The Malta Independent 15 December 2017, Friday

TMIS Editorial: Malta in the limelight for all the wrong reasons

Sunday, 3 December 2017, 10:50 Last update: about 12 days ago

Anyone who has not been living under a rock for the past few days will be very much aware of the fact that the European Parliament’s PANA Committee – this time joined by the EP’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee – paid another visit to Malta in search of answers about its rule of law.

Their verdict: even after the recent European Parliament’s extensive debate on the state of the rule of law in Malta, they left the country after their two-day fact-finding mission more concerned than they were when they arrived – a damning indictment if ever there was one.

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Why all this interest in Malta, some may be asking. The answer to that lies in the ethos that what happens in one member state happens in all member states, that the problems in one member state are problems for all member states.

Such introspection of the situation in Malta is not the result of rabblerousing opposition party MEPs; it is the result of the government’s very dubious application of the rule of law in Malta. No, there are no armed gangs roaming the streets of Valletta or anywhere else for that matter, nor are chaos and pandemonium the order of the day.

The problem with the rule of law in Malta is down to the government’s rampant abuse of its power. From failing to prosecute or even investigate the multiple misdeeds perpetrated by members of the government, to castrating the institutions that are meant to protect citizens rights and uphold the laws of the land, and to the way in which basic democratic principles are being ignored left right and centre – this government has failed miserably in its 2013 pledge of accountability and transparency.

This platform on which it was first elected has been ridiculed and trampled upon by its very proponents, especially those who hatched their well-documented schemes, with obvious dubious intent, to open companies in tax havens just days after being swept to power.

But the MEPs in Malta this week were not only concerned with the various fallouts from the Panama Papers, they are also concerned about the buying of votes in the lead-up to the last general election. 

They quite rightly also want answers about why such an extraordinary amount of planning permits were issued before the election, about how so many members of the disciplined forces were given promotions before the election and about why the size of the public service was abnormally inflated, particularly in Gozo, before the election.

The government needs to stop hiding behind the ongoing magisterial inquires and take concrete, meaningful action on the multiple revelations and accusations it is facing. Platitudes and ignoring the situation will no longer suffice.

The time has come for the government to extricate itself from the cesspool it is wallowing in, lest it intends taking the whole country down with it. Not everybody cares what the rest of the world thinks of us on our rock, but they should. The truth of the matter is that this country’s good name is becoming synonymous with money laundering, tax evasion, gambling (through the country’s much-vaunted remote gaming sector), cryptocurrencies, assassinated journalists, and now a collapse of the rule of law.

The least the government could do is to crack down on its members who have been found fiddling in so many different areas. But it doesn’t. Instead, it hides behind election results, which are no indicator of the moral high ground and complex magisterial inquiries that it knows very well will take a long, long time to be concluded.

Malta is indeed in the international limelight, for all the wrong reasons. The government must act to stem the flow, not for the sake of its reputation but for the sake of the people it represents and governs. 

Many of those people couldn’t care less, and that is what the government is banking on, as evidenced by the last election results in the face of so much sleaze that had been exposed. But eventually at some point down the road they will and that day of reckoning will be an ugly one indeed for the government unless it takes real and meaningful preventive action sooner rather than later.

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