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Judicial system: lessons learnt - Arnold Cassola

Malta’s judicial system lacks full transparency. For those who are ready to pounce at this statement in order to make political mileage out of it, this is not in any way Joseph Muscat’s fault.

This lack of transparency in the workings of our judicial system has been there since our country adopted its Independence Constitution which, being modelled on the example of our colonial masters, actually reproduced a system which in fact favours our colonial masters.

The system as it is favoured our British colonial masters before Independence, our Nationalist colonial masters in the 1964-1971 and 1987-2013 periods and our Labour colonial masters between 1971-1987. It is still favouring the Maltese colonial masters of today, Muscat’s Labour Party that was elected in 2013.

The blame for the great anomalies inherent in the system that have persisted till today lie squarely on the shoulders of the different leaders of the Labour Party and of the Nationalist Party from 1964 onwards.

They have had over half a century to reform the system and to give our citizens a fairer, more balanced and transparent system but, because of their egoism and lust for eternal power, they left the system as it is, with all its defects, with the presumption that they and their party would be in government for eternity and would thus be able to reap the benefits of a system totally slanted in favour of the government of the day.

Malta has become independent, but the mentality of the Maltese rulers remained that of colonial masters.

The terms of reference for the inquiry into allegations against the prime suspect, the Prime Minister, are set down by... the prime suspect himself

Muscat gave us the great illusion that he was going to call a constitutional convention in order to reform our supreme law and make it a fairer one, whereby all Maltese citizens would be treated equally. In 2013 he was even voted in on this ticket.

He duped us all.

Instead of immediately getting on with the task of setting up the convention in 2013, he sabotaged it instantly by nominating Franco Debono as its chairperson, fully knowing that the Nationalists would never take part in a constitutional reform exercise presided over by the man who had greatly contributed to bringing about the downfall of the Gonzi government.

Muscat’s plan worked to a tee: the convention was never convened, we are still without a new Constitution and the anomalies of our judicial system, systematically pointed out by serious Maltese constitutionalists like Giovanni Bonello and Kevin Aquilina, continue to churn out decisions which are an affront to transparency, and ultimately to democracy.

Of course, I am no expert in law. But the Egrant enquiry and the handling of its conclusions reinforces the impression that everything proceeds in a sui generis way.

The terms of reference for the enquiry into allegations against the prime suspect, the Prime Minister, are set down by... the prime suspect himself. 

The magistrate, universally acknowledged as independent and impartial, would be breaking the law if he ventured to inquire into anything that was not tailor-made for him by the terms of reference…drafted by the prime suspect.

The magistrate is only authorised to reveal his findings... to the lawyer of the prime suspect. 

And it is the prime suspect and his lawyer who decide what, if any, parts of the magisterial report can be published, and which parts are to be hidden from the public. 

Moreover, one must not forget that any magistrate owes not only his appointment but also his future promotions to the Prime Minister of the day, in this case... the prime suspect.

And ultimately the dismissal of a member of the judiciary depends on a political vote of the majority in Parliament led, again, by the prime minister of the day, in this case the prime suspect the magistrate was investigating.   

As I said at the beginning, this is not Muscat’s fault. This is the Maltese legal system. The fault lies with each and every one of our prime ministers since independence who have not had the vision to change those parts of the legal system which make the law and regulations so lopsided in favour of the ruling powers... that it makes you want to throw up.

Is it possible that our country is made up of many masochists who seem to be satisfied that this is the way a transparent democracy should work?

I sincerely hope that this is not so and that some day, common sense, transparency and democracy will truly prevail in our country.  

Arnold Cassola is former Alternattiva Demokratika chairman and former secretary general of the European Green Party.

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