In Kafka coun­try

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Some­one high up must have read his Kafka. We are now liv­ing in Kafka time. This is Kafka coun­try.

So the gov­ern­ment de­sirous, it said, of en­sur­ing trans­parency and jus­tice for all, de­cided to change the way in which mag­is­trates and judges were se­lected.

In the days of old, they were sim­ply de­cided by the will of the prime min­is­ter, and that was it. Ob­vi­ously, there were mis­takes, some­times glar­ing ones. So the change, as or­dained by the new dis­pen­sa­tion, was to cre­ate a com­mit­tee to vet, it said, the ap­pli­ca­tions of those who wanted to be­come mag­is­trates and judges.

But then, pre­dictably, the first two to pass that thresh­old were the for­mer deputy leader of the party in gov­ern­ment and a per­son who had been a can­di­date with the rul­ing party. Just to show that trans­parency and jus­tice now reign.

The min­is­ter for jus­tice said in Par­lia­ment he would not as­sume the re­spon­si­bil­ity of choos­ing judges and mag­is­trates so this new

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com­mit­tee was a wel­come safe­guard. But then the result was just as if the per­sons had been cho­sen by him­self.

In the past three years, this gov­ern­ment has ap­pointed 14 new mem­bers of the Bench, mag­is­trates and judges. Of these it has been ar­gued, though ob­vi­ously one may dis­agree, that no less than 10 can be said to be linked, di­rectly or in­di­rectly, to the party in power. They in­clude a for­mer PL MP, a for­mer PL can­di­date, a for­mer PL coun­cil­lor, a for­mer In­ter­na­tional Sec­re­tary of the party, the daugh­ter of the Speaker who was a for­mer deputy leader of the party. There are oth­ers in the queue.

It is clear there has not been any min­i­mal at­tempt to bal­ance the ap­point­ments. This gov­ern­ment has not even made the ar­gu­ment it needed to bal­ance a heav­ily proPN bench.

Nor is it right to ar­gue that those who have al­ready been ap­pointed and started work­ing have de­liv­ered bal­anced judge­ments. This may in­deed be true but as many ex­perts in the field can tell, there is a huge dis­par­ity in sen­tenc­ing. The is­sue of laws that are de­clared un­con­sti­tu­tional and yet re­main on the statute books is still there. For all the talk about law re­form we have had these past years, only small, rel­a­tively pain­less, steps have been taken. The gov­ern­ment has not even tried to de­fend such an un­bal­anced choice. It has rammed them down our throats. It then ex­pects us to bow down and ac­cept such a bi­ased de­ci­sion with­out mur­mur.

And these peo­ple are ap­pointed for life. The gov­ern­ment that ap­pointed them may go but they re­main. And past ex­pe­ri­ence has shown it is well-nigh im­pos­si­ble to get the two-thirds ma­jor­ity to un­seat any of them who may not be do­ing what is ex­pected of him or her.

It may be that these ap­point­ments have been mo­ti­vated by thanks­giv­ing for past work. That is not fair or right. But it may also be there are other rea­sons be­hind the choice. The future will tell us.

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