The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

TMIS Editorial: The partisan and personal use of state apparatuses

Sunday, 11 August 2019, 12:00 Last update: about 7 days ago

The ill-advised and misguided ‘partisan and personal use’ of the state apparatuses by politicians has continued unabated since so many lines of demarcation were blurred or completely erased since 2013, lines that are meant to separate the functions of state.

And yesterday, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life put paid to one such practice – the use of the government’s Department of Information for the personal and partisan motives of ministers.

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The minister in question this time around is Konrad Mizzi and the complaint originated from one of those leading rabble rousers that is continually taking Mizzi and the rest of the government to task.

This time, the task Mizzi was taken to was his press release issued through the Department of Information last February when he backed out of all those libel cases just as things began to get real, as they say.  These were, incidentally, libel cases in his own name and damages would have been awarded to him personally had he pursued the cases to a successful conclusion, and to the government, the commissioner pointed out.

And according to the commissioner, the case had nothing to do with his government role in that it dealt with a political issue arising from Minister Mizzi’s personal interests and is not related to his official duties.

Moreover, the statement was laced with highly partisan language, such as ‘web of deceit’ and ‘mud-slinging’, which the commissioner ruled ‘inappropriate for official statements issued by the DOI’.

We couldn’t agree more and, in fact, this was not the only time that Mizzi was guilty of such comportment, nor is he the first minister to have done so of late.

The commissioner said yesterday that the problem was that there was no official policy at the DOI and as such, Mizzi may have been ‘misled’.

Here the commissioner is being far too kind.

This is, after all, a person, entrusted by us, but not necessarily trusted by all, to run the country, and if the individual cannot grasp this basic concept, then we have a problem. The man has been in government as a leading minister now since 2013 and he has still not grasped this simple ethical issue because there is nothing in writing?

One does not need to be a rocket scientist to determine that your personal life and political life are two very different beasts, and that a state apparatus cannot be used for personal ends.

Perhaps Mizzi did not get a number of other memos he was supposed to have received when entering office. That could, in actual fact, explain an awful lot of what has happened in the meantime.

Mizzi has now apparently agreed to instruct his people to be “more sensitive to the distinction between official and private or partisan matters, and not to make use of the DOI for private or partisan matters in future.” 

But, in the meantime, what about all those social media paid advertisements that he has taken out to criticise journalists who dare to cross swords with him, or the disinformation he places all over his social media pages?

That, of course, is not done through the DOI, or at least we do not think it is, and it doesn’t fall under the remit of this particular investigation.

There should be more to follow because this is just merely one apparatus of state that is being leveraged by politicians not for the betterment of the country, but, rather, for the betterment of their political careers. They are used for one sole singular purpose – to ensure re-election through the handing out of jobs, favours, permits and what have you. The situation has always been present in this country, but it has been taken to new practically omnipresent level in which almost everyone is or wants to be on the take.

But, in the meantime, many should take solace that for once, Mizzi has actually been investigated and he has actually been found guilty of something. Now let’s see if he and his people are able to abide by their agreement with the commissioner to cease and desist.

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