If you want to understand the government’s intent, you can rarely go wrong by taking the mirror’s eye view.
For example, “We’re giving more powers to the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life” doesn’t mean autonomy to spotlight abuses and impose real consequences.
Intentions are always the opposite in mirror land.
Look closer and you’ll see any powers have been neutered in the usual way, by placing pliable people in positions of obstruction. Nothing the Standards Commissioner does will slip past the Bleating Bedingfield Barrier in committee, which means any sanctions are dead in the water long before the erring salary drawing MP gets tired of ‘self-suspension’.
When Robert Abela says Malta is ‘redoubling’ its efforts to get off the FATF grey list, you can be sure it’s doing nothing of the kind.
Scribbling down more paper laws or giving more powers to pliable minions didn’t work when it came to getting a passing grade, and it won’t clear grey skies, either.
Send his statement through the looking glass and you’ll see Abela has no intention of doing what it actually takes to restore Malta’s reputation: namely, prosecuting Joseph Muscat and his friends.
The only ‘redoubling’ happening here has to do with avoiding accountability.
It’s a lot like the Permanent Commission against Corruption. It underwent ‘structural reforms’ in 2020 that tinkered with the procedures for appointing its three commissioners and extended the scope of its investigative powers.
But none of this playing around with terms on paper has changed the fact that the Commission doesn’t have any investigators or data analysts, and is easily starved of resources. But why spoil a perfect record? It hasn’t produced any results in its entire existence.
Perhaps the most brazen ‘reform’ of all has to do with mirror-interpreting what the Venice Commission meant when it told Malta to do something about its shockingly sluggish judicial system.
Growing up, I often wondered what my mother meant when she said something was “slower than molasses in January”. I think she was talking about minor court cases that drag on for up to a decade.
The government’s ‘solution’ to these legal logjams is to empower administrative authorities to rule on minor offences which would normally be handled by the court. This will allow ‘justice’ to be dealt with swiftly by the people responsible for keeping a beady eye on tribunals that deal with traffic fines.
Sure, it would mean taking powers away from the courts and putting them in the hands of political appointees. Which powers to deal with which crimes? They haven’t said.
To ensure this new brand of justice is dispensed as smoothly as possible, the government will increase the number of Edward Zammit Lewis’s justice commissioners, and thus the efficiency of the legal system.
As with so many things in Malta, it all looks somewhat harmless on paper — by design. But apply your trusty mirror and you’ll smoke out the intentions behind this latest attempt to stack the deck.
Who can you expect to sit in judgement over you should you be accused of committing one of the offences Joseph Muscat’s travel buddy has singled out for transfer from the courts to his crack squad of crime-busting commissioners?
Ahh… there’s the rub.
Former One ‘news’ hacks, Party cronies and friends of friends.
Apart from pseudo-journalists poached from the Labour Party’s propaganda wing, you’ve got Martina Herrera, daughter of Environment Minister Jose Herrera — the minister who spent your money on a scam that cleaned out public finances without cleaning up a single beach.
I’m sure Ms Herrera can be trusted to draw on a depth of experience when it comes to ruling over you. She graduated from law school in February 2017 and started working for her dad’s law firm a month later.
You’ve also got Luciano Busuttil, the former Labour MP who failed to get reelected in 2017’s contest on corruption. The last we heard of him, he was being skewered online for his non-disabled stiletto-heel-wearing wife’s use of disabled parking permits.
Anna Mallia, the niece of Labour heavyweight Alfred Mifsud, who was forced to resign from his role as deputy governor of the Central Bank. Mallia presided over the body that ruled on appeals against denied Freedom of Information requests but failed to make it to judge in 2018.
Alessandro Lia, son of Pawlu Lia, Joseph Muscat’s personal lawyer and the Labour Party’s favourite counsel.
Chris Cilia, a failed electoral candidate and former member of the Labour Party’s national executive.
And Steven Farrugia Sacco, the son of former judge Lino Farrugia Sacco, who retired from the Bench before parliament could impeach him for refusing to give up his post as president of the Malta Olympic Committee.
Judge Farrugia Sacco’s code-of-ethics-violating position only came to light when The Sunday Times of London published a story about undercover reporters offering him €60,000 for rights to resell Malta’s tickets to the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Rather than end his career in disgrace, Farrugia Sacco was appointed chair of the Lands Authority in 2017.
All of these commissioners owe their appointments to the justice minister, and by extension, to the prime minister. How is this any different from Joseph Muscat controlling ‘independent’ institutions by choosing the people who run them?
Justice is pliable in mirror-land, and it always bends in one direction. But don’t worry, you’ll be fine as long as you play along.