SOFA so good

Last Updated on Thursday, 1 October, 2020 at 12:24 pm by Andre Camilleri

All of a sudden, we are faced with a huge crisis which puts in jeopardy our independence and undermines what’s left of our credibility.

No wonder that the powers that be have spent the past two days backtracking and denying we face any crisis and are prepared to mollify the biggest economy in the world.

The reality shows us our real limitations and should spur us to mend our ways.

The crisis.

It all began with a newspaper report that the government was prepared to give to the United States what is known as a SOF agreement in return for US help with the coming Moneyval judgement.

In simple terms the SOF agreement regards which jurisdiction gets to judge US service personnel – the Maltese or the American.

So far, Malta had always insisted that the Maltese judicial system is supreme. It is only relatively recent that Malta had a dual system with the Inquisitor and one undeniably good thing with Napoleon’s invasion was that he abolished this dual system.

Even under the British Malta retained full jurisdiction over what takes place in Malta, the only compromise being the use of the English language.

The Americans have always pressed to be allowed to judge their servicemen under the US law. Malta, under all governments, had always resisted these pressures.

But now there is Moneyval and Malta is in a very weak position. Hence the American pressure has increased, the press reports said. Coincidentally, Malta has been without a US ambassador for many months now.

There have been all sorts of denials over the past days, from the prime minister downwards. But this is realpolitik and such deals are always to be found.

From the point of view of the people of Malta, all this undermines the idea we have, or have been given, about our independence. We obtained statehood, threw out the Queen, then the British armed forces and rejoiced we were free.

Now we find we are not free at all and our supposed freedom is a conditional one. Of course, international relations are not carried out in the gunboat language used by some media and politicians but the links are there, nevertheless.

The moral of the lesson is the same. If we wanted to preserve our independence we should not have allowed ourselves to get so many black marks internationally.

We are still an independent, sovereign state and maybe we can escape the worst Moneyval condemnation but in this world we cannot do as we please and get away with it.

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