Disfigurements to remove
Malta’s reputation for the respect of the rule of law and its commitment to fight corruption continues take one serious knock after another. The evaluation report released on Wednesday by the Group of States Against Corruption, Greco, speaks volumes. In a draft report, Moneyval argues that Malta’s implementation of anti-financial crime regulations is simply not up to scratch. The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly on a resolution that reflects the MEPs’ belief that Malta, like Slovakia, suffers from serious shortcomings in the rule of law.
Still, the government persists in refusing to take resolute action to clean the Augean Stables.
The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee visited Malta several times last year following the concern expressed by parliamentarians of different political convictions about the lack of progress in the investigations into the murder of blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia. The resolution approved by the European Parliament late last month highlights some concerns and makes very clear recommendations to the Maltese government on how to reverse the dangerous deterioration in the way our country is viewed by the international community.
The symptoms of Malta’s malaise in the rule of law field are well known. The concentration of power in the hands of a few well-connected politicians and their cronies in government, the disregard to the separation of powers, the attempts to weaken the independence of the judicial system through the appointment of judges and magistrates and the political appointments in important roles such as the head of police are worrying symptoms.
To this ignominious list, one has to add the denigration of Ms Caruana Galizia’s family and independent journalists as well as the retention of Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi in the Cabinet and the Prime Minister’s chief of Staff, Keith Schembri, after it was found they were beneficial owners of a legal entity in Panama.
The European Parliament is right in demanding that the Prime Minister takes the initiative to do what needs to be done. He not only has the duty to do it but also the power, not forgetting the huge electoral support he enjoys. Among the more important recommendations is the setting up of a public inquiry into Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder to ensure the masterminds behind this heinous crime are identified without further delay. Linked to this is the recommendation to end the hate campaign against her family.
The publication of the entire Egrant inquiry report and new investigations into the Panama Papers and the link with 17 Black, Mr Schembri and Dr Mizzi are other urgent priorities to start cleaning up the dark corridors of political power. The termination of the golden visas and the cash-for-passports schemes are other major priorities if we are ever to regain the respect of the international community.
The Prime Minister and the Labour MEPs will continue to argue that the European Parliament is prejudiced against Malta because they are envious of its economic success. This argument is puerile to anyone who truly values the rule of law in a genuine democracy. An electoral endorsement is no justification to postpone the restoration of good governance in the country.
The issues raised by the European Parliament are disfigurements that distort the image of Malta’s democratic system of government and they will not disappear until they are addressed with steely determination.
This is a Times of Malta print editorial