The Malta Independent 23 June 2024, Sunday
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No, Madam President

Saturday, 11 May 2024, 06:56 Last update: about 2 months ago

“Saying is a different thing from doing.”

Michel de Montaigne - Philosopher

At the beginning of April, Myriam Spiteri Debono was sworn in as Malta’s 11th President, being the third woman to occupy this highest rank. Although she admitted that lately she was expecting her nomination, she did not, like some others, have any entitlement ideas.

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In her first speech, Madam President highlighted some issues that irk the majority of Maltese and she was quite bold. She described greed as worse than drug addiction. “The relentless pursuit of riches, more often than not, translates itself into various forms of corruption; the pursuer becomes indifferent into the suffering he may directly or indirectly cause others.” Her views reiterate what the Maltese think and say, that corruption is the biggest problem that our country is facing. The social security fraud which has costed the tax-payer some €5 million is a classic example. About that read further down. The same can be said about the licencing racket, which could have put unworthy drivers on our roads. Greed is making a parody of Malta’s financial bodies. Greed killed Daphne Caruana Galizia, greed killed Miriam Pace and greed killed Jean Paul Sofia and many others.

Madam President also mentioned the threats for the environment that Malta has been facing lately. Her comments hinted that she is ready to speak her mind about over development and the protection of the natural environment. If that happens it would be impressive. She did not complain against overbuilding in a specific street in a particular village, she criticised all over development. She underlined the importance of educating our children and youths, so that they will have a sensible awareness of the natural environment which is continuously being menaced. The vandal actions on trees in Mosta and the uprooting of trees during the Central Link project are clear examples. So is the proposed uprooting of hundreds of trees at Marsalforn.

“The superior man acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks

according to his actions.” Confucius

The President dwelt on the need to settle political murders, which she described as still “wide open and bleeding”, and reserved her toughest comments on the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination. The country has never experienced anything like Daphne’s murder. It was a brutal and macabre execution closely related to her work. “They killed her to shut her up.” Journalism, she emphasised, is a strong base for good governance and democracy, and leaders of political parties should warn their officials that unethical governance will not be tolerated. She emphasised that healing is a must for the hideous chapter of our history, and the episode needs to be wound up once and for all. “Otherwise we cannot move forward. It shall continue to haunt us.”

Public inquiries become futile if they are not acted upon. The deliberate procrastination by the Government on the recommendations has made them pointless. One must remember that a report by the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Safety of Journalists has remarked that the Maltese Government has ‘failed to implement in good faith’ the recommendations of the public inquiry launched after the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Flutura Kusari, legal advisor for the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, during the presentation of the report stated that “we have bad examples, like Malta, where the Government is refusing to collaborate with the civil society organisations.”

The Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry concluded that the State was responsible for the assassination of the journalist. In a 437-pages long report it determined that a culture of impunity was formed, and that this extended to the police and other Government institutions. This caused the breakdown of the rule of law. The inquiry laid down a number of recommendations, amongst them the introduction of new laws to deter the use of political power to escape justice, transparency in the relationship between Government and big businesses and the unexplained wealth orders. The inquiry also endorses the implementation of the recommendations made by the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and Greco to strengthen good governance. It also recommended the introduction of laws criminalising obstruction of justice and abuse of office for public officials. All of these suggestions have yet to be implemented by Robert Abela’s Government.

Madam President’s words were as daring as gallant. But they were just words. I, like many others, was hoping that she keeps her word and strive to put into practice her beliefs. But unfortunately actions speak louder than words. It is an unwritten law that when you endorse what you say with corresponding actions, your impact on others’ opinions of you will be assured and you secure their trust.

Recently we had an example. Just three weeks after being sworn in, Madam President agreed to give a Presidential pardon to a number of people who had defrauded the state and took money which was not theirs in collusion with Ministers’ and PL officials. No, Madam President. It is not on. With your actions you condoned impunity, Robert Abela’s trademark. And that is not good.

I can still recall Angelo Gafa who, on his appointment declared that he will not look at faces. Maybe he didn’t look at faces, although he surely read the names.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “A well done is much better than well said.”

Joe Azzopardi is a former official at the Ministries of the Environment, Justice and Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs

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