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Of levels of proof

This is not about attacking a woman

I'm going to take a bit of a different angle to the obvious with this Egrant fiasco. And it is a fiasco, make no mistake.

It's all very well to say "we need proof". But when you have the owner of an Iranian bank and his risk manager making like Lupin with suspicious suitcases in the dead of the night - even as the person responsible for law enforcement on the island scoffs down a fenkata in Mġarr - some might say that moral proof is almost being handed to us on a silver plate. 

At this stage, the pro-PL camp indignantly braying for journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who released the story last night, to provide proof before action is taken verges on the ridiculous.

And, appointing a duty Magistrate to investigate now - after a full night of impunity with respect to records, emails and documents - smacks of locking the stables after the horse has bolted.

But this is all by the by and obvious. What was not obvious to me was the way that a significant amount of people would attempt to turn this into a 'gender war' online. All of a sudden, everyone seems to have discovered a latent case of staunch feminism. Thus, the comments started peppering social media: "This is just 1 woman who likes to bitch about another. Ignore her, we need to support women." I'm quoting someone's comments almost verbatim here. And, even; "People are just jealous of Michelle Muscat, full stop".

This kind of thinking is dangerous and make no mistake. Trying to downgrade money laundering allegations into a "bitch fight" is disingenuous or - if I'm feeling particularly uncharitable, and with the way things are going down I am - a conscious effort to distract women from the real issue at hand.

The real issue being allegations of corruption that, whichever camp you are currently rooting for, undoubtedly require further investigation by the law. When the law is quite done enjoying its fenkata, of course. Policing requires a great deal of protein, after all.

But enough with the snide remarks, because tempted as I am to go full Monty Python, the matter is too serious. And we risk losing sight of that in a river of hilarious memes and misplaced gender righteousness.

So let me get back to the crux here.

Let no-one attempt to somehow, for their own agenda, turn this into an "attack on our First Lady". It is not (and she is not, but let's not be pedantic).

No-one cares about the gender of the owner of Egrant. What we care about is whether that someone occupies a high profile role within government.

When talk was about dress, hairstyle or henna tattoos, I couldn't really give a flying duck. Bad taste is not a crime. But allegedly hiding ownership of a company in Panama, or receiving Azeri money on the sly, is.

If you're Joe Public, the allegations are unlikely to make headlines. But when you're the Prime Minister's wife, if this doesn't get the entire law enforcement system of the country galvanised into action pronto, then something is wrong.

The sooner the law does its job to end speculation, the better for Malta. While this is all very amusing and a godsend to those responsible for providing entertainment on social media, Malta's international ratings and rep are guaranteed to take a drastic nosedive as all this goes on. And, just as seriously, the more the island is perceived on the international stage as lacking the rule of law.

Because when the government of a democratic country is faced with such allegations (the latest in a string, actually) and continues to govern with impunity and with support, there is only one conclusion to be drawn: that rule of law has fallen.

At this stage, the perception is so dire that proof of allegations (although essential in the longer-term) is almost incidental. The appearance of the rule of law needs to be treasured above all else.

Sadly, as the situation stands now, the perception is that neither the administration nor the executive are doing this. Which can only lead to bad things for a democracy.

Only one honourable option was available for the Prime Minister and Mrs Muscat: that of tasking the police commissioner with investigating the allegations against them immediately. Not hours later.

This would have been the best indication of innocence. But that boat sailed away last night.

And of course, the commissioner of police should have launched the investigation irrespective of the Prime Minister's instructions. There is no need for the Prime Minister's mandate for him to fulfil his legal responsibilities, but the concept of separation of powers seems to have escaped this lot.

Our Prime Minister shouldn't need anyone to remind him that 'innocent until proven guilty' applies only in the law courts. The government of a country enjoys no such luxury when it comes to clinging to its position of power. 

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