The independence of our institutions

Last Updated on Thursday, 9 May, 2024 at 12:26 pm by Andre Camilleri

Last week, I wrote about the possibility of an event that might affect the course of the narrative of the current European Parliament’s election campaign. Technically, I was referring to the completion of the magisterial inquiry, given that the media was already speculating. True, I am not a lawyer by profession. However, nothing stops me from analysing the way things unfolded, and the way the timing of this magisterial inquiry is trying to obliterate the Labour Party’s campaign during this important election.

The Labour Party in Malta is accustomed to these tactics. These are the same tactics used in the 1930s during the Strickland and Boffa days, whereby most of the Nationalist legal experts, weaponised courts in their favour through their connections, to primarily paralyse the compact government. Indeed, I know for a fact that the Nationalist Party members were not happy for exposing their plans, locally and abroad, especially the EPP’s handling of wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and the push for the financing of armaments. 

Certainly, those who do not know Malta might be oblivious of the fact that the Nationalist Party was always in bed with an institution, be they religious or partially independent, including the courts in the 1930s and the church in the 1960s. In April of 1961, the Archbishop of Malta Michael Gonzi interdicted the executive members of the Malta Labour Party. Sadly, we have relatives who were buried without a confession on their death bed because the majority of priests abhorred Labour supporters and were instructed to refuse the hearing of a confession, and to not administer the Eucharist. Those who managed to do it did it covertly and through connections. The political and religious tension was high. Some of our relatives were even buried in a trash sight known as “fil-miżbla” at the Addolorata cemetery.

A proposed development plan that started after the Second World War suggested mass emigration. Subsequently, in the 1960s, such a plan was pushed by the Nationalist Party in government, along with the British government. It was in the interest of the British to pay less before they leave. Deviously, some village priests convinced many people to emigrate abroad. Most of them were teenage Labour voters coming predominantly from Labour leaning families. They convinced their parents to leave Malta. At that time, the church and its head were in bed with the Nationalist Party. Craftily, they tried to cleanse Labour supporters to the advantage of the Nationalist Party. Let’s not forget that elections in Mata, at that time, were decided with a slim majority. Indeed, many left for Australia, Canada, and the United States. And the Labour Party spent a decade in opposition. It was only thanks to Dom Mintoff’s powerful speeches and vision that kept the Labour Party afloat.

I am writing this article because we need to give a little bit of context to those abroad who are trying to meddle with Maltese politics. They do not understand our culture.  Our history is deeply rooted in our culture. Certainly, foreigners cannot distinguish between, political, ethnic, or religious cleansing. And rightly so. This is the result of our colonisers. Our forefathers resisted our colonisers, fought for our independence, and even our freedom. Dom Mintoff was and perhaps remains the main political actor who really fought to free Malta. Labour supporters resisted the establishment, the status quo and the Labour Party separated Church and State.

Certainly, any government must be held in checks and balances. However, Malta must pay attention today, not from the powers of the government but from the tentacles that reached our courts from the opposition side. The independence of our institutions is truly under threat. Ironically, the pressure being exerted on our law courts is not from the government, but from some members, and former members within the opposition. Decency dictates that we must remove any shred of doubt, whatever the case, for justice to prevail.

Notwithstanding that calling for witnesses might be at the discretion of the inquiring magistrate, however, for the sake of enhancing the independence, as well as strengthening public trust in our institutions, it would have been wise to call for those who are being accused and charged in court. Not to interfere with the process but to remove doubts. If I were a magistrate, I would have called for all the witnesses simply to remove any doubts and not to erode the independence of the process. Certainly, sending the inquiry to the Attorney General on the eve of an election surely sends a wrong message. The powers conferred upon the judiciary mustn’t be abused, and this applies to labour and nationalist leaning members of the judiciary.

Dreadfully, this does not stop with the independence of our courts. Even in the case of the Malta Broadcasting Authority, we had a situation where the Secretary General of the Nationalist Party filed an objection in June 2023, stating that I am taking advantage of the public broadcasting service, without even allowing me to state my version during the deliberation process. When I queried, they told me that it was not their duty to call me. Technically, they gave me a civil servant answer. Surely, I expect better from the members of our independent institutions, especially when it comes to building public trust. How can we have trust in our independent institutions with such appalling outcomes?   

Such practices are tantamount to Russia’s modus operandi. After the 2019 political crisis, the independence of the institutions loosened excessively in favour of the opposition. Let’s not forget that the current government rescinded many powers. The Nationalist Party is happy about it. The argument between them at the Casino Maltese is that the law courts were always within the Nationalist Party’s reach, and the Labour Party will always play away. True, this is a century old common practice. It is indeed a travesty of democracy. Well, I cannot understand why we are at a point where we have to question the independence of our institutions after so many reforms. The modus operandi must shy away from any political interferences. We are not Russia.

Lastly, President Vladimir Putin is currently preparing for military drills involving nuclear weapons. This is what really matters in this campaign and after the 8th of June. Do not come back whinging that I did not warn you.

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