The Malta Independent 13 August 2022, Saturday

Bully the weak, suck up to the strong

Kevin Cassar Sunday, 31 July 2022, 10:24 Last update: about 14 days ago

A 37-year-old man damaged two 1970s stone sculptures. Another middle-aged man was caught with a historic stone marker dating from Queen Victoria’s reign in his private poolside garden. The 37-year-old man was condemned to 7 years’ jail. The middle aged man continues to enjoy the historical artefact in his back garden and isn’t facing charges.

Both men in different ways deprived the nation of its historical heritage. The 1800s stone marker is probably of greater historical value than the two statues sculpted in the 1970s. So why was one man dragged before the courts and condemned to the maximum prison sentence with no appeal while the other hasn’t even been charged?

ADVERTISEMENT

The answer is simple. That is how justice works in Malta. That is the rule of law as implemented under Labour.  Of course it will come as no suprise that the man who still escapes justice and who still has the VR stone marker in his back garden is deep red Labour. He is a Labour Cabinet Minister.  And as you would expect, the law doesn’t apply to those who’ve climbed so high up the Labour ladder. Not even the lowly Iosif Galea was subject to the law, let alone the great Anton Refalo himself.  What do you expect? That Refalo is arrested? That his stone marker be confiscated from his back garden leaving an ugly stain on his poolside decking? That he’s charged? Don’t be silly.  That law is reserved for black Sudanese vandals. That’s who the maximum sentence was intended for, not for Labour ministers.

The 37-year-old Musaqad Hajeji, took a rock to two sculptures outside the Peace Lab on 12 May 2020. He didn’t destroy the statues beyond repair but he did cause considerable damage. One statue of St Michael, by Ganni Bonnici, was significantly damaged but the head was intact.  The sheep and wolf forming part of a statue of St Francis by Anton Agius were also destroyed. But St Francis was unharmed. The court didn’t even have an estimate of the value of the damage caused.

Yet Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo stated that there was “no doubt” of the man’s guilt and condemned him to the maximum sentence under the Cultural heritage act - 6 years jail.  In addition he received an additional year for recidivism.

But the accused didn’t even testify. On 17 September 2021 he allegedly agreed to his case being treated through summary procedure.  The Court never heard the accused.  It simply had a declaration and a statement by the accused who doesn’t speak English or Maltese.  The court claimed that those statements were made through an interpreter and that the accused had spoken to a lawyer of his trust. But there was no defence lawyer defending the man in court.

There was no indication of any lawyer representing the interests of the Sudanese man. There wasn’t any certainty that the accused understood the implications of the procedures or the possible severity of the sentence.  There was no indication that interpreter services were provided to him throughout the process. More importantly the Magistrate’s report fails to indicate any possible motivation for the crime. Why was this Sudanese man defacing two religious statues? Brief reference is made to a medical certificate. But that certificate was issued by Dr Mark Aquilina, who isn’t a psychiatrist.  He is not on the psychiatry specialist register. So what sort of medical assessment did the accused undergo? Certainly no psychiatric assessment was conducted.  What support did the Sudanese man receive? The magistrate doesn’t mention any motivation throughout her sentence.  She does not appear to have made any attempt whatsoever to establish what drove the man to act so destructively. She didn’t even establish whether the man recognised the historical value of the statues he was damaging. Isn’t mens rea a necessity for guilt anymore?

Here is a case that screams miscarriage of justice, abuse of a vulnerable individual and brutal sentencing of the defenceless.

Compare his treatment to the kids’ gloves used with Anton Refalo. On February 17 2022 reports from The Shift indicated that Anton Refalo had a 19th century historical VR stonemarker restored and placed in his back garden.  Refalo initially arrogantly refused to answer journalists’ questions. After much public pressure the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage confirmed that “the artefact has been identified and the proprietor is collaborating in full”. Yet the stone remained firmly next to Refalo’s pool.  His excuse: “Everybody knows of my love for Maltese cultural and historical heritage and I will continue to do my utmost to promote its preservation”.

Refalo contemptuously continued to ignore questions about the provenance of the British era stone marker in his Qala home. When he was eventually interrogated by the police he refused to state whether he was questioned under caution by the Criminal Investigation Department. Police commissioner Angelo Gafa refused to comment, apart from noting that investigations are still ongoing, months after the Minister was caught in flagrante delicto. Cultural heritage Superintendent Kurt Farrugia, a political appointee, even refused to answer whether he reported the case to the police or whether he had the artefact removed from the Minister’s private property.  The Minister responsible, Owen Bonnici, refused to reply to Parliamentary questions about the case, claiming he had no information.

Robert Abela knew well about Refalo’s case yet appointed him minister anyway. Abela was happy to trample over the rule of law, to disregard Refalo’s alleged crimes and to condone his contempt for the nation. Abela didn’t even bother to demand that Refalo return the artefact. He wasn’t even fussed about the message Refalo’s re-appointment would send out. Or that his own cabinet would be tainted by the contempt, entitlement and disdain of his Minister. That is what Abela really thinks about rule of law. Laws are not there for Labour. They’re only there for jailing undesirables.

  • don't miss