So a person chosen on the basis of trust by Minister Evarist Bartolo to work on the building of new schools has now been arraigned accused of collecting tangenti on the back of public procurement he was assigned to manage by Evarist Bartolo himself.
And Minister Evarist Bartolo assumes no political responsibility.
Nor, oddly, is he asked to.
Let me share a personal experience.
I take you back to March 2001 when Eddie Fenech Adami was Prime Minister and I was a junior staffer in Austin Gatt’s Ministry. I was 16 years younger and 30 kilograms lighter. I had joined Austin Gatt’s staff five months before. Austin Gatt’s office was in the Auberge de Castille.
Another junior staffer on Austin Gatt’s staff was arrested by the police on suspicion of exchange control breaches. The junior staffer was arrested at his desk in Castille and the police sealed the Minister’s office for the collection of evidence. That is how strong autonomous institutions work. The police marched into a Minister’s office in the building of the Prime Minister and sealed computers, desks and files without warning and without collusion. As well they should have.
That same evening in the middle of the night Austin Gatt called me in to Valletta to help draft his letter of resignation. It was only the second thing he had done after finding out of the police action a handful of hours before.
The first was firing the concerned staffer on the spot.
Within 3 hours of being made aware of police actions he walked into the prime minister’s office with his resignation assuming responsibility for embarrassing the government. The prime minister refused the resignation on the grounds that the staffer was not suspected by the police to have committed anything untoward connected with his work as a Ministry official.
Labour would have none of it. The leader of the opposition of the time filed a motion in Parliament to have Austin Gatt removed. And for not having accepted his resignation Labour asked parliament to condemn Eddie Fenech Adami for his “indifference to values of transparency and responsibility that are the basis of a democracy”.
The motion was submitted to Parliament by Alfred Sant, now Labour MEP. It was countersigned by Anġlu Farrugia, since nominated by Labour to the office of Speaker of Parliament and seconded by Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, since nominated by Labour to the Presidency.
None of these three are in today’s Labour Parliamentary group. Would they advise Labour to support an opposition’s motion of condemnation of Evarist Bartolo after he refused to assume responsibility for his appointee collecting tangenti directly on the back of the work his Minister assigned him to?
Of course not. Because Parliament is made up on the one side by a bunch of crooks who, to paraphrase Evarist Bartolo paraphrasing ancient Romans, feel that as gods the laws of the land do not apply to them, and on the other side by an opposition that seems as familiar with parliamentary procedure as I am with the rules of cricket. Not very much.
I almost forgot. For completeness, the junior staffer fired on the spot by Austin Gatt had been acquitted after due process in court.