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Sant’s rant is a distraction

Former Labour Prime Minister and MEP Alfred Sant.
Former Labour Prime Minister and MEP Alfred Sant.

Alfred Sant is unhappy that the European Court of Justice has a say in how judges and magistrates are appointed in Malta.

Malta’s sovereignty has been ‘hindered’ by EU membership, says the former Labour Prime Minister who did all he could, together with current Labour Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, to prevent Malta from joining the union. Accession certainly hasn’t ‘hindered’ his bank balance. Like Muscat before him, Sant went on to hoover up a nice pre-tax salary of €105,000 per year as an MEP, and he’s been there since 2014.

Judging by this latest Sant Rant, the two-time MEP seems to feel Malta should be entitled to take everything it can get from the EU while following none of its rules.

Sant is upset that Maltese courts upheld a request by civil society group Repubblika for the European Court of Justice to determine whether the current system of appointing judges in Malta breaches fundamental rights.

‘What about the Blue years?’ he complained, in an attempt to frame this issue as nothing more than domestic partisan squabbling.

That is a distraction. Here’s the issue Sant is trying so hard to sweep under the rug.

Remember when you complained about something as a child, and your mother would say, “Because I said so, that’s why”? Well, Muscat can do that right now when it comes to appointing judges.

Repubblika is claiming that the current system gives the Prime Minister “arbitrary discretion” over judicial appointments, that the process is not subject to “clear and objective rules or criteria”, and that there’s no requirement for him to explain his decisions, as outlined in reports by leading European institutions.

The only excuse they seem to offer for keeping a broken system broken is that ‘it’s always been done this way — now it’s our turn.’

Can there be any justice for citizens under courts stacked with Muscat’s hand-picked appointees? The Venice Commission didn’t think so. They were alarmed by the Prime Minister’s unfettered ability to appoint judges and magistrates and recommended that it be changed.

The government said ‘yes, yes, yes, we’ll get right on that’ — and then Muscat rushed to appoint three new judges and three new magistrates before anything could be done to curb his powers.

Ask yourself why he was so intent to rush that through before Repubblika’s case could be heard.

This case is important because it will determine whether or not the Maltese judiciary — the last line of defence in a nation where the Head of every public institution answers to the Prime Minister — is impartial, or whether it simply does Muscat’s bidding.

Recent judgements by Maltese courts — including the bizarre case of Judge Grixti who blocked an inquiry into the role of three ministers in the Vitals hospital scandal— have raised concerns that the judiciary is willing to make convoluted rulings that help conceal abuses of power by this government.

Unfortunately for the Inner Circle, your right to a fair, impartial hearing is guaranteed by the EU. There’s a court of appeal that’s a step above even the unfettered local powers of il-Kink. And like any functioning representative of civil society, Repubblika has called in that authority on your behalf.

You have the same rights under EU law as a citizen of any other EU country, and the European Court of Justice is there to make sure those laws are applied the same way in every Member State.

Spinning that as ‘big EU against little Malta’ is just another variation on a ‘red vs blue’ Sant Rant. Hidden beneath it is the idea that your rights are less than those of your fellow citizens in other EU countries.

Unfortunately for Sant, trying to sweep inconvenient facts under a cheap rug never works.

The European Court of Justice is there to safeguard your rights — even when your own government is determined to trample on them.

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