The Malta Independent 13 June 2024, Thursday
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TMIS Editorial: Abela’s serious accusation

Sunday, 19 May 2024, 10:15 Last update: about 25 days ago

Was the judgment in favour of Norman Vella timed by the “establishment” to coincide with the European Parliament and local council elections to cause as much harm as possible to the Labour Party?

We ask this tongue in cheek, of course, but it’s likely that this thought crossed Prime Minister Robert Abela’s mind, given that he is more concerned about the timing of decisions that are being taken, rather than the content, while conveniently forgetting that his government is dishing out as many goodies as possible to influence voters.

Last Wednesday, after an 11-year-battle, the Employment Commission decreed that Vella’s redeployment from PBS soon after the 2013 election was politically discriminating. Vella had previously worked for Malta’s then most popular programme Xarabank and later had his own TV show, but was kicked out of PBS soon after the Labour Party was elected to power.

“Malta Taghna Lkoll” had been the PL’s slogan at the time. Not for Norman Vella.

We have a second, certainly more serious, question to make.

A magistrate this past week ordered the police to investigate and identify the public officials and the entities who were involved in yet another scandal – that of having addresses of nearly 100 people changed to a still “uninhabitable” housing block in Siggiewi, a locality which will be highly contested in the 8 June local council elections.

Will these, once caught, also be defended by Prime Minister Robert Abela, as he has been doing with officials and others who are to be charged following the conclusion of the magisterial inquiry into the hospitals’ deal?

Will they, if found guilty, be granted a presidential pardon as those hundreds who have admitted to defrauding the country by taking social benefits they were not entitled to?

The government should lead by example, but the example that it is giving continues to confirm what has been said over and over again in the last years – that there exists a culture of impunity that is spearheaded by a government whose sole interest is to remain in power.

The additional COLA cheques that are being received these days – the PM brazenly challenged the opposition to report the government for “buying votes” – are the latest example as to how the government is trying to influence voters. Abela is doing it again, as he has done two weeks ago when income tax refunds were handed out.

And then he complains about the “timing” of the conclusion of a magisterial inquiry.

That the Labour Party has reached a new level of arrogance could also be seen in the way it treated Parliament this week. An agreement had been reached with the Opposition for sittings to be held until 22 May, before a break until the EP and local council elections are held. An agenda had also been agreed to between the two sides. But then, out of the blue, the government chose to shut down the House a week earlier, 15 May, prompting the opposition to cry foul and say that each time the government finds itself in a crisis it uses “guillotine politics” to stop the debate.

Maybe Labour MPs are not comfortable going to the Parliament building in Valletta in these eventful times. Two protests were held in the capital city in the past days to call for a “clean Malta” and for politics to be used for the common good, rather than for the benefit of the few who are closest to the government.

What has not stopped is the Prime Minister’s attack on the judiciary, in particular the magistrate who conducted the hospitals’ inquiry, which has led to charges being filed against former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and three former ministers, one of whom still occupies a public position – and a high one, at that, given that he is the Central Bank governor.

Last Tuesday, while replying to a question by this media house, Abela went as far as to say he “does not exclude” that there was a “presumption of guilt”, rather than a presumption of innocence, when the magisterial inquiry kicked off.

This is a very serious accusation. Implying that a magistrate started off an investigation presuming that the subject before her was guilty – when the presumption of innocence is a legal principle on which our justice system is based – is a matter of grave concern, especially coming from a Prime Minister, and who is also a lawyer by profession.

The Prime Minister this week also said he had been “emotional” when he saw what he described as “cruel” attacks against Chris Fearne, who handed in his resignation after criminal charges were brought up against him.

Did Abela remember the cruelty that had been shown against Fearne when the two of them – Abela and Fearne – were fighting for the Labour leadership post four years ago?

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