The Malta Independent 21 May 2022, Saturday

PL Whip lashes out at police, court over Muscat search, targets other institutions

Tuesday, 25 January 2022, 21:42 Last update: about 5 months ago

PL Whip Glenn Bedingfield lashed out at the courts and the police over the search of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's home, and also took aim at other institutions within the country.

The Burmarrad home of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was searched by the police on Wednesday as part of investigations into the deal transferring three public hospitals to the private sector.

Bedingfield spoke in Parliament on Tuesday and took aim at various institutions within the country.

He began by saying that it has to be the institutions themselves that not only do justice with the people, but show that they are doing it. He said that strong and stable institutions are vital for a democracy.

Bedingfield then spoke of checks and balances, and said that when they move away from this scope, they cause an imbalance, and would not be implementing justice. "This would mean that the people would have lost faith in the institutions."

"If the courts remain deaf to people's complaints, then the courts would not be respecting the people, who are investing in them in order for there to be justice in society."

Bedingfield then referred to the "search" by the police "that raises more questions than you find answers." He was referring to the search of Muscat's home.

"From the way this search was called, to the time at which the police went to knock on Muscat's family at 7am, a time that is uncomfortable for every family, but not uncomfortable for those who had an interest to call journalists. They were present there before the police arrived." He said it was not uncomfortable for civil society officials "who were present while the search was happening."

Bedingfield said that a question that arises regarding this search ordered by Magistrate Gabriella Vella is whether the code of ethics of the judiciary was respected, which among other things says that the judiciary must conduct its duties with dignity, courtesy and humanity. "Guess how dignified they were, they even searched in the school bags of Muscat's children. What could they have found in the school bags of two 14-year-old children going to school, what did they think they were going to find?"

"That is dignity, humanity," he said sarcastically.

"The judiciary should be allowed to work without fear, favour or prejudice. Is that happening?"

"Are we certain that the judiciary are not crumbling under the pressure from certain MPs, certain elements of civil society and NGOs?" Bedingfield asked.

"Someone had to explain why on the same day that the search decree is issued, PN MP Jason Azzopardi would have the information and make it public."

"Who will explain to me how the Repubblika President was on site at the time of the search? Was he only observing? How did he know? Who will explain how the media was at Burmarrad before the police arrived. Shouldn't the Chief Justice investigate to see what happened, how and why? Does the judiciary not feel the need launch an investigate on itself and not let itself to remain controlled and work under the pressure it is currently working?"

"The principle of good governance should not just be a principle worked by the government, but should be worked by all institutions as everyone should be accountable for their actions. Today the institutions are meant to work freely, but are they being allowed to do so? Are we allowing them to do wo when there is all this pressure on the police, the courts, on the Attorney General, continuous attacks, on the FIAU. Everyone who holds a post through which a decision can be taken in this country ended up being a target and now so will I."

He mentioned Opposition MPs attacking judges' decisions in the past.

He spoke of the Standards Commissioner and said he sees no coincidence that this office is in the same building that houses the Ombudsman, "that these became the Opposition de facto."

"The Opposition is so weak that certain institutions had to go in for it. In the end we found out that even some of these institutions are filled with persons of trust." This was in reference to Civil service chief Mario Cutajar who had accused the Ombudsman of hypocrisy as Cutajar said he was informed the Ombudsman himself had "people employed on a position of trust basis". The Ombudsman had told Times of Malta that the office does not employ anyone on a position of trust basis. The spokesperson said the ombudsman's office, which is a parliamentary body independent from the civil service, is free to employ people to aid him in his functions, these employees are not public officials, the spokesperson told the newspaper.

Bedingfield said former Judge Joseph Said Pullicino is a person of trust with the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman had said that Said Pullicino was a consultant.

Bedingfield said that Said Pullicino "writes the large number of reports issued by the Ombudsman. When Muscat resigned, the Ombudsman recounts it with emotion in his report. I don't know what the Ombudsman has to do with the resignation of Muscat but he felt the need to... like he felt the need to write and comment on the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, and that report was also written by Said Pullicino who was a member of the same inquiry board appointed by government, that wrote that part of the report before the inquiry report was published. If that is not prejudice then what is?"

He also questioned how quick journalists had published the Ombudsman's response to the Civil Service report was published minutes after it was published, asking the Speaker to investigate. He said someone passed on a copy to the press, "coordinating the Ombudsman's message."

Bedingfield then claimed that the Labour Party is the underdog, saying some institutions are uniting to strengthen the campaign against government as the PN's message against the government is not working.

The aim of these institutions is that there not be the PL in government, he said.

Bedingfield said that "the Ombudsman told the Venice Commission that Malta doesn't have two levels of Parliament, doesn't have a senate, and just has one House, and told them he wants to create a consultative committee,  in which no-elected people will be placed, including the Ombudsman. This means that they want to make Parliament toothless, that they want Parliament in their hands."

He said that the PL's continuous fight is against the establishment, against the few people in this country that want power in their hands at any cost.

Abela must take immediate action against Bedingfield - PN

The Nationalist Party, in a statement, said that Prime Minister Robert Abela must now show whether he truly defends the institutions or not. "Bedingfield launched an unprecedented attack on the institutions. The PN condemns this attack."

"What Bedingfield did is nothing more than intentional pressure to try and intimidate the judiciary and the institutions, to stop them from doing their job."

"Abela must take immediate action against the PL Whip. If he does not, then he is complicit in the attack."

"Abela's mask has fallen."


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