No easy way out

What an ugly place has Malta be­come! Or rather, it was al­ways like that but we (I) never re­alised!

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - THE FACT - [email protected]­de­pen­dent.com.mt

An af­fi­davit sub­mit­ted in Court in a fam­ily sep­a­ra­tion case gets dragged up and leaked to the whole coun­try just as hap­pened all those years ago with an­other af­fi­davit in an­other high-pow­ered case.

And a pro­fes­sional man, oth­er­wise well-re­spected, finds noth­ing bet­ter to do on Christ­mas Eve than to send a pub­lic mes­sage to a girl with whom he is not per­son­ally ac­quainted, faintly threat­en­ing her fa­ther with prison for cor­rup­tion rea­sons.

Those who know the cases I am speak­ing about know what I am talk­ing about. As for those who do not know, I can­not bring my­self to fill in the blanks. I strongly con­demn both cases.

Many of those who knew about the cases and com­mented pub­licly about them do not seem sen­si­tised to the eth­i­cal is­sues in­volved. For them, their po­lit­i­cal bias is more im­por­tant than eth­i­cal prin­ci­ples.

In the first case, those against Adrian Delia as head of the PN found – or think they found – an­other rea­son to get him out. The mag­is­trate in the case has been re­ported to have thrown out a plea to im­pede Delia’s ac­cess to his chil­dren.

In the sec­ond case, there has been an al­most univer­sal con­dem­na­tion of the fa­tal Christ­mas post – ex­cept by those held to be the moral lead­ers of Malta.

There is, in these and other com­pa­ra­ble cases, a huge moral, not to say po­lit­i­cal, deficit.

Which brings me to the point I made last week fol­low­ing the re­port by the Coun­cil of Europe’s Venice Com­mis­sion which high­lighted struc­tural de­fi­cien­cies in Malta’s demo­cratic struc­ture.

For­get for a mo­ment the de­tails in that re­port about the power of the Prime Min­is­ter, of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral and of the courts in gen­eral.

Com­ing, as it did, in the days pre­ced­ing Christ­mas, and the sub­ject be­ing such an ab­struse and tech­ni­cal one, the gen­eral pub­lic was not prop­erly in­formed what the Venice Com­mis­sion is, what it said and whether they are right or wrong.

There have been some com­men­taries on the is­sue (among which I point out a neg­a­tive re­ac­tion by for­mer min­is­ter Joe Brin­cat) but oth­er­wise it was as if a stone was thrown into a pond: it cre­ated some rip­ples which promptly sub­sided.

Ba­si­cally, the is­sue re­solves it­self in a dis­qui­si­tion on whether the Con­sti­tu­tion should be rewrit­ten, in what way, by whom, and to what ex­tent. There have been spo­radic com­ments along these lines over the past months, and there is also a com­mit­tee charged with do­ing some pre­lim­i­nary work.

But the whole is im­mersed in a murky air of pro­pos­als which run the whole gamut from the de­sir­able to the dystopian and the par­ties them­selves do not give the im­pres­sion of tak­ing the whole ex­er­cise se­ri­ously. Over the years, the In­de­pen­dence Con­sti­tu­tion has been amended many times but it was al­ways a case of stick­ing plas­ter on a sore point or two.

Some politi­cians, some par­ties, har­bour an am­bi­tion to re­form the Con­sti­tu­tion but a huge wall of prac­ti­cal­i­ties stands in their way: first, they have to get elected to gov­ern­ment, then sort out what they want to re­form, then to find out that some clauses can only be changed by a two-thirds ma­jor­ity and only then to find that the Op­po­si­tion of the day will not play ball.

We have been around this block a num­ber of times, with no sen­si­ble progress reg­is­tered. Mean­while, our Con­sti­tu­tion and the le­gal sys­tem based upon it have been creak­ing for years and ad­di­tional dis­tor­tions have crept in, mak­ing our democ­racy and our demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions weaker and weaker as a re­sult, bring­ing us to the shame of be­ing pointed out in­ter­na­tion­ally for our demo­cratic deficit.

And then cor­rup­tion raises its head and the sys­tems of jus­tice fal­ter and the pow­er­ful lord it over the weak. And peo­ple think that po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is more im­por­tant than be­ing right. My party, right or wrong.

And chil­dren be­come vic­tims, as in the two cases I men­tioned at the be­gin­ning. Christ­mas de­gen­er­ates from the feast of in­no­cence to an orgy of blood­let­ting. The mur­der of the in­no­cents. Un­til and un­less we come to a com­mon un­der­stand­ing of what is go­ing wrong and how can we put it right; un­til and un­less we put party loy­alty aside in the search for na­tional con­sent, we can never get there.

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