Sometimes some of us have unrealistic expectations. I’ve had many conversations with people who seemed to think that the EU should send an army to invade Malta, put Joseph Muscat in handcuffs and grant us a new constitution. That thinking is just as colonial as the conformist compliance you come across from people that tell you that if the government says something, than surely it must be true.
Joseph Muscat is our problem. He’s a problem we have caused ourselves by supporting him in consecutive elections and by continuing to support him to this day in a convincing majority.
So the solution has to come from within. And the solution will need to be a democratic combination of insisting on the rule of law and persuading the public that ignoring the rule of law is of benefit to no one except those who usurp power and exploit the people.
But there’s a lot European institutions can do and the support they give is, even now, making a difference.
Consider for example how the government ended up reluctantly standing to attention today after the EP delegation’s explicit intervention on the matter of keeping Jonathan Ferris safe from the real and present peril to his life.
I was not in the room when Jonathan Ferris was quizzed by the EP delegation currently in Malta. Nor was I in the room when they met the Commissioner of Police. But I did meet them later and they were unambiguous in their grave concern for the safety of Jonathan Ferris.
They walked out of the room and gave interviews to media all over Europe. They spoke about meeting Jonathan Ferris and how they consider him a key component in the search for truth. Until he’d seen them he was under no protection. After they spoke out for him, the government, around 6pm this evening, sent policemen to watch out for his safety.
This is not only important because Jonathan Ferris deserves to live without fear of harm to his life and the lives of the members of his family. Sure, it is there. But it is also true because it is unbearable for Malta, and unbearable for Europe, that another fighter for the pursuit of truth in this country is left to be killed alone, like Daphne before him.
Later this afternoon I was part of a group of civil society activists and civil rights campaigners invited by the EP delegation to share views about rule of law in Malta. Between the UĦM, Aditus, the Civil Society Network, #occupyjustice, il-Kenniesa, Andrew Borg Cardona and myself we are not unanimous about everything under the sun.
But we gave the EP delegation the shared view that the wielding of political power in Malta by the executive is disproportionate and a usurpation of basic rights. We discussed the transferring of public space in Malta to entirely private interests. We discussed the obscurity of interests in the sale of passports, the procurement of a power station and a gas tanker, the privatisation of hospitals, and the licensing of banks that benefit the unknown or the unknowable.
But the EP delegation was fully aware of the facts. Many of them have been on delegations to Malta before. Many of them read what we write and listen to our protests.
Tomorrow they are visiting the prime minister. I will not be in the room when that happens. And I will be faced right after with the usual Kurt Farrugia spin that will probably say the EP delegation cast itself prostrate at the great leader’s feet and praised his glorious and exemplary running of the country. Really Kurt Farrugia is sounding every day more like that woman they wheel out on Pyongyang TV news whenever they fire a bigger rocket.
But I know the reality in that room will be different. Socialist Ana Gomes, Green Sven Giegold, Conservative Monica Macovei, and others on the delegation will look into the prime minister’s eyes and remind him they have the power to do more than write reports and talk.
In their hands is the power to recommend the commencement of Article 7 procedures against Joseph Muscat’s government. That will not have a personal bearing on Joseph Muscat. If he has left an ounce of a sense of responsibility, he should realise the massive reputational harm to Malta should such a process be even started (never mind taken to its logical conclusion). And he should realise that such harm would be on his head for having allowed it to come to this point.
Right now he’s thinking the opposite. He will tell the country the EP delegation is angry at his government because the rag-tag bunch from civil society spoke badly of him (and therefore of Malta … because yes, in this autocratic country Joseph Muscat and Malta are interchangeable concepts).
He intends to line us all up for the firing squad for being traitors to the country and causing it the harm that will ensue from an Article 7 process.
If that will be his defense, I do not expect the EP delegates to be too impressed.
They are determined that within their very modest limits, they will make a difference.
They do not have the solution for our problems. Only we can come up with that. But they will do their bit.
And that, if you’re not Joseph Muscat, is a good thing.