The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

Multi-tasking lawyer MPs

Charles Flores Sunday, 15 November 2020, 10:44 Last update: about 21 days ago

Lawyers in politics, particularly those who attain seats on both Government and Opposition benches, have always had it so good. They form part of the Legislator but are also free to roam the Court corridors and halls where they can play a dodgy dual role either for the Prosecution or the Defence, undoubtedly enjoying the privilege of having political ears and noses everywhere as opposed to fellow lawyers who steer clearly away from the partisan arena.

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Recent news stories and revelations show the gravity of this enduring duplicity, with lawyer politicians taking full advantage of their inside knowledge of present-day political undercurrents. Not surprisingly, it all reminds one of those foreign news stories from places like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, former British colonies like us, about lawyers actually coming to blows inside and outside the law courts over political issues and protagonists who ended up being investigated or accused as part of civil and criminal cases. On a few occasions even over capital punishment verdicts.  We may not have come to that, thank goodness, but it is an open secret there are legal skirmishes going on behind the scenes that certainly do not reflect well on the profession.

It does not mean all lawyer MPs are part of this sorry spectacle of invisible mud-wrestling, nor that there are no lawyer MPs on both sides of the House who deserve our respect for the contribution they make to society in general and politics specifically. Of course, it only takes one rotten apple to contaminate the rest of the fruit in the basket, as is the case with other professions including our own as journalists. The difference is that while journalists have every right to either show their political colour or declare themselves as independent (somewhat unconvincingly in such a small place as Malta) and just be part of the national debate fabric, in the case of multi-tasking lawyer MPs the intertwining of law and justice with politics and an uncouth lack of political ethics, questions inevitably continue to sprout ad infinitum.

The unfairness of having a lawyer MP who, in his role as defender or prosecutor, is savvy to all inside information denied to the general public and then syphons it on to the political platform, cannot be overemphasised. It gets even worse when certain individual lawyer MPs take to social media with aggrandised versions of that same information salted with nuances and innuendos one could categorise as fake news.

It all boils down to the urgent need for our MPs to become full-time by being given the choice of either accepting to dedicate their career to the good of the nation and their constituents as appropriately-paid elected members of the Legislature, or stay part-time and be legally bound to stay off cases that may have, even remotely, an association with politics at both village and national levels. I know the Speaker of the House, Dr Anġlu Farrugia, has often referred to not exactly similar ideas in the hope of finally making of our National Parliament a truly professioal institution.

I tend to think the first people who would fight such a proposition would be the lawyers themselves. They have always wanted to have the cake and eat it. Here we are not talking about freedom of expression of which, since the origin of the legal profession in ancient Greece and Rome, lawyers of course make the utmost use, but about the logical sense of removing politics from the avenues of justice, tarmacked for some, potholed for many.

Recent examples of lawyer MP duplicity and sheer manipulation of politically-sensitive cases can only be described as despicable. In so saying, however, I am in no way trying to pry into the private lives of the perpetrator/s which, no matter what and on every occasion, must remain strictly private.

 

Anxiety knows neither right nor left

People with a penchant for ideology are often caught in a quandary when it comes to discuss the issue of immigration. Say one not necessarily wise word for or against, and you are instantly branded a rightist or a leftist in need of urgent psychological calibration, which is both unfair and erroneous.

While people found hilarious most of last Monday’s statement in the Imperium Europa party’s response to the government document on the national action plan against racism and xenophobia, there is truth in their claim that anger against immigration should not always be misconstrued as racism. EU barometer statistics have persistently shown that in the case of a large representation of Maltese, immigration is constantly a major source of anxiety, That flips me back to my introduction. People’s fears are not ideological standpoints, but genuine concerns.

Can anyone blame Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz for stating his government will not tolerate religious extremism after a large number of Turkish youths stormed a church in Vienna and that “all Christians in the country must be able to exercise their faith freely and safely”? Or France, for launching a crackdown on extremism following the murder of a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, who merely showed caricatures of Mohammed to his students during a lesson on freedom of expression, and the attack on a Nice church which left three people dead?

A recent opinion poll has shown how in France, for decades rightly open and welcoming to immigrants particularly from former French colonies, the Muslim population has become increasingly disconnected from the general population. Perhaps the most shocking finding in this poll was how a majority of Muslims under the age of 25 believe Islamic law to be more important than French law which, they insisted, should be subordinate to Sharia law. Worryingly still, 38% of French Muslims overall said they felt the same.

In contrast, only 15% of the Catholic population, thank goodness for France’s secular-minded majority, believe that their religious laws should come before French Law. Calibrate your mind with that, if you can.

 

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