Advert

Tarnishing Malta’s reputation - Dennis Tanti

Joseph Muscat. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Joseph Muscat. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Ever since Labour swept to power in March 2013 it has shown all the characteristics of an arrogant, abusive, self-serving and discriminatory government.

The Labour Party has captured the Maltese State, taking the government and the whole country under its control. Public authorities have been placed under the headship of persons subservient to the Prime Minister whose strings he can pull any time he likes.

Highly controversial multimillion deals have been given to particular wealthy individuals, while members of Labour’s political clique formed alliances with them and even partnered them in their businesses. The prosperity generated by the country’s economic growth is to a large extent serving the private interests of these individuals.

The Labour Party has carried on with its State capture after it was given a second mandate to govern the country last year by another landslide electoral victory. Labour made extensive use of its power of incumbency to win votes and tactfully hoodwinked the electorate through an extravagant electoral campaign funded by donations coming from dubious sources.

 Powerful property entrepreneurs and other business operators who benefitted from highly suspicious deals could pump money into the campaign without coming under scrutiny.

Labour has consistently disregarded the rule of equality before law purposely to advantage certain top echelon of power in the country. It has plunged Malta into unprecedented depths of corruption, as evidenced by the country’s heavy ranking drop one year after another in the corruption index kept by Transparency International.

The Police Commissioner has a lot to answer for the state of corruption which has gripped the country. He has failed to take proper action in terms of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act through his reluctance to investigate and prosecute in reports by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit that found a reasonable suspicion of money laundering by persons close to the Prime Minister.

This has naturally fuelled a perception of impunity from prosecution that was reinforced by Joseph Muscat himself who has relentlessly declared his full trust in both the commissioner and the suspects.

The commissioner’s evident incompetence, accompanied by the Attorney General’s unwillingness to follow up on the FIAU reports, have contributed substantially to the high level of distrust of the public in the police force’s ability to tackle corruption, and has damaged the credibility of the country’s justice system both at home and abroad.

The country has arrived to this deplorable situation for the very simple reason that such a key appointment in a high public office as that of Police Commissioner has not been given on practical and pragmatic grounds of suitability for the job.

Muscat has taken advantage of constitutional shortcomings to take control of the police force and practically all other key institutions responsible for the proper functioning of democracy by putting individuals loyal to him at their helm.

Conscious of the weaknesses of the Constitution, Muscat has taken the Maltese citizens for a ride by promising to make constitutional amendments that would give birth to a Second Republic. This promise that has been made before each of the last two elections, however it never materialised.

The Malta Financial Services Authority as the regulator for financial services activities in Malta has its own load of responsibility to carry for the harm that has befallen the country. An enquiry made by the European Banking Authority into the granting of a licence by the MFSA to Pilatus Bank and its supervision over the bank’s dealings has raised significant concerns.

This same bank has held an account for the Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff Keith Schembri in which at least €100,000 are alleged to have been transferred in two separate transactions.

Joseph Muscat has taken advantage of constitutional shortcomings to take control of the police force and practically all other key institutions

The sale of Maltese passports has led to the blacklisting of Malta by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that has viewed this scheme as a back door to money launderers and tax evaders.

The country’s reputation as an EU centre for financial services has been put into question, with a negative impact on foreign trade and investment that placed more than 12,000 jobs in the financial sector in jeopardy.

Another enquiry by the EBA, this time in relation to FIAU, has found that the agency breached the requirements of the EU Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Terrorism Financing Directive. Among others, the FIAU failed to keep sufficient records of files and documents of Pilatus Bank that it examined, failed to impose sanctions in cases of very high risks of money laundering where the bank did not provide the required customer diligence documentation for customers classified as politically exposed persons, and failed to carry out on-site inspections at the bank according to instructions by the MFSA.

Doubt on whether the FIAU is living up to its commitment as the country’s financial services supervisory authority has arisen after it emerged that three days before the election its director, Kenneth Farrugia, had precluded former agency official Jonathan Ferris from handing a report, that called for criminal action against Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, to Magistrate Aaron Bugeja.

This doubt has been reinforced by the dismissal from work of Ferris and another top official of the agency just 12 days after the Labour Party was returned to power. This followed a witch-hunt after leaked damning agency reports landed the clique at the Office of the Prime Minister in hot water.

All that Finance Minister Edward Scicluna could say about these employment terminations was that they were carried out during the legally-permitted probationary period of employment.

Apart from fostering corruption, the wall of impunity from prosecution built by the Labour government has bred lawlessness that in turn has contributed to the creation of the ideal environment for the barbarous murder of brave, investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia by a car bomb.

Daphne’s assassination was made easier by the relaxation in her State protection after the Labour Party rose to power. Her murder has been met by a wave of local and international condemnations. If anything, it has proved that Malta is a difficult and dangerous region for journalists, and that press freedom is in a truly problematic state.

A point has been reached where the European Parliament has expressed its concern for the safety of an EU mission that visited Malta last year to examine the rule of law and progress on preventing money laundering.

The Institute of Maltese Journalists, various European countries, and the European Union itself, have bestowed merited posthumous honours upon Daphne in recognition of her extraordinary courage and priceless contribution towards the eradication of corruption in our country.

However, at the same time, countrymen in her own homeland, who are blinded by political partisanship, have in a most shameful manner despised her during her life and have continued to do so even after her death.

Disparaging comments have been made by government officials and staunch Labour supporters expressing a sense of indifference and even satisfaction about Daphne’s murder. These comments have sparkled public outrage and continued to damage Malta’s reputation.

To add insult to injury prominent government exponents keep branding the Opposition members of the European Parliament as traitors, and threatening them with fines and imprisonment for speaking out against the systematic and serious deficiencies in the rule of law in Malta.

The hard truth is that the Muscat-style New Labour government has tarnished Malta’s reputation with all ensuing harm to the country.

Denis Tanti is a former assistant director (industrial and employment relations) in the Ministry for Health.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus  
Advert
Advert