Pincer movement against rule of law

Much has already been written and said on the shenanigans emanating from the attorney general’s office. Calls for Victoria Buttigieg’s resignation have abounded, not least from ADPD’s side. And, as is customary in these idyllic islands of ours, these calls are fading into oblivion not least because Labour is master of the game in anticipating how Maltese public opinion (or the absence of it) is likely to pan out.

Why has the AG’s office been allowed to reach the pits? If anyone assumes that the situation is attributable to negligence, incompetence or a mixture of both, they’d better think again.

Some years ago, Malta could boast of an AG’s office which carried out its functions in an exemplary way and without undue controversy. The AG’s opinion was valued as authoritative and reliable and the integrity of the office was never questioned. In preparation for EU accession, this office was a point of reference in the task of aligning Maltese legislation with the EU’s acquis. The incumbents and other lawyers went on to do Malta proud both in international organisations and as part of the judiciary.

Enter the Labour ‘movement’ and all this changed. Things rapidly deteriorated as part of an orchestrated strategy by an unscrupulous government with the main protagonists bent on opening Panama accounts while systematically weakening the country’s institutions. Crucially, individuals were placed at the helm to ensure that corrupt politicians hijacking the country and the ‘Tagħna Lkollers’ miraculously converted to the ‘movement’ would get away with murder.

The attorney general’s office was central to this devious plan, rendered impotent, conveniently and suddenly falling asleep when the courts could have been kept open day and night. Competent lawyers were made to work under duress until they ultimately gave up and left, replaced with graduates with hardly any experience.

In the meantime, Peter Grech assured us that all was hunky dory in Malta Tagħna Lkoll, that it was fine for Malta to be the only country to let the holders of Panama accounts slip away, while assuring the police that any raid on Nexia BT servers would be invasive and counterproductive, nudge nudge, wink wink.

How could one ever contemplate the situation getting even worse? The Chamber of Advocates had expressed serious reservations on Buttigieg’s suitability. However, under Labour, incompetence can magically be transformed into a virtue.

Buttigieg’s tenure has been marked by inexplicable decisions with one common trait in common: thwarting justice. The cherry on the cake was the bribery case involving lawyers Charles Mercieca and Gianluca Caruana Curran, where the attorney general cited the wrong provision in the law. We need to remember that Mercieca pole-vaulted from the attorney general’s office to Yorgen Fenech’s defence team overnight, a slap in the face to the AG’s office.

Inaction by the AG even in the face of instructions to press charges against Pilatus Bank officials following a magisterial inquiry have also come to light.

Need it be clearer that the AG is a firm player in the web of impunity weaved by Labour? The discretionary powers the attorney general enjoys were accorded on the premise of acting in good faith and to steer clear of situations that criminals could somehow exploit.

The AG’s office is not the sole player in this web.

It is common knowledge that, for action against criminal deeds to come to fruition, assiduous action by both the attorney general and the police is indispensable. In most cases, they cannot act without each other, both essential cogs in the machinery of justice and upholding the rule of law.

And this is where Labour has worked it out so beautifully. Through the combination of a comatose or deficient attorney general and a glitzy all-talk-and-bluster no action police commissioner (not to mention his rabbit-munching predecessor), Labour has effectively gone for the rule of law’s jugular, a pincer movement to make the best military generals proud.

Because if you have crooks in power intent upon setting themselves up for life and corrupting all and sundry, their greatest enemy are the rule of law institutions that can bring them to justice.

No number of reforms, resulting from external pressure, mind you, can alter the fact that the government’s political will is not directed at enhancing the rule of law but at annihilating it.

And, if against all odds, an isolated case were to slip through the net, delaying the judicial process or employing other repulsive methods of obfuscation can be relied upon to ensure that justice never prevails anyway.

The rule of law institutional set-up that worked adequately albeit imperfectly has been paralysed by creating a series of insurmountable obstacles and muddying waters while Labour and its trolls continue to feed drivel to the confused citizen.

All this while the current version of the Nationalist Party, instead of coming out unequivocally to defend the rule of law, loses its voice only to assure us it is bigger than any NGO. Because that is what competing with Labour to be ‘positive’ is all about. Wow!

A competent AG operating without hidden agendas, a police commissioner probing and investigating instead of engaging in platitudes and a fully independent and functioning judicial system are requisites for the rule of law to thrive.

Only in this way can we ever hope that all those involved in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination get what they deserve and that the web of evil and criminality that has decimated this country is eradicated once and for all.

ADPD is determined to support NGOs, notably Repubblika, engaged in fighting this lonely battle at great personal sacrifice. It is time for a coalition of the willing to come together, to raise its head above the parapet.

The rule of law in Malta is moribund, its pillars crumbling. We must all do our bit to save it, to shield it from the siege it is under for the sake of democracy, our citizens and the way of life we aspire for.

Sandra Gauci
ADPD Deputy Chairperson
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 21 July 2022