Coke and Popcorn at the Law Courts
Please take this piece with a pinch of salt and a measure of sarcasm.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Malta Independent Tuesday 4 October 2016