The Malta Independent 11 August 2022, Thursday

How the rule of law is being undermined

Owen Bonnici Friday, 12 October 2018, 08:01 Last update: about 5 years ago

In the run-up of the last general election, the Sunday Times of Malta had carried a large box in very prominent places and various times in the paper (both on the traditional and online version) reading: HOW THE RULE OF LAW IS BEING UNDERMINED.  Beneath this heading pictures of four people were placed – the Police Commissioner, the Attorney General, myself and the then Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri.  My face was placed most prominently and any average reader would immediately relate the supposed undermining of the rule of law with my identity.


Even the narrative which was being used at the time made it very clear that I was being targeted as being one of the main culprits of the alleged undermining of the rule of law here in Malta.

I have to admit that that narrative hurt and it hurt a great deal.

I am a lawyer by profession and being accused of undermining the rule of law is the greatest insult one can be charged with.  Secondly, it hurt because I had spent the previous five years doing a number of difficult reforms which were long overdue  - including the regulation of political parties, the striking off of time-barring by prescription upon accusations of corruption by politicians, a whistleblowers' act, a new legislative reform maximising artistic freedom and a Constitutional reform which provided for, amongst other things, a new Judicial appointments committee made up of independent office holders.

I gave my 200% and in the process I made the almost-fatal political mistake (for me) of focusing all my energy on Government business and leaving little time to constituency matters.  True, that was a mistake which I definitely will not repeat from my part but looking back I am proud of what was achieved in so little time in terms of pro-democratic reforms.  These are results which are there for the benefit of our and future generations.   I cannot see how all those reforms could have passed in around 4 short years had my team and I not focused all our energy on Government business.  This legislature has been very productive as well on those issues – suffice it to mention the new law on the grilling of Chairpersons and the new Media and Defamation Act which is one of the most progressive laws regulating media in Europe.

Far from undermining the rule of law, we have actually strengthened to rule of law with a number of reforms which were long overdue and we placed all our energy and dedication to do that.

I was told my a number of friends which used to form part of this "rule of law lobby" that there was a strong link between this mammoth effort in the Times of Malta to portray the image that the rule of law in Malta was failing and the then Leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil.  Busuttil and his team were co-ordinating and pushing forward the message in a number of friendly media outlets in key moments in the run up to the elections.

That is why I absolutely cannot bear the cheek with which the same Busuttil is himself undermining the rule of law by telling everyone that he does not care a hoot about the conclusions of a detailed Magisterial Inquiry on a very serious allegation levelled against the Prime Minister and his wife. Each time that Busuttil is refuting the conclusions of the Egrant inquiry, the same Busuttil is undermining the rule of law.  The basic principle of the rule of law is that independent Courts pronounce their judgments and decisions which are to be respected by all and sundry.  The fact that Busuttil is throwing this principle out of the window with his careless and dangerous pronouncements speaks volumes about how irresponsible this person is.

We, as a Government, have always accepted the final verdicts of the Courts.  That is the real test of the rule of law.  The politically hopeless Busuttil does the opposite.

Let me remind the readers that in the case of the Egrant inquiry, an independent Magistrate found out that the allegations levelled against the Prime Minister and his family were totally false and that the documents which were published to supposedly prove the allegations were forged and fabricated. The Independent Magistrate took more than a year to arrive to that conclusion after hearing hundreds of witnesses and making use of international forensic experts.  The principal conclusions of the inquiry were immediately made public and the Leader of the Opposition Dr Adrian Delia to his credit immediately accepted the verdict of the Inquiry – as, after all, any person truly embracing the rule of law should do.  Other leading authors, such as Mr Martin Scicluna, lauded the work done by the Inquiring Magistrate and indeed it is impressive.

The inquiry cost our country almost a million and a half Euros and was by far the costliest inquiry ever made.  

For Simon Busuttil, the serial loser, all this does not matter one bit.  Rather than apologising to Dr Muscat and his family, he repeated the accusations as if the Inquiry did not happen.  Rather than condemning the people who tried to frame an innocent family – family Muscat – Busuttil alleged that he was about to be framed!

If Busuttil was not so dangerous, he would be pathetic.  He should resign immediately from the House of Representatives as he is not fit to be a member of the highest institution of the land.

Not apologising for basing your political career on a fabricated lie is a serious enough matter.  Choosing to rape the very essence of the rule of law by discarding completely the conclusions of a major Magisterial Inquiry is completely unacceptable, irresponsible and grave.

In the name of God, go!


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