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Land of contradictions

Malta

The United States has often been called the “land of opportunity”. Malta will go down in history as the “land of contradictions”.

We have a Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Rights whose hobby is to shoot wildlife rather than protect it.

We have an “American” university that isn’t American at all, nor, arguably, even a university.

And a Commissioner for Standards in Public Life who justifies not examining the standards of public officials. If it happened before he got the job, who is he to dig into it? But anything that’s happened since 12 November, you’d better watch out!

We also have a Police Commissioner who commissions no policing, and a Permanent Commission on Corruption which hasn’t produced any results in its 30 year existence. That one scores 100%, but for all the wrong reasons.

The entire country is trapped in a backwards funhouse mirror, and someone keeps sending in the clowns.

And then there’s the curious case of the Attorney General who is both the public prosecutor and the lawyer for the Prime Minister.

It must be exhausting for him to handle courtroom cases of political corruption, shuttling back and forth from one side of the room to the other as he plays both offence and defence.

Of course, he won’t be playing tennis against himself for much longer. The Justice Minister has assured us that this government is complying with the Venice Commission’s recommendation to split the Attorney General’s dual role.

Instead of having one senior lawyer appointed by and directly accountable to the Prime Minister, Malta will now have two, making the problem twice as bad as it was before they started. But at least Peter Grech will have another crony to lob easy volleys with.

The legal system isn’t the only area where Malta provides us with a strange mirror version of the normal world. Take a look at the civil service.

Over there, we have ‘Persons of Trust’ who don’t seem trustworthy at all. At least, not given their record for incompetence and shady dealings.

We’ve got Education Minister Evarist Bartolo’s canvasser gleefully skimming from tomorrow’s schools, hand-delivering cheques to Gozo and building a block of flats no one believes he can afford.

We’ve got a new surge of family members stuffing the civil service, displacing productive, knowledgeable staffers to dish out more non-jobs to “friends of friends”. But according to civil service head Mario Cutajar, “persons of trust” are a cultural matter and everyone else, including the Venice Commission, should just mind their own business.

And finally, we have an employee in the Office of the Prime Minister — or maybe it’s the Health Ministry, they’re not quite sure — who goes to Libya to meet government officials and warlords. But he isn’t an ambassador or a diplomat. No, they seem reasonably certain of that. He was just vacationing in the failed State next door.

This would provide enough material for an entire season of The Twilight Zone. But it’s not just public officials who act like some Bizarro inversion of their official roles. The entire country is trapped in a backwards funhouse mirror, and someone keeps sending in the clowns.

We have a situation where a corruption trial violates someone’s human rights, but the lack of a murder inquiry does not

We’re the “best in Europe” according to the government, but alarming failures according to Moneyval, GRECO, Transparency International, Open Data Watch, the World Press Freedom Index, the EPs Rule of Law Monitoring Group, and Freedom House.

When Joseph Muscat is saying one thing and a full array of impartial international organisations are saying another, he’s clearly right and they’re just bullies.

We also have both a budget surplus and a deficit simultaneously. Do passport sales and all those government non-jobs dished out to Party supporters somehow cancel each other out, like matter and anti-matter?

According to the Finance Minister, it doesn’t matter anyway because Malta’s economy is the envy of Europe — as long as you look at percentages and not the actual size. Someone must have told Minister Scicluna that size doesn’t matter, it’s all in how you perform.

That being said, no one ever seems to explain why an economic powerhouse like Germany should be so bitterly jealous of a country whose GDP is now neck and neck with the city of Aberdeen, Scotland.

And finally, we have a situation where a corruption trial violates someone’s human rights, but the lack of a murder inquiry does not.

According to Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, investigating him for corruption would breach his human rights — even though evidence of that corruption has been public for over 2 years. He’s already told us he’s innocent. That should be good enough.

But also according to Muscat’s government, refusing to hold an impartial public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia does not breach the human rights of the murdered journalist’s family — and this government is sticking to that no matter what international law says.

Speaking of Caruana Galizia, it’s also public knowledge that she was vilified and dehumanised by this very same Party in power before she was murdered, and that the organised campaign took on distinctly misogynistic tones.

“But how can that be?” you might ask. “We were just told that Malta is the second safest country in the world for women”.

This was reported in something called the Global Wealth Migration Review. Do a little digging and you’ll soon find it being quoted by Henley & Partners, peddler of Maltese (EU) passports.

I suppose they might try to make that case, as long as you ignore a few shocking realities — such as Malta’s domestic violence statistics.

According to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), the severity of violence in Malta ranks as one of the worst in the EU. Just last week a man in Għaxaq shot his mother and sister, smashed in their heads with a mallet, and then buried them in a field before calmly going back to bed.

But as with so many other glaring contradictions, we continue to look the other way. It’s no wonder things are such a mess.

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