Last Monday, Prime Minister Robert Abela unilaterally overturned a decision taken by Parliament, the country’s highest institution.
Parliament had decided, just days earlier, that there should be no public inquiry into Jean Paul Sofia’s death. Based on a trumped-up pretext, Abela decided to nullify Parliament’s vote without even bothering to bring the matter before the House.
Abela’s contempt for the institutions is staggering.
Nobody’s surprised. Even before becoming leader, on the television programme Xarabank, Abela stated that he is “being very careful in his engagement with the independent media”. He explained that he intentionally wanted to keep his distance so he would be free to take the decisions he needed to take. He launched his leadership campaign without the media.
In three short years since becoming prime minister, Abela revealed what he meant on Xarabank.
Abela has shamelessly shown he has absolutely no regard for any of the institutions – Parliament, the Attorney General, the Judiciary, the Police Force and its Commissioner.
Those institutions are there simply to be told what to do by Abela the autocrat – and when they don’t he’ll unleash a barrage of hostile attacks upon whoever dares resist.
Abela arrogantly invalidated Parliament’s vote without the basic courtesy of discussing it in the House. He simply called a press conference and disdainfully showed Parliament who’s in charge.
For Abela, Parliament counts for nothing. It’s just his personal rubber stamp. He decides and Parliament bows to his will.
And when he changes his mind, he doesn’t even bother telling Parliament. He knows that his pliable MPs will comply, no questions asked. And when they do and things turn out badly, he blames them for it.
“The decision was a unanimous one taken by the whole parliamentary group,” Abela insisted when challenged about the catastrophic vote against the public inquiry.
That wasn’t all. Abela imperiously announced that he would publish the magistrate’s proces verbal. Except that he can’t do that. It’s not his decision.
Only the Attorney General can decide whether to publish the magistrate’s report or not. Without batting an eyelid, Abela the autocrat promised the country he’ll publish the report – something which shouldn’t be in his power to do.
But Abela knows it is. He knows the AG is a puppet who simply does what she’s told. We’ve seen her submissiveness at the fatal press conference with Minister Jonathan Attard. The Minister didn’t even let her speak. She wasn’t allowed to answer questions. If the Minister can humiliate her so completely before the cameras, imagine what the Prime Minister does behind closed doors.
Abela knows that if he wants the AG to publish the report, she’ll publish it. And if he wants her to keep it secret, she will – and he’ll claim he wanted it released. And that it’s not his fault it wasn’t published in its entirety, or at all.
Abela the autocrat does what he wants. He nullifies Parliament’s decisions, he orders the AG around and bullies everybody else – including the inquiring magistrate. And he doesn’t even attempt to hide it. In fact, he flaunts it.
He bragged about it in his latest press conference. Magistrate Marse Ann Farrugia dealt him an almighty slap in the face by handing in her proces verbal days after Abela viciously attacked her. Abela was left looking like a fool.
Instead of apologising to the nation and his colleagues, the autocrat bragged that the magistrate had obeyed him, that she’d complied with his order to get on with it. Abela wants the State to be grateful to him for twisting the magistrate’s arm to stop dallying and conclude the report.
His message to the country is; ‘Look at me – I control all the institutions. Look at how the magistrate caved in. All she needed was a tough talking to, to get her act in order.’
Now he’s turning on the AG and Police Commissioner. The magistrate’s report is ready, he warned them, and he expects no foot-dragging from those two.
Get on with it, the autocrat ordered.
Abela imagines himself to be a strongman leader, the ultimate autocrat, the tough guy. That’s the image he wants to portray. But that’s not what everybody else sees.
Scratch beneath the surface and Abela’s formidable shell shatters into tiny fragments. Hilariously, he is still unable to utter the words “public inquiry”. He’s calling it an “administrative inquiry”. His minions, like Owen Bonnici, call it “an inquiry according to the Inquiries Act”.
Abela has made so many somersaults that he can’t call it a public inquiry – to avoid being seen for the buffoon that he is.
He incredibly claimed that this is what he always wanted, a public inquiry – or rather “an administrative inquiry”.
That’s what he’s been battling against for months. That’s what he got all his MPs to vote against just days before. That’s what led to the biggest public since his predecessor was forced out.
He’s going around in circles contradicting himself. In his first press conference, he stated: “I was informed that the Magistrate will be asking for another extension”. The Chamber of Advocates rubbished his claims by stating that “no magistrate requests an extension of the deadline”.
So, in the second press conference, Abela simply changed his version to the magistrate “awarded herself an extension”.
The Chamber also insisted that the magistrate’s report about the inquiry’s delay is confidential, and should not be made public. They questioned how the AG’s confidential information reached Abela. When a journalist asked him who had “informed” him, he lost it.
In hysterical panic, he descended into a partisan rant – and failed to answer the question. He’d just calculated it, he daftly insisted. he just counted the days, he said.
Then he changed his mind and pointed out that he’s the emperor. “My role is a constitutional one” he defended himself. I can do what I like. I have every right to that confidential information. Everybody obeys me. I decide. I am in charge. And what I say must be believed, no matter how loopy.
Abela is gutting our democracy and being applauded for it.