Coke and Pop­corn at the Law Courts

Please take this piece with a pinch of salt and a mea­sure of sar­casm.

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

info@peo­pleat­work.com.mt

Through the grapevine, I have heard that cof­feeshop, bar and res­tau­rant owners in Val­letta, whether their place of busi­ness is lo­cated in the city cen­tre or on the pe­riph­ery of our his­tor­i­cal cap­i­tal, have re­cently met to dis­cuss a new chal­lenge that has emerged out of the blue. The mat­ter may put their busi­nesses in jeop­ardy. To counter the un­de­sired ef­fects on their es­tab­lish­ments, a protest march in Repub­lic Street is not ex­cluded. If the plans are to move for­ward, the planned protest will be a peace­ful one. As a mat­ter of fact, an ad hoc com­mit­tee has been set up to fo­cus on the is­sue, draft their com­plaint ac­cu­rately and dis­sem­i­nate the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion among all cater­ing es­tab­lish­ments to garner sup­port for their claim.

But what trig­gered the hul­la­baloo among the cater­ing busi­ness com­mu­nity in Val­letta was a gath­er­ing at a re­cent, three-hour ses­sion at the Courts of Jus­tice. A ten-strong del­e­ga­tion, made up of seven min­is­ters and three par­lia­men­tary sec­re­taries, saw fit to at­tend a court case which has been drag­ging on for more than three years.

From a lay­man’s point of view, three years is quite a long time. Un­for­tu­nately, jus­tice is only served through the law courts. Only through courts can one seek re­dress. There is no other le­git­i­mate al­ter­na­tive. Bul­ly­ing is not ac­cept­able in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety. Pelt­ing the op­po­nents with stones is not al­low­able in a civilised so­ci­ety ei­ther. Thank­fully, to cut a long story short, there is no al­ter­na­tive other than the law courts to seek jus­tice and ob­tain re­dress.

The court case I am re­fer­ring to is that which the PN in­sti­tuted in March 2013 against the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion. The PN claims that ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties oc­curred in the gen­eral elec­tion count­ing process, on the eighth and 13th elec­toral dis­tricts.

Since then, a good num­ber of court sit­tings have been held.

Late last May, the Court ruled that the Na­tion­al­ist Party should have two more seats in Par­lia­ment, which would re­duce the PLs nine-seat ma­jor­ity to seven. Two new Na­tion­al­ist MPs had to be elected within a month. How­ever, back then, both the govern­ment and the PL ex­er­cised their right to ap­peal against the rul­ing and filed a no­tice of ap­peal.

I tried to look into the rea­son or rea­sons why ten se­nior mem­bers of govern­ment felt the need to show up at the court hall. These rea­sons are far from ev­i­dent, so although it is not easy to say why, I will try.

The mo­ti­va­tions for the show­ing could be many. How­ever, it could hardly have been a show of sol­i­dar­ity for their fel­low min­is­ter and par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary di­rectly in­volved in the mat­ter.

I rule out that this show of force was an act of in­tim­i­da­tion on the pre­sid­ing Chief Jus­tice Sil­vio Camil­leri and Judges Gian­nino Caru­ana De­majo and Noel Cuschieri. I am sure that the honourable, learned gentle­men are ac­cus­tomed to a full court­room dur­ing their daily ses­sions. They do not fear ret­ri­bu­tion, nor are they in­tim­i­dated by the pres­ence of those at­tend­ing, or their bud­dies in the court­room or out­side.

Lady Jus­tice is de­picted as equipped with three sym­bolic items: a sword, a pair of scales and a blind­fold, in­di­cat­ing that jus­tice should be im­par­tial and meted out ob­jec­tively with­out fear or favour, and re­gard­less of money, wealth, power or iden­tity. The mission of judges and mag­is­trates is en­cap­su­lated in the first sen­tence of their Oath of Of­fice, that is to “…faith­fully per­form the du­ties of Judge/Mag­is­trate, as the case maybe, with­out favour or par­tial­ity, ac­cord­ing to jus­tice and right, and in ac­cor­dance with the laws and cus­toms of Malta, to the hon­our of God and the Repub­lic of Malta.”

I rule out any sort of ag­gres­sion.

So per­haps it was a nice out­ing. And it was nice enough weather. But this can hardly be the case. Af­ter all, being penned at the courts cer­tainly does not beat a light lunch at one of the many good eater­ies and a lit­tle traips­ing around Val­letta.

Bev­er­age and snack vend­ing machines are not avail­able in the cor­ri­dors of the courts, so to those who are toy­ing with the idea of at­tend­ing the last sit­ting when the sen­tence is de­liv­ered, I rec­om­mend they buy a snack and a drink to take in with them. It might well be a lengthy ses­sion. A small trans­par­ent plas­tic bag would be re­quired to carry a bot­tle of coke, and a bag of pop­corn or a packet of salted peanuts.

The case has been put off for judge­ment on 7 Novem­ber 2016

At this stage, what con­cerns me is the fact that through their ac­tion, the Cab­i­net mem­bers, ex­cept for those di­rectly in­volved, con­tin­ued to un­der­mine the re­spect due to one of the three in­sti­tu­tions that safe­guard a demo­cratic so­ci­ety. Our Courts of Jus­tice must not be­come a mag­net for idle crowds. Idle crowds, in­clud­ing min­is­ters and par­lia­men­tary sec­re­taries should use their time wisely in restau­rants, bars and cof­fee shops.

Ge­jtu Vella gvella@melita.com

The Malta In­de­pen­dent Tues­day 4 Oc­to­ber 2016

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