This guest post is by Salvu Felice Pace.
I often ask myself when I read any of President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca’s speeches, is she speaking on behalf of her government or is she just commenting on whatever subject she wants to highlight. On a State occasion such as the celebration of Malta’s Republic Day, conventional wisdom lead me to believe that at least her speech would have been given some sort of a broad imprimatur by her government.
If so, her words about the law of power and the rule of law in Malta would have been baffling, to say the least. She was reported to have said that “if as a nation, we end up believing that the law of power outstrips the rule of law, it will be difficult to strengthen the rule of law and to maintain its place as a key element in a strong democracy”.
The two laws mentioned by Her Excellency can only be complementary if those who are in power do not abuse the trust they were given by the people. The nation is only consulted periodically every four or five years, in the meantime the law of power is used either as it should be or is abused. The same people who have abused the law of power only a few hours after they swore an oath to uphold the Constitution in March 2013 have in their hands the means with which the rule of law can be strengthened. I am referring of course to what was revealed, and is indisputable, in the Panama Papers over a year ago.
The government must have known about the discomfort of Malta’s President vis-a-vis the application of the rule of law, hence the sudden public relations exercise going on at the moment to project the coming new year as the one which will see the rule of law applied in towns and villages wherever hotspots of illegalities or uncivil behaviour appear. I doubt it very much whether that is what Her Excellency had in mind when she spoke about the law of power.
And to ram home this precise point, a few days after the Republic Day speech she spoke about the functions of our national commissioners and advocated that they should be more independent of the executive authorities. “They must have the power to not only recommend but also enforce.” Then she appealed to the government to empower the national commissioners to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
All well and good and the Opposition should at this very opportune time be presenting a motion in Parliament to have Her Excellency’s proposal approved by Parliament. But there is something wrong here. Aren’t the police supposed to be independent of the executive and look what happened to former Police Commissioner John Rizzo after declaring that there were grounds on which to indict John Dalli. And what about the police’ refusal to investigate the Panama Papers allegations. All our institutions apart from the National Audit Office have been hijacked by Joseph Muscat in one way or another.
The President of the Republic must be aware of all this and yet she pushes forward her admirable agenda as if we have already reached the standards of objectivity and complete independence elsewhere, so now we move on to another area too.
The law of power has become the main stumbling block against the application without fear or favour of the rule of law and no constitutional convention will succeed to alter this pitiful state of affairs. While Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi remain protected by the supreme ruler of the law of power, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat himself, lesser mortals like Jimmy Magro will continue to dodge being prosecuted for as long as he could, because knowledge is power and he knows too much. We have reached a state where the Prime Minister himself can be held to ransom and when that happens, the law of self-preservation sets in.
Good try Your Excellency but a word in the ear of those who own the law of power would have been more appropriate.