cannot be blamed on “legislative legacy” or foreign envy for Malta’s humbug economic miracle.
The other question we should all be asking is; what next? Well for starters, I cannot see the Labour/PN duopoly giving up its powers just because the Venice Commission stated the obvious.
I’m pretty sure the two parties will pay lip service to the Council of Europe and Parliament will introduce some cosmetic changes but how can we trust Labour or the Nationalist Party with divesting themselves from the powers which they have abused to their exclusive benefit for over 50 years?
Proper constitutional reform can only happen if the two parties take a backseat and allow, for once, the people to be the protagonist. However just a few weeks ago, the two parties blew a raspberry in our faces.
Outgoing President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca kicked off the Constitutional reform process by announcing that she will chair a committee exclusively composed of representatives from two main political parties.
The message was clear. Smaller parties, civil society, legal experts and above all, citizens, are insignificant. The Constitution does not belong to citizens but to the two major parties. Only Labour and the Nationalist Party know what’s best for the country. And by country I mean ‘them’.
As Shaggy would say, Labour and the Nationalist Party are “butt naked, banging on the bathroom floor” and next time they’ll make sure that nobody catches them in the act.