Robert Abela’s finger-wagging antics in parliament on Monday night are the latest sign of the systemic degeneration that Malta has undergone over the past decade.
A prime minister dedicating his parliamentary intervention to unleash an unwarranted, unfounded attack on civil society was the pitiful picture beamed from the seats of the house of representatives.
By now, we are used to the fact that Labour do not do irony.
Here was the cabinet leader who supposedly presided over a reform, a sanitisation of sorts, following the abysmal descent into rule of law anarchy under his predecessor. The leader of that same government had trumpeted the coming into line with the international recommendations on judiciary reforms.
As recently as 2020, then- justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis was confidently bleating about how his “extensive and bold legislative and institutional reforms” for the new Abela cabinet met the Venice Commission targets.
The verbal nods to institutional reform are not, however, reflected in the cowboy swagger and attitude the prime minister took to the seats of the house on Monday.
In a few terrible seconds of despotic oratory, he succeeded in dragging the reputation of the courts of law through the mud.
Needs must, and they urgently must. The courts were destined to become the latest episode of institutional collateral damage.
The fury of his emotional outburst was directed at the opposition and civil society – a duo that he is desperate to paint as some cabal of conspirators intent on dethroning him from his ill-begotten seat.
Shooting insinuations worthy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Abela would have us believe that the Court of Appeal Vitals judgment results from intimidation by the aforementioned cabal.
Our courts are not independent, he protests, not because of excessive governmental interference but because they fear civil society’s wrath. The esteemed judges of our court are only doing what they are doing and saying what they are saying because Civil Society wants them to say so.
The puerile hissy fit of Abela’s inadvertently uncovers an uglier reality. For is it not the case that by expressing disagreement with the judgment, by sowing doubt as to whether there is any justice in the decision, Abela is putting himself on the side of those condemned by the very judgment?
This court decision confirmed the belief that “there was collusion between Steward and senior government officials or its agencies.”
Remember that the Court of Appeal had noted that the government had failed to safeguard the nation’s interests and instead chose to protect Steward to the extent of defending them right until the appeal was submitted.
Remember that the government in question is not Muscat’s but Abela’s government of half-hearted atonement and cosmetic reform. No wonder Abela is barking like a dog in a corner.
It does not stop there. We are doubly worried when we continue to see police inaction in the face of facts that have been confirmed not once but twice in Courts of law.
Institutional inertia favours only the condemned. Expect more pressure on the police. Above all, expect Abela to criticise civil society and the opposition for insisting that the police do their duty.
The Vitals scandal is as bad as it gets. Probably. This is just one part of the Labour inheritance left by the incredible trifecta of corruption. Muscat, Mizzi and Schembri. They cast a long shadow on every project Labour touched in the era of The Best of Times.
While the economy will continue to reel from the long-term effects of plunder and mismanagement, we are in the hands of a Minister who has no qualms about declaring that “Malta’s markets are largely made up of cartels”.
Funny. I thought we joined the EU back in 2004. That EU where cartels are anathema. Are we to number the Competition Authority among the list of neutered institutions? While cartels run Malta (Minister dixit), we are beginning to deal with the problem that we created concerning cheap foreign labour. When I say deal with it, I mean firing salvos like headless chickens.
No worries, though. If you needed a palliative image to distract you from all the drama, we had Michelle Muscat’s jewel-encrusted neck on video as the ex-First Lady to the Corrupt PM spouted airy nonsense about weightiness.
Taylor Coleridge will surely forgive me… “Ah! well a-day! What evil looks Had She from old and young! Instead of the cross, the Albatross About Her neck was hung.” Meant as a calculated distraction, it only reminded us of the vast albatross her husband and the cabal in power had hung around the nation’s collective neck.