Keith Schembri should accept the invitation of the European Parliament’s delegation coming to Malta this week to answer their questions on what he knows about corruption and money laundering.
He has already twice dodged the PANA committee on two visits, causing embarrassment to the his boss the prime minister, the government he leads, the party he represents and the entire country.
The European Parliament has criticised his refusal to attend to answer questions but has asked again that he attends a session with their delegation coming to Malta later this week.
Should he refuse to do so again, it will be another declaration of impunity, of indifference to the rule of law, of contempt for the elected representatives of Europe.
On 16 October, 2017, hours before Daphne Caruana Galizia, Keith Schembri stood in a court of law and expressed relief he had an opportunity to give his side of his story.
That statement was a lie. The European Parliament has sought to give him the floor twice before. And here they are again, wanting to do so. Previous delegations were led by a member of the European People’s Party. Keith Schembri could argue that that fact might have made him feel less protected than he feels he should be.
Technically speaking Keith Schembri is under no obligation to attend to the European Parliament’s summons. The European Parliament has no power of subpoena. It cannot send marshals to drag him in front of it under arrest.
And even if he did go and they would pronounce themselves dissatisfied with his responses, he is under no obligation to resign his office of prime minister’s chief of staff. In that position he is answerable to the prime minister, not to the European Parliament.
But the European Parliament exists to represent the people of Europe and the moral force of that alone is only ignored by the undemocratic, the contemptuous and the criminal.
Labour had come up with the trumped up charge that Richard Cachia Caruana had somehow committed Malta to a NATO program by acting beyond his authority as ambassador in Brussels. Quite apart from the fact that the pretext was so ridiculous that no one actually remembers the charge, Richard Cachia Caruana was not a member of parliament and he reported to his boss, the government, not Parliament.
He offered to resign immediately the opposition filed its motion condemning him. But Lawrence Gonzi would not have any of that. The government instead sent him to parliament to answer questions asked freely by Labour MPs in the foreign affairs committee.
Richard Cachia Caruana voluntarily attended the committee on multiple sessions and duly answered all their questions.
And when Parliament voted to condemn him because Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando had by then switched political affiliations, he promptly resigned. He did not have to. Technically. But no democrat would have ignored a Parliamentary motion of condemnation.
That sense of self-restraint even in the entirely justified conviction that one is in the right is the virtue that is entirely missing in this government that acts on the basis of a stunted version of Murphy’s law: if it can be done wrongly, it should be.
Joseph Muscat has ignored an overwhelming European Parliament vote expressing grave doubts on the effectiveness of rule of law in Malta.
Will his chief of staff ignore once more the European Parliament’s invitation to answer their questions?