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You can take a horse to water… - Frank Psaila

Common sense dictates that politicians perceived to be implicated in serious acts of corruption and money laundering should be removed and investigated. But common sense often comes in short supply.

This explains why we need the European Parliament to tell us the obvious.

Tragic, really.

A few days ago, a European Parliament report on Malta called on those politicians, perceived to be implicated in serious acts of corruption and money laundering linked to the Panama Papers and FIAU reports, to be removed from public office and swiftly investigated. I hate it when that happens – and most people I know do.

For why, I pray, do we need the European Parliament to spell out what is screamingly obvious? And, yes, as you might have guessed, the EP’s report was met with dead silence by the government – but more on that later.

In 2017 in Strasbourg, I followed the plenary sessions of the EU Parliament, which discussed the rule of law in Malta.

And before I venture further, may I declare that I found quite a few comments by foreign MEPs, about Malta and its people, distasteful. Unfortunately, hidden agendas milk the situation when it is most desperate. And the days which followed the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination were, and still are, desperate.

Having the rule of law in Malta discussed in Strasbourg, that in itself is already a surreal situation.

For Malta has come a long way from the bad old 1980s – to the point of joining the European Union in 2014, and showing the world how that size does not matter.

On the economic front, Malta is a success – was, and still is, and the economic projections are encouraging. Our infrastructure is far from mediocre – our financial services sector is booming, as is the gaming industry. No wonder that other EU Member States are doing their best to drive us out of business.

Why do we need the European Parliament to spell out what is screamingly obvious?

But at a European Union level, rule of law is taken seriously – not so in our country, by the government I mean, which explains why we have an EP report calling on Malta to remove shady politicians from office.

Unfortunately, instead of admitting that it has failed miserably in this respect and commits to start afresh, the government and its acolytes resort to what they excel at: fake news.

Government media outlets – and by that I mean the state broadcaster too – try hard to give the impression that the EU Parliament is picking on us unjustly, ‘because they are jealous’ and ‘because they want us to fail’.

That spin, I must admit, is often believed. And that is tragic.

For Malta joined the EU to raise its standards and by that I don’t just mean economic, but also the principles necessary to make Malta a functioning democracy.

And when the government fails, it is the duty of the EU, its parliament, and institutions to stand up for citizens’ rights.

But our government would have none of that. When the EU Parliament ‘dares’ to question the government’s behaviour, the latter answers back – guns blazing.

I often meet people who lament that the ‘EU is not doing enough to stop the Maltese government from running roughshod over people’s rights’.

They expected the EU to stop the sale of the Maltese passports, to apply sanctions following the Panama Papers scandal and to take disciplinary actions against our government following the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder – which is the result of failed institutions.

Although the EU Treaty does foresee circumstances which might lead to drastic action being taken against a Member State – however, in our regard, the EU and its institutions have already done a lot – and that is an understatement, in warning the Maltese government to pull up its socks and stop the current rot.

At EU Parliament level, our sale of citizenship scheme was harshly criticised. It voted, unanimously, against the appointment of a former Labour Cabinet minister for the post EU commissioner; two debates were held following the assassination of Caruana Galizia; a high-level delegation came to Malta to inquire about the rule of law; and now we have a report calling on the Maltese government to remove and investigate politicians embroiled in the Panama Papers scandal.

Ultimately, it’s up to the people. Theirs is the final say. For you can take the horse to water but you can’t make him drink. If we want to stop this rot there is only one way how to do it: and that’s at the polls.

2019 could be start. It’s up to us, really.  

Frank Psaila is a lawyer and anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on NET TV.

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