The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

Robert Abela here are three tests for you

Victor Calleja Sunday, 28 June 2020, 08:37 Last update: about 16 days ago

We, yes we, are all in it. Whether I, or you, did not will it or aid it, collectively we have all gone down the chute where filth stinks to highest heaven.

Lies are piled on lies. Impunity is rampant. Justice is denied.

The horrors are never-ending: a former “star” prime minister forced to resign. The police commissioner, police officials, ministers, former ministers, and all sorts of hangers on, involved or connected to nefarious deeds.

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We are so deep in the proverbial gunk that it cannot conceivably get worse.

Or can it?

Robert Abela has, above all, three glaring, all-encompassing tests to face immediately. There are many others. Yet if he passes these three it will mean that Malta and its long-suffering people have a slight chance of shaking off the horrors that engulf us.

Test 1: Robert Abela, and all his team and associates, must not exert any force or pressure on the new police commissioner and the new head of the Economic Crimes Unit. If they do not impede or interfere in the work of these two officials and the whole police force, then that will be a good beginning.

This will be difficult to monitor, as the police commissioner should not be appointed by the prime minister who should not be able to force the police chief out.

At this moment of grave national crisis, consensus with the opposition and civil society should have been sought. To ensure propriety not just in the appointment but also in the way the relationship between the cabinet and the police commissioner and all officials will proceed.

Test 2: The procedure to appoint judges and magistrates is due to be revised. Again this is a step in the right direction. But it is not enough. What some members of the judiciary are demanding about the way magistrates and judges can be removed is totally wrong.

If Robert Abela accedes to their demands he will fail miserably in this test. And in that case, we face wading deeper in horrors, miscarriages of justice and the judiciary’s subservience to the government.

Test 3: If, in all this turmoil, Robert Abela calls an election, he will definitely prove to be a man with the wrong mission. A mission whose only aim is not to mend our totally broken institutions but to cling to power.

The stakes are so high right now, with our ever-fragile democracy and rule of law on the brink of being swept away and decimated forever, that an election will just be a distraction. And a circus. A circus which will obviously see Robert Abela crowned supreme king with an amazing show of electoral power.

That he will win and that he is rightly sensing a victory of stupendous proportions is quite obvious. That he is tempted to go for this is also more than understandable. But we have had enough of power-crazed idiots running our lives who care zilch about the nation and its people.

A victory at the polls will no doubt solidify the power Abela has on the party and rid him of all dissenters, critics and rivals for many years.

But the country must not be driven down this path. The last thing it needs right now is a distraction from what should be its only way forward, to save its fragile democracy, revive its institutions and build anew a country that is riven, not in two, as was the norm till some years ago, but asunder.

The temptation to win big and drive the opposition into deeper humiliation is huge. Yet maturity and a real belief in the country should make Robert Abela not take the road which is, in truth, very alluring. But if he takes that road it is the road to catastrophe: for Malta, for democracy, for good values. 

If he passes these three tests, then Robert Abela will be in a position to start rebuilding the country from its foundations.

It’s not an easy task, not just because the country is in a terrible state, but because he formed part of the old regime. Neither Abela, nor his old nemesis, Chris Fearne are innocent; they belonged to the old, corrupt, horrendous regime.

Those three tests are the primary ones. There are various others which are also part of the long road back to normality. If there was a viable, value-hugging opposition, I would be rooting for an election and a clean sweep of the Labour Party. But Robert Abela and co are in power and, unless some other cataclysm happens and the Labour Party splits or the PN resurrects from its comatose mode, we need to pin our hopes on a new Robert Abela and his government.

Civil society especially as spearheaded by Repubblika, together with a few Opposition members, are the only viable entities that can be vigilant on Robert Abela and his team. The vigilance is to ensure that the government truly works at giving us a more just, democratic society.

If Robert Abela plays ball he will go down in history as the man who grabbed his chance to do something right. He can rewrite the way forward for local politicians.

If he passes the tests we will not breathe freely. But we will feel that, instead of going to the hounds of hell, we have merely gone to the dogs. While making strides to get back to some form of normality.

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