The Malta Independent 20 July 2019, Saturday

TMIS Editorial: When the going gets tough...

Sunday, 10 February 2019, 11:30 Last update: about 6 months ago

With all the talk of the rule of law that has been bandied about lately, one would think that government ministers would not be wasting the courts’ time with frivolous libel suits that can be dropped like hot potatoes once the going gets tough.

Doesn’t the rule of law mean that these libel cases that are dropping like flies once the wrong certain witnesses start being summoned mean that the law is being used and abused by those in power?

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Shouldn’t those who file libel cases be constrained to see them through to the bitter end, whether they like it or not?

This week Minister Konrad Mizzi dropped a number of libel cases that were, in his words ‘distracting’ him from his important work of ‘delivering projects’.

You can pull the other one, but neither have bells on them. He cites the emotional and administrative toll such cases are having on him. Sorry about that, Konrad but once you set the ball rolling, you had better be prepared for where it is going to land. One cannot merely institute libel proceedings to save face temporarily, only to turn around and retract them once things start going the wrong way.

He may be able to legally drop those cases, but the court of public opinion is of quite another opinion altogether.

By all accounts, Mizzi dropped those cases because the next person to be summoned as a witness was to be none other than Nexia BT’s Karl Cini, the right hand man of the architect who created Mizzi’s and the OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri’s extremely dubious overseas financial structures – the same person who would not put the name of the owner of Egrant in writing but would only give the name over Skype.

Mizzi says he is tired of ‘defending against baseless allegations and repelling slander’, but the problem is that in order to prove that any of it is baseless allegation or slander, one must go through the courts for such a ruling.

Now Mizzi will have neither the satisfaction of winning those cases in court and in the process help to clear his name, nor will any self-respecting member of the public ever believe that was the reason for dropping those cases.

Mizzi should, in actually fact, be hell bent on pursuing those cases to clear his name, and the fact that he dropped those cases when his honour and the honour of the government of which he forms part is at stake speaks volumes.

It was Minister Chris Cardona before who strangely dropped his libel cases against the late Daphne Caruana Galizia, rather than face the prospect of having his mobile phone records revealed in court, records that would show whether he was in his hotel room or at a den of iniquity as had been alleged.

Those records are now sealed at the Law Courts and that is where they will remain for posterity unless the minister, who professes his innocence so vociferously, finds the ways and means to have his mobile phone records that would show exactly where he was at the times in question, with or without the court case. 

Like Mizzi’s libel cases, the issue should be settled in a court of law, but after Cardona let the case go, perhaps after it got too hot to handle once the sourcing of his TAP records became a reality, that does not seem likely to happen.

But there is a bright side. Former Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil, who is spearheading the cases against Mizzi, has vowed to fight on, and to even summon Cini in cases that Schembri has filed against him. He evidently wants Cini on the stand at all costs and, all things considered, that is a pretty reasonable wish.

And as for Cardona, he will not get away quite so easily either after Caruana Galizia’s heirs recently filed a court case in which they claimed a financially crippling garnishee order against the murdered journalist as part of that case was ‘malicious, frivolous and vexatious’ for having withdrawn the court case and garnishee order without having presented any evidence.

Those phone records may very well be brought in as evidence in the case.

There is still hope for justice in both arenas, even if those who claim so falsely that they sue for justice but then turn around to prevent it because they know full well the cards are no longer stacked in their favour.

It is not over, as they say, until the fat lady sings.

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