The Standards Commissioner had barely been sworn in. And Robert Abela was already ordering him around.
The prime minister instructed the commissioner not to do his job. He made it absolutely clear to Commissioner Joseph Azzopardi that he should leave politicians alone.
Abela even distorted President George Vella’s words to convey his instructions.
“A point made by the President of the Republic that I would like to highlight is that the work of this office should incentivise more people to participate in public life and should not discourage people from participating. It was truly an important message the President gave. I believe the new Commissioner should work this way,” Abela said.
His message was clear. When the Standards commissioner keeps exposing politicians’ unscrupulous and crooked acts, he’s discouraging people from joining their ranks.
The Commissioner should stop revealing politicians’ abuse – such as giving thousands of euros of public funds to your latest flame; or accepting thousands from an alleged money launderer and murder mastermind only to proceed to defend him and his money laundering vehicle, 17 Black, at the Council of Europe.
Abela’s orders for the new Commissioner are to cease revealing the lavish gifts the prime minister received from 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech. He should stop chastising ministers for squandering thousands of taxpayer money for personal propaganda.
He should stop telling the public how a minister blatantly lied to deflect the blame for her love interest’s direct contract toward her staff. He should stop revealing how her permanent secretary Frank Fabri and Dr Paul Debattista tried to cover up for her.
President George Vella would not stoop so low as to instruct the new Standards Commissioner to not do his duty. In fact, the President was pretty categorical in his speech. He noted that the Office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life had a crucial role in developing the culture of scrutiny, one which needs to be strengthened.
President Vella sent a clear message to the new Commissioner: “Absolute integrity and independence will be required of you”.
He appealed to the Commissioner to uphold the principles of fairness without fear or favour. But Robert Abela didn’t hear those words.
Instead, he inverted the President’s message. He falsely claimed the President had instructed the Commissioner not to discourage people from entering public life through the unnecessary scrutiny of politicians.
None of the media houses present for the swearing-in ceremony at San Anton heard what Abela heard.
This is nothing short of sheer crookedness. The role of the Standards Commissioner is to ensure that standards are upheld and that those who transgress them are investigated and reported to the parliamentary standards committee for sanctioning.
It’s definitely not the Commissioner’s role to encourage people to participate in public life by guaranteeing politicians even more impunity than they already have. But that’s Robert Abela – a man who shamelessly distorts even the message of the President. He is a fountain of disinformation, intentionally and brazenly misleading the country for his partisan interests and accusing others of partisanship.
“Why did you keep pushing the appointment of Joseph Azzopardi as Standards Commissioner without parliament’s unanimous agreement?” Abela was asked.
“It’s incredible how the opposition leader didn’t even congratulate the Commissioner, he didn’t even have the decency to congratulate him, he is so partisan,” Abela replied.
The opposition leader did, in fact, congratulate the Standards Commissioner, the reporter pointed out. “Only now, when we were shaking hands, did he finally utter a hushed word of congratulations, hours after the parliamentary vote had been taken,” Abela insisted.
Abela rammed an anti-democratic anti-deadlock mechanism through parliament to seize absolute control over the Standards Commissioner’s appointment, which should have been made with a two-thirds House majority, and for good reason.
The Commissioner must enjoy the trust of the whole House. He must have bipartisan support. No Standards Commissioner can function effectively if they are seen as the prime minister’s puppet. But what does Abela care? Like the spoilt brat that he is, he simply bulldozed through, stamped his feet and got his way.
That his selected candidate is unfit for the role is evident from Azzopardi’s failure to have voluntarily withdrawn his name. No decent self-respecting person would take that role without cross-party support. But Azzopardi wasn’t fussed about the palaver around his nomination. He knows he has Abela’s backing and couldn’t care less about the opposition’s objections.
Despite his underhanded manoeuvring to install Azzopardi as Commissioner, Robert Abela expects the opposition and its leader to congratulate the new appointee. The opposition should never have even attended that swearing-in ceremony.
Azzopardi does not deserve any congratulations. He is complicit in Abela’s wrecking of what should have been a democratic process. He is the product of Labour’s Machiavellian manipulations.
The opposition should not hesitate to resort to extreme measures when the fundamental principles of democracy are being so brutally demolished. Smiling and shaking hands with Abela’s anointed Commissioner is tacit approval of Abela’s dirty dealing.
“Let him start his work,” Abela said. But only after he had issued clear orders: leave us in peace.
As the new Standards Commissioner left the ceremony, reporters tried to speak to him. With his hand outstretched, he refused to answer questions: “I am not going to say anything. I haven’t even entered my office, orrajt…now, enjoy your day, it’s a beautiful day”.
Not a promising start.
“That his selected candidate is unfit for the role is evident from Azzopardi’s failure to have voluntarily withdrawn his name.” Indeed!
Former Judge Joseph Azzopardi shouldn’t have accepted the appointment of Standards Commissioner when he doesn’t enjoy the trust of the Opposition. The Opposition should continue to challenge his appointment.
“Li l-kandidat magħżul mhux idoneu għal din il-kariga diġà tidher fil-fatt li Azzopardi ma rtirax ismu b’mod volontarju,” kiteb il-kirurgu. Aħseb u ara kemm kien idoneu għal Prim Imħallef! Bniedem li m’għandux farka rispett lejh innifsu żgur li m’għandux farka rispett lejn il-ġustizzja u l-ġudikatura.
“Enjoy the sun!”
A very appropriate recommendation for use by the Malta Tourism Authority – but probably not by policing institutions!
Ethics in Malta’s Parliament are in the eye of the beholder. There is NOTHING WRITTEN.
Roberta Metsola had given us the lead on not acting fakely by giving those who are a living lie and a perfect prototype of bullyish arrogance, when she refused to shake hands which were polluted with corruption and stained with the blood of an assassinated journalist.
This has to be the approach of those for whom right is right and wrong is wrong.
Joseph Azzopardi has not got the slightest clue what good standards actually entail. And that is precisely why Robert Abela sees him as ideal for the role.
Malta – where topsy-turvy rules okay.
O God! When will these perversions stop!