The Malta Independent 13 June 2024, Thursday
View E-Paper

TMID Editorial: Setting the narrative

Monday, 20 May 2024, 11:35 Last update: about 24 days ago

The talk around the hospitals case continues, but everybody’s eyes have certainly turned to 28 and 29 May, when Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Chris Fearne, Edward Scicluna and a host of others will get their first day in court.

The case has dominated the headlines, locally and internationally, and the electoral campaign with several narratives forming around it.  Chief amongst those attempting to set the narrative around the case was Prime Minister Robert Abela.

He engaged in a campaign where he implied that magistrate Gabriella Vella had politicised the magisterial inquiry by choosing to conclude it when she did – which was on the day that nominations for the European Parliament election officially opened.

Abela went steps further, implying that there were doubts in the process of how the magisterial inquiry was conducted had breached the rights of those who were being investigated by not summoning them to testify during the process of the inquiry.

However, there is no legal stipulation that one has an absolute right to be summoned to testify before a magisterial inquiry, precisely because it is an investigation.  By itself, a magisterial inquiry cannot lead to a person being charged in court, and the inquiring magistrate cannot take that decision, although they can recommend it.

Neither is it a legal right for a suspect to be questioned by prosecutors or the police prior to being charged, although it is exceedingly unusual.

Complex legalisms aside though, Abela has set a narrative about what – in his speculative view, as he insists he does not have the inquiry in hand – might have been done incorrectly.  No doubt the intention was to muddy the waters on the case for his supporters in the run-up to the election.

But the flipside has been that those accused in the same case have now begun to argue along the lines of that same narrative.

Muscat, for example, claimed that his fundamental rights were breached as he was not questioned by police prior to being charged in connection with the hospitals deal.

Brian Bondin, Pierre Sladden, Giuseppe Musarella, Ivan Vassallo, and the companies Taomac Ltd, Gateway Solutions Ltd and Eurybates Limited also filed a judicial protest against the Attorney General a day after charges were issued in the hospitals case, arguing that their rights had been breached.

They complained that they were not given the chance to testify before the inquiring magistrate or the Attorney General and Police prior to being charged.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see others follow suit and make the same arguments.

It is early days yet, but one can see how the Prime Minister’s narrative has already made its way into the court case – even before the case has even made it to court.

  • don't miss