That immortal phrase that then deputy Labour leader, now judge, Toni Abela was caught using on tape was the thin end of the wedge driven deep in this country to separate justice from tribal convenience.
That time Toni Abela was speaking about how best to manage drug distribution from a Labour Party property that by all accounts should have led to arrests and prosecution of the perpetrators and inevitable political embarrassment to the Labour Party. Avoiding that embarrassment was the over-riding consideration for Toni Abela at the time. The impunity of the criminals known to him was collateral damage.
In order to avoid the embarrassment, a way needed to be found for the law not to be applied; for knowledge and evidence of drug trafficking to be ignored. The solution would be to arrange for the case to be handled by a policeman whose loyalty to the Labour Party was greater than their loyalty to the oath they took upon joining the force.
It is more important for the policeman in question for the Labour Party to be spared embarrassment than for the law to be enforced without fear or favour.
This is like having a policeman’s loyalty to his or her family interfere with their duty to enforce the law. Instead of blood over right it is a matter of party over justice.
I must underline that “Pulizija Laburist” in the sense coined by Toni Abela does not mean a policeman who habitually votes Labour. Of course even policemen are entitled to political views and they are perfectly entitled to share them. As individuals they are just as much citizens of this republic as all of us. “Pulizija Laburist” is not merely a policeman who will vote Labour, but rather a policeman who will act against their oath of office if such an action favours and benefits the Labour Party.
When Toni Abela was making that remark, the Labour Party was in Opposition.
Since it’s been in government, the Labour Party has ensured that finding a Pulizija Laburisti is easier than ever.
The rapid promotion of people like Ian Abdilla, by way of example, has secured for the Labour Party access to decision making in the corps to ensure this is convenient to them.
The incident with the interference into then Inspector Jonathan Ferris’s work is a case in point. Carmelo Abela recently published emails sent on his behalf by his secretary asking Jonathan Ferris for details on an ongoing investigation. What was missing was Ian Abdilla’s follow up email I have seen instructing Jonathan Ferris to answer the Minister’s questions to “avoid a diplomatic incident”.
The Police Code and the Criminal Code oblige police officers not to share information regarding ongoing investigations, not even when asked politely by Ministers. And no exception is made when the instruction is coming through a superior officer who is willing to compromise with the law in order to serve the interests of the Labour Party.
It is in this context too that Peter Caruana Galizia’s sworn statement in court must be considered. When Jonathan Ferris got a follow up push from his boss Ian Abdilla in the interest of Carmelo Abela we saw, in documented form, what Peter Caruana Galizia said today his wife had told him before she was killed she was informed was happening regularly at the FIAU.
We have repeat characters in the FIAU drama. Jonathan Ferris moved there until he was thrown out. And so did the machinations of Ian Abdilla. The plausibility of the belief that Keith Schembri would have found a friendly voice at the other end of the line when he called the FIAU allegedly to ask them to quit investigating Pilatus (and other banks) is borne also by the appointment in strategic law enforcement agencies of Pulizija Laburisti.
Silvio Valletta’s stratospheric career rise in the police is a page from the same book. Being married to a government minister makes him a politically exposed person. By any objective standard that would disqualify him from investigating a political murder before the matter is even thought about too hard. But Silvio Valletta’s senior position in the FIAU must also be kept in mind when assessing what Peter Caruana Galizia was saying in court today.
All this of course is crowned by the series of choices to head the police corps starting with the removal of John Rizzo. John Rizzo was not replaced because he was a Pulizija Nazzjonalist, whether that term is applied to his voting preference, whatever that is, or to his willingness to compromise his oath of service with any misguided loyalty to a political party.
John Rizzo’s quality as a police chief was in the fact that everybody felt the wrath of god in his presence. There was no nudging and winking with him around. That would not do for a government, as Joseph Muscat’s was in 2013, intent on a roadmap it absolutely needed the chief of police to ignore.
Lawrence Cutajar could not cut a sharper contrast with John Rizzo. His publicly declared admiration for Joseph Muscat’s presumably metaphorical metal testicles is probably one of the most undignified ways possible of a Pulizija Laburist outing himself.
In a society where justice is qualified by political affiliation, where the blindfold on the allegorical goddess is dyed scarlet, where the scale on the balance is fixed to remain steady when sins are loaded on one of the sides; where the law is enforced differently depending on whether suspects are Laburisti or not, moral bankruptcy envelopes public and private life.
As someone recently put it, ‘this is the environment where the killing of journalists becomes possible’.