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‘Politically conclusive’ - Martin Scicluna

The visiting MEPs, right, at their meeting with the Prime Minister in December. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The visiting MEPs, right, at their meeting with the Prime Minister in December. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

In an abysmal article you might expect to be written by a member of the European Parliament after a very good lunch in Brussels, MEP David Casa betrayed exactly where he stands on the fundamental importance of the rule of law (‘Consequences of corruption’, February 8).

His article consisted of a tribal stream of incoherence dealing with issues that were outside the remit of the joint ad hoc member delegation’s ‘mission report’ on the state of the rule of law in Malta, about which I had previously commented.

Attempting to justify the report, Casa said: “It is a political conclusion, not a judicial one… The evidence is substantive, overwhelming and conclusive. Politically conclusive.”

I have never come across another politician anywhere who based his case for putting his name to a parliamentary report condemning a country about its observance of the rule of law solely on what Casa terms “politically conclusive” evidence.

Casa is unique in appearing to be a parliamentarian who is ignorant of the pivotal role of the rule of law in all liberal democracies. In Thomas Paine’s words, “The law is king”, not politics. John Locke’s maxim, “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins”, exposes the whole thrust of Casa’s response (that it was “politically conclusive”) to the contempt it deserves.

To equate the judicial rules of evidence required to convict – which are fundamental to the rule of law –  with “evidence” that is “politically conclusive” (which by its very nature is a subjective judgement) is the language beloved of oppressive regimes in totalitarian states.

So far as Casa and his delegation were concerned, provided the evidence was “politically conclusive”, the fundamentals of adherence to the rule of law – the presumption of innocence; the need for independence and impartiality; the right to a fair trial – which should have stood at the heart of this Europarliamentary report could be ignored.

“Politically conclusive” evidence should have no place – absolutely none – in the lexicon of any discussion of the rule of law and certainly not in justifying the tawdry findings of this Euro-parliamentary report.

Tangible proof of wrongdoing, not politics, is one of the basic precepts of the rule of law.

In all my experience of reading parliamentary reports, I have never come across one so bereft of substantive evidence. But I now understand why. It was based on a “politically conclusive” and, by definition, a deeply flawed judgement.

This parliamentary report, comprising unsubstantiated allegations dressed up as evidence of the collapse of the rule of law in Malta, was a travesty motivated by political, not objective criteria.

But, as Casa has stated, they found the evidence “politically conclusive”. So, that’s alright then!

This parliamentary report, comprising unsubstantiated allegations dressed up as evidence of the collapse of the rule of law in Malta, was a travesty motivated by political, not objective criteria

This statement, coming from a European MP who represents one sixth of the Maltese electorate – the interests of whose constituents he is meant to protect – shows Casa had no compunction about actively dragging Malta’s name through the mud for party-political reasons.

He apparently saw no conflict in his serving on this investigation into the state of Malta’s rule of law when the MEPs’ code of conduct clearly lays down that conflicts of interest should be declared and sanctioned by the EP president (were they?). As a matter of honour and propriety, Casa should have recused himself from the parliamentary delegation.

Instead, it is clear from the report and the body language between the Portuguese chairwoman and himself that he played a major part in its formulation and the provision of so-called evidence and conclusions. In his own mind, so long as it was “politically conclusive”, as he so ineloquently put it, Malta’s international reputation could be traduced.

There is a sizeable segment of Maltese society (those who base their verdicts on so-called “politically conclusive”, not judicial evidence), who have found the government guilty of criminal corruption – from money-laundering to taking personal kick-backs, even to political assassination of a secular saint – that believes in conspiracy theories without the evidence to support the allegations.

While there may be a case based on circumstantial evidence and conjecture about corruption at the highest levels of the Maltese government, this does not presently amount to substantive evidence leading to a guilty verdict in a court of law. The “truth”, especially when it is based on hearsay and leaked documents of ill-defined and unproven provenance, is rarely pure and never simple.

It was foolish of the Europarliamentary committee to rush to judgement and an appalling misjudgement that a Maltese MEP should connive at such a report on the trumped up grounds of a “politically conclusive” verdict.

Rather like the JFK assassination and accusations the Apollo moon landings were faked, conspiracy theories in Malta involve a concerted attack on the truth dressed up as concern for the truth. It hacks at the roots of our democracy, arguing that everything we think we know, we don’t. And that every institution we invest with authority is, in fact, organised to subvert our interests.

It is almost impossible to fight this corrosive way of thinking. Those who subscribe to it tenaciously resist any challenge, having a ready answer to even the most compelling contradictory evidence.

Let me be clear for the record. If, following the verdicts of the magisterial inquiries, Casa proves to have been right in his allegations of corruption by the Prime Minister, his wife or any other minister or senior member of his staff, I shall be the first to demand they should be removed from office and take the full consequences of the law.

Casa has implicitly collaborated in creating a crescendo of insinuation and innuendo on an international stage that was malign. As a politician supposedly standing on a platform of probity and honesty in public life and as a parliamentarian representing Maltese constituents, Casa should have set the bar high in establishing the burden of proof in a parliamentary report of such importance. The people of Malta will have a chance to judge his actions in May 2019.

The way this parliamentary committee has conducted its investigation – based on so-called “politically conclusive”, not judicial, evidence – is a travesty of the basic principles that make up the rule of law.

To spit in the face of those very principles takes some doing. But a Maltese MEP has just done it.

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