The Malta Independent 9 December 2019, Monday

It’s just not on in a democracy

Michael Asciak Sunday, 17 November 2019, 08:11 Last update: about 22 days ago

The fact that Keith Schembri initiated a libel case in respect of the declaration by Dr Simon Busuttil (then Leader of the Opposition) that he was connected to the UAE 17 Black offshore company through kick-backs into his Panama and other secret offshore accounts which he has admitted having, and the fact that when forced by the defendant and the court to testify, the said Keith Schembri as plaintiff, refused to do so, speaks volumes.

Since he had instituted the proceedings himself, Keith Schembri should have jumped at the chance given by the court to clear his name. Logically, the fact that he refused to testify – and actually dropped the case – means that his grounds for libel are nullified and so it can be concluded that the charges against him by Dr Simon Busuttil are correct. That is the charge that he was planning to receive a commission of millions of Euros as kickbacks from the power-station contract from Yorgen Fenech (the consortium that won the power-station contract) as owner of 17 Black into his Panama account must, by power of deductive reasoning, be true. In this case, silence implies confirmation of what Simon Busuttil said in the first place!

I have always held that Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi should have resigned from their public appointments a long time ago, just for their own admission of opening the Panama offshore accounts after winning the 2013 election and having been found out by the international press and Daphne Caruana Galizia. This was serious reason enough.

I have always said that this fact should have forced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to fire them, and that his failure to do so implied that he also had coal in his haversack, especially since allegations regarding his ownership of Egrant had been raised. I still insist that there are enough political grounds for firing them just for this serious misdemeanour, particularly because these accounts were undeclared for tax reasons and even more so after the journalist’s assassination. That he had an ‘invicta’ tattoo injected into his arm instead, are also grounds for the PM’s resignation.

However, there should now be no excuse, no grounds for hesitance, for the immediate dismissal of Keith Schembri from his post as the PM’s personal assistant. He has failed to prove his innocence and to deny the accusations brought against him and therefore he should go immediately. If he does not go, then the PM should fire him immediately and if he does not fire him, then I daresay that the hold Keith Schembri has on the PM shows up more manifestly again – raising serious suspicions regarding Egrant.

The fact that the enquiring magistrate said that there was not enough proof to link Egrant to the PM does not in fact mean that it does not belong to a member of his family and these suspicions are now strongly re-aroused if he does not act!

If the PM Joseph Muscat is saying that Keith Schembri is his friend, then – unless Keith Schembri has more than a friendly hold on him – the best thing the friend can do for the PM is to get out of the way to bolster the PM’s image. But if the friend Keith Schembri refuses to leave and the PM refuses to fire him then pardon us mortal human beings – the men in the street – for concluding that Keith Schembri is not only guilty as acclaimed by Simon Busuttil’s charge, but that the PM (and Konrad Mizzi) is just as guilty as he is!

Malta is a democratic country and a member of the EU. A member of the first world now – thanks to the PN (no thanks to the PL). It is expected that the PM, and the PL as a party, behave in a democratic way and also behave as members of an EU country. It is just not on – it is just not acceptable – that things go on without the resignation or firing of Keith Schembri.

If the PM refuses to fire him, it is just not on that things continue without the resignation of the PM himself. This is not a banana republic and we are not bananas! The actual functioning of a democracy requires more than nice laws and words written on paper. Our Constitution is not just a written document, but implies much more. There is behind it the original implied intent and purpose of the Constitution’s formulators. There is behind it, the full body of rights that belong to the citizens of these fair lands, there is behind it the obligation of international rights enshrined in international Charters of Rights, such as the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, and there is behind it the understanding that the people entrusted with running the constitution and our government are men of habitual virtue. It is here that the penny drops!

We can have a thousand Constitutions written and embossed in gold, but if the people running it themselves are not virtuous, good people, then the Constitution is worthless as a guarantor of rights. If the people running the country just look at the wording of the law not its spirit, if the people running the country are maleficent (the opposite of beneficent), if the people running the country are crooks, if the people running the country are corrupt, then no number of constitutions are going to get things right.

The practice of virtue, as laid down by Aristotle, implies good moral character and right reason. It implies moderation. It implies habitual good behaviour. It implies good intentions. It implies working towards these goals.

The more time that passes, the more it becomes obvious that the people leading this Labour government are not virtuous people! They are not good people because they are corrupt and more interested in feathering their own beds than looking after the common good! They do not practice the intellectual virtues of prudence or wisdom. The opposite of virtue is vice and people who practice vices are called vicious people. It is at this point that we see the rape of the economy and the law by vice and corruption and I daresay that this is obvious today in all fields of the economy, the social emphasis or lack of it and the mess in the ecology and the environment of the country.

I would say that the attitude of the authorities has become vicious in this respect, not just a legal viciousness but also a behavioural one! It is time for action not words. It is time for resignations.



Dr Michael Asciak MD, M.Phil. (European Studies and Genomics), PhD. (Bioethics)

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