Simon Busuttil summed it up nicely when he spoke about Owen Bonnici confirming in Parliament the government got UK lawyers to reply to the European Parliament delegation’s report on the poor state of rule of law in Malta.
It was a poor effort and incredibly expensive. A bit like paying for breakfast at the Ritz and you get burnt toast.
Firstly, this was the wrong job for a UK legal team. The European Parliament delegation were not putting Malta on trial. They were expressing a political opinion informed by the facts they gathered and interviews they conducted. The response should have been just as political, explaining, if it were possible, any policy motivations for the government to act the way it did.
There is no law that says Konrad Mizzi should be fired if he’s suspected of money laundering. Which makes it pointless to hire lawyers to defend the reason for not firing him. Konrad Mizzi should be fired because he should have resigned of his own accord, and he should do that because ministers with secret offshore accounts cannot be trusted to run a country.
Secondly, the report was a poor effort in many respects. Quite apart from the hilarity of using Cyrus Engerer’s conviction as proof of the rule of law in Malta when that conviction was followed to his appointment as the second most senior Maltese diplomat in the EU, the report makes facile arguments that barely try to address the issues raised by the EP delegation.
Thirdly, the expense. The law firm that wrote it charged for 3 days’ work of a middle ranking associate the net salary for a year of our Assistant Attorney General. And he or she, aware of the local realities far better than any Lincoln’s Inn suit, would have done a better job of it. Perhaps this might help give people an idea why the threat of a lawsuit in the UK (or the USA) usually forces local journalists to retract their stories rather than defend them in court.
But there is one further point that needs to be made. And that is the complete and utter hypocrisy of a government that accused the Caruana Galizia family of treason for seeking legal advice from a specialist UK firm on their human rights. Resorting to overseas legal advice was branded by the government as a threat to Maltese sovereignty, a manipulative orchestration of the media and an attempt to harm the country.
The government made the argument forcefully enough for the judge hearing the Caruana Galizia family’s constitutional complaint to suggest he may have quite possibly been influenced by this fascistic rhetoric. Though of course what counts will be his judgement so we all have to wait and see about that.
At the same time as it was branding private citizens seeking advice outside of Malta as traitors, they, the government, was doing exactly the same thing: except this time you and I get to pay for this.
This is unbearable.