A recent package of constitutional reforms was trumpeted as the solution to all of Malta’s rule of law woes.
Agreed to by both the deceitful government and the lax opposition, these reforms were supposed to introduce a new era of good governance and meritocratic appointments and move us away from the swamp of corruption friendly mire in which we had been bogged down.
Above all, the much-dreaded Venice Commission was supposedly finally appeased.
Of course, it was also an open secret that the doubling-down on efforts to, in the very least, get a semblance of a working democracy in motion was also influenced by the need to cushion the MONEYVAL report results.
As often is the case with this administration, we soon discovered the reform was one big lie.
To begin with, the Venice Commission had not been provided with the opportunity to vet its content. Worse still, the net effect of these reforms would not really provide such a huge shift from the current situation.
It was already suspicious enough that the opposition voted for a final package it had neither seen nor scrutinized — but that’s par for the course as things stand.
The fact remains that in the minds of the spin masters of our nation, the Venice Commission is a joke. It has become a catchword to throw at the numbed populace when trying to market some fundamental shift away from what is now universally acknowledged as the most corrupt system of governance of all time, as presided over by disgraced ex prime minister Joseph Muscat.
In fact, while much lip service is paid to the need to reform by an apparently contrite government, it stops at that. The actions that should be speaking louder than words tell us a different story.
Every day the mechanisms (sorry Julia) upon which the state should function throw up another little tantrum that spits in the face of democratic accountability.
Take the obscene assault on the free press. Now, I’m not to be counted among one of the admirers of the Maltese caste of journalism, having found them wanting in their duty as a fourth estate more than a few times.
Yet the decisions by the Authority of all that is Broadcasting concerning what can only be described as the Government COVID propaganda sessions are flabbergasting (or sbalordenti, if you were so inclined). Using the kind of mental acrobatics that would make Putin and Lukashenko blush, the BA gave its blessing to an independent press lockout.
Meanwhile, the new PBS schedule has been orphaned of the programme that has most contributed to the dumbing down of political discourse thanks, in part, to its habit of plugging the idea that all opinions are equal.
It’s pointless dwelling on whether time was up for Peppi’s dinosaur. Instead, we should be focusing on the inexplicable culling of what was, notwithstanding all its blemishes, Malta’s discussion chamber of sorts. The tightening of the propaganda screw on anything that could be remotely critical of the regime is worrying.
It would already be worrying if this were an isolated problem. Bundled as it is with the rest of the issues that contribute to our democratic deficit, we can confirm that to the politicians of our nation, the so-called democratic reforms remain an exercise in cosmetic faff.
As a flamingo is shot dead by trigger happy Neanderthals, we still have politicians like Alex Saliba extolling the virtues of this wise government that believes it has found a loophole to exploit in the Birds Directive.
By claiming trapping can be restarted for research reasons, Saliba’s government is convinced that it can safeguard Malta’s ‘noble’ tradition. Of course, every cage-under-the-armpit carrying energumen will be enrolled in this ‘scientific research’ in the hope that the Maltese government can once again pull another one on the EU Commission.
Joining the EU and forming part of an international community was supposed to bring benefits to our nation. Extra scrutiny and exposure to continental ways should have helped shift us out of the very particular philosophy championed by our snake oil merchant politicians.
What we have instead is a political class that tries to be street smart the Maltese way, exploiting weaknesses and loopholes to bypass any rules.
That’s why, in the eyes of our class of sheep herders, the Venice Commission is a joke. Sadly, nobody’s laughing.