The Malta Independent 26 June 2019, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Piecemeal, cherry-picked implementation will not be enough

Wednesday, 22 May 2019, 11:28 Last update: about 2 months ago

Malta’s inherent weaknesses in its rule of law pose a clear and present threat to the whole of Europe, the Council of Europe’s rapporteur on the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia found in a scathing report published yesterday by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The extreme lack of checks and balances exacerbates the problem so such an extent that the rule of law in this land has been ‘seriously undermined’ by the ‘extreme weaknesses’ in its system of checks and balances.

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The system is so dysfunctional that the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, and Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna seemingly enjoy impunity under the ‘personal protection’ of the Prime Minister.

Such an indictment could be expected from an analysis of some far-flung third world country, but the Council of Europe and its rapporteur, who has well and truly left no stone unturned in his investigation, is about us – supposedly modern democratic European state, but one that bears several of the trademarks of a banana republic totalitarian oligarchy.

While the report deals primarily with the murder of the journalist, it also delves deeply into the weaknesses of the country’s rule of law, which is in part responsible for the assassination and also for the lack of identification and justice for those who commissioned the crime.

The report flatly says that our government institutions, criminal justice system and law enforcement bodies do not comply with European standards on the rule of law, a state of play that has allowed for rampant corruption – as the journalist herself had screamed about until her dying day.

Moreover, the verdict that Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi enjoy ‘total impunity’ with the prime Minister’s protection makes for some pretty grim reading indeed.

Neither of the two deigned it fit to meet with the rapporteur, he notes, nor did they even reply to his questions.  It seems that not only are the two answerable to no one, but they feel they need not even furnish explanations to even a person of the CoE rapporteur’s calibre.  This is, once again, utterly disgraceful behaviour, the kind of which we have grown accustomed to.

There is also the call for the Maltese authorities to implement all of the recommendations of the Venice Commission, GRECO, and eventually the MONEYVAL – all Council of Europe bodies – ‘as a matter of urgency’ and that the recommendations form a coherent package and their implementation must form part of a ‘holistic process of reform’.

A pick-and-choose approach will not achieve the necessary results, the rapporteur warned.

Now one of the problems is that with a government as entrenched in its own protectionism as it is, there is very little hope that any of these recommendations will see the light of day anywhere beyond mere cosmetic changes.

But the major problems are what this says about ourselves and the rule of law in the country that we inhabit, and what it says of the opinion of the rest of Europe about us and our future as a modern European state.

That is because we can build all the skyscrapers we want, pretend to be as cosmopolitan as we like but, at the end of the day, if we do not perform these basic reforms to bring our rule of law onto an even keel, we will forever remain a backwater and mistrusted by our peers.

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