The face of justice. The far-seeing eyes of statesmen. The vigilant intelligence of state agencies. The long arm of the law. The backbone of parliamentarians… Our metaphors still imagine the State as an organism, its various parts making up a single body working in harmony.
Not us, though. In court, the Police Commissioner appeals a decision that his lawyer, the State Advocate, had agreed to. The executive and parliament ignore the findings of the Ombudsman, the Auditor General and the Public Standards Commissioner. The civil service is in a frequent state of absence of mind — unable to find its own files and “unintentionally” misleading parliament.
The police have yet to prosecute people who, almost six years ago, the financial intelligence agency recommended be investigated for money laundering. Nor have they have taken up, it seems, the Egrant inquiry magistrate’s request to investigate Karl Cini, accountant to the Panama gang, for possible perjury.
It looks like total organ failure. Or, perhaps, the organs have been sold to the highest bidder. Corruption has cost us more than an arm and a leg. Our State seems without a leg to stand on.
Consider how the world’s most powerful State regards us. On December 22, the US declared a travel ban on Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri. It has ‘credible evidence’ they were involved in ‘significant corruption’, specifically in ‘the award of a government contract for the construction of a power plant and related services’.
The US added it wants to strengthen democratic institutions and rule of law in Malta. That is a barely veiled code for wanting our police to act.
The implications go beyond Mizzi and Schembri. The US wanted us greylisted by the FATF because Malta is lax on money laundering. Robert Abela complained it was unfair. Now, the US has doubled down.
Out of all the crooked deals, why did the US specify the power station? Could it have been the news that the Electrogas shareholders might end up with a huge payout for a gas pipeline built with EU funds?
The US considers the shareholders to be the beneficiaries of significant corruption. It follows that any payout they receive — a dirty deal that yields millions in clean money — is money laundering with the blessing of the Maltese State.
The US is sending a shot past our bows: do not make getting off the greylist a more distant prospect.
The Maltese government acts as though nothing has happened. We’re being governed as though we’re back in the Middle Ages, permanently celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas. Back then, the period between Christmas and the Epiphany (6 January) was a kind of carnival. Adults behaved like children, who were given the responsibilities of adults.
A ‘Lord of Misrule’ guided the wild merry-making and public entertainments. A boy was declared a temporary bishop; he typically took his duties seriously, the voice of order in a holiday from reason, where friars were prone to rush down the church aisles whooping and pelting the congregation.
We are well on the way. The government and its agencies are spending public money like drunken sailors. The State doesn’t take its own rule seriously. It is nonchalant before accusations of perjury by a former minister. Nonchalant about a €1.08 billion overspent and overlooked in this year’s budget. Nonchalant about official reports on grave maladministration, about prison deaths, about migrants in distress…
The role of Lord of Misrule seems filled. But where is our child bishop?
Ah, of course! The prime minister’s daughter was filmed giving the Christmas midnight sermon last year. This year, she was filmed giving crisp commands to the uniformed forces, instructing them to deliver a gift to every child.
A young girl who thinks like a child her age is a joy. Adults who infantilise the corps and State they represent are something else. The people in charge of our security forces seem to think that their role is to be bit players in a child-driven fairy tale.
Then again, misrule seems permanent, so why not make the child ruler a fixture? Imagine our money supply conjured up, like hidden treasure, with the wave of a wand? No trade-offs, no costs, no consequences. The economy as happy hour.
Our environment would be immortal. If the sea disappears to give way to a marina, a forest can miraculously sprout up in another part of town. An agricultural store can turn into a luxury residence — and back again. Just like Cinderella’s carriage!
The more I think of it, the more I like it: a fairy-tale State. It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. It’s the fairy dust that makes it seem like gossamer.
Every good fairy-tale needs a witch, of course. We can bank on the government dutifully to pick one.
We will need a new anthem. The theme song of the Chronicles of Narnia, perhaps. Or Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m not particular.
And we’ll need a name for this state-sponsored national ballet. Swan Lake would make our hunters feel included. But it’s taken, I’m afraid, just like The Nutcracker. The Cracked Nuts, anyone?