“The government will no longer remain a hostage to the Courts.”
Of all that was said and done as events unfolded on Monday, this declaration by the Prime Minister was the most alarming.
It represented the culmination of a dangerous game of deliberate misinformation in which the head of the executive fed the defenceless judiciary to the wolves.
Much has been written about Robert Abela’s U-turn on the matter of a public inquiry into the death of Jean Paul Sofia. Speculation will continue as the game of smoke and mirrors is played out by an increasingly desperate PM.
The nationwide momentum of anger is indeed encouraging. It was encouraging when the vigil was planned and reached its objective before it even began. It remains encouraging despite the hurried manner in which the (at least on the surface) recalcitrant PM was thanked for his change of mind.
The reason for this boost in spirits is that we have finally seen a strong reaction from the general public who refuse to accept the further washing of hands by politicians.
It remains encouraging despite the murmurs of discontent about the “politicisation” of a cause. The deep wounds of partisan memory remain a debilitating element that prevents the development of new movements of change.
Politics remains a dirty word even though it is undeniably ubiquitous, even though it affects every aspect of our lives. There are politics behind choices that lead to overpopulation, lack of planning, lax application of rules, and environmental and social degradation.
There’s politics and there’s politicians. They are the ones who should be accountable for the choices they make and why they make them. It is futile and counterproductive to expect vigils and protests to be neutered from politics.
In the end, the public inquiry will be held. It remains to be seen what the terms of reference are. It remains to be seen what effect Abela’s bullying of the judiciary has had until now, which brings me back to my original point.
Throughout this saga, Abela – a lawyer by profession – has thrown all constitutional principles out of the window. The leader of the party that repeats ad nauseam the mantra of “let the institutions work” has proven to be as able a wrecker of institutional balance as his disgraced predecessor.
Set aside for a moment the neutering of Parliament through the bullying abuse of a comfortable majority aided by a sycophantic Speaker of the House. It is the treatment of the Judiciary as a political football that betrays Abela’s wilful ignorance of the basic tenets of constitutional law.
He has constantly attempted to lay the blame on the inquiring magistrate’s doorstep. We now have theories that on Monday a series of shenanigans led to false information concerning the magistrate’s intention on prolonging her inquiry – information that was in the press right before Abela addressed the nation with his U-turn speech.
This is the executive and government that is still under scrutiny for progress (or lack of it) concerning the state of the rule of law. This is the executive that regularly boasts of progress being made. It is that same executive whose head has no qualms about using magistrates and judges as target practice in the style of a dictator.
Our judiciary lends itself easily to the role of sacrificial lamb. Its limited resources are the result of its high dependence on the executive. More often than not, no spokesperson can reply to the tirades coming from the government side.
They can only lower their heads and carry on, which is why Robert Abela can so easily attempt to use the judiciary as a distraction.
Public sentiment was not so easily swayed and thankfully the momentum of public anger was accompanied by more and more informed statements on the real state of affairs. Yet the readiness and comfort with which the government can turn its guns on what is meant to be a separate branch of the State is extremely worrying.
For five days the Labour propaganda machine tried its damndest to feed the public the lie that a magisterial inquiry is better than a public inquiry.
Government lackeys were wheeled out in their droves to appear on TV and radio to give their corrupt twopence of advice. Most of these are persons indebted to the government. They owe their livelihoods to direct orders, tenders and jobs for the boys and girls. They are the kind of experts that can be bought, although the term ‘expert’ might be a tad generous here.
There are still many more steps before we can safely see the effects of the public inquiry. It could still be sabotaged. Much like the judiciary’s operation has been sabotaged until now. The time for vigils is not over. We must remain vigilant for a while longer yet.
It is either that or we will be hostages of an ever more authoritarian government that defies all constitutional rules.