The Malta Independent 8 December 2019, Sunday

TMID Editorial: The fight for justice - Something, somewhere eventually has to give

Wednesday, 15 May 2019, 10:10 Last update: about 8 months ago

We have to hand it to certain members of the opposition, the Opposition Leader himself and to what has become the country’s leading rule of law NGO for their sheer tenacity in demanding the justice is served on some of the highly suspicious deals this government has struck on our behalf.

The Opposition Leader yesterday lost his bid for access to the infamous Egrant report, which is still be kept under lock and key by the Attorney General, who is serving as a perfect scapegoat for a Prime Minister who says he would love to have the entire inquiry published, albeit in a redacted form, but who says that his hands are tied by the Attorney General.

While this excuse may hold water in terms of its technical correctness, we are more than certain that - what with all the legal wrangling that the government has done to ensure that either these cases never see the light f day or that they are delayed as long as humanly possible – the Prime Minister and his people would be able to find a way to have it published.

The fact that this has not happened after all this time speaks volumes.  He has pledged to appeal.

Also this week, the NGO Repubblika turned up the heat on the Vitals Global Healthcare heist case, arguing that Ministers Edward Scicluna, Chris Cardona and Konrad Mizzi had given the group of investors behind VGH an unfair advantage in the contract’s selection process.

According to the NGO, despite the fact that there being abundant evidence of wrongdoing, the country’s institutions had not done their job and had taken no action about “serious suspicions of corruption and money laundering”. 

The Opposition Leader is also attempting to ensure this case will be investigated by having taken the issue to court to have the entire deal rescinded, and to have the hospitals rightfully returned to the state.

In this case, as in others, a company entered into a sweetheart deal with the government that saw its value driven upwards by the attractive incentives offered, and it sells out at a profit earned off the back of the Maltese taxpayer.

In the meantime, the government appears to be treating the deal as though it does not concern the public and, indeed, the public normally need not be concerned with the wheelings and dealings between two private companies.

But when state assets are concerned, such matters are in the public interest. And when these state assets are assets that affect a country’s population on the most fundamental of levels, their very healthcare, the ante is upped further still.

Here the NGO and the Opposition Leader are very much on the same page, most likely much to their mutual chagrin.  These two, however, should learn that an enemy’s enemy is a friend, of sorts.

And again, on the matter of those 11th hour judicial appointments before the implementation of the Venice Commission’s recommendations, that same, in a judicial protest by that same NGO - signed by Opposition MPs Simon Busuttil and Jason Azzopardi - is seeking to prevent the government from naming any new judges or magistrates under the ‘old’ system of appointments which it says threatens the very independence of the judiciary.

There are many ways in which the Opposition and the NGOs battling for proper rule of law and the right checks and balances are very much on the same footing, but it is most unlikely that they will ever band together in any coherent way.

Perhaps that is a good thing, to have the battle fought on many simultaneous fronts.  And it is only a matter of time before one of these cases cracks the government’s facade. Something, somewhere has to give.

And that is exactly why the government is fighting so hard against them all, even though it pledges full cooperation and compliance in all investigations which it insists will only clear its name, but at the end of the day only the government throws spokes in the wheels of justice and does anything except cooperate.

In the meantime, we owe all of these people a huge debt of gratitude for fight for what is right.  We, the free press of this country, stand foursquare behind all those seeking to set matters right where they are so wrong.

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