Robert Musumeci continued his passionate campaign in defence of Adrian Delia in a Times Talk interview today. Even though most of us are neither architects nor lawyers and even less of us are both, we can all see Robert Musumeci’s cunning plan for what it is. He is deeply invested in the status quo and there is no better way to ensure it than the spectacle of the Nationalist Party voraciously consuming its own children.

But let’s make this interesting and strip ourselves of any sense of insight, forgetting what motivations we may believe Robert Musumeci might have to speak the way he does, and taking what he says at face value, assuming his sincerity.

A number of points stick out in his argument.

First the point that it is not right that the political assassination of someone “you do not like” can be organised by somehow bringing about an investigation. The argument is fairly simple really. Would Theresa May have to resign if a spurious and vexatious allegation is made by someone about her? Would it really be that easy to get rid of her by using complete fabrications without even an effort to make them look real; to somehow conjure an investigation and force her “to do the right thing and resign”?

That question betrays an assumption that is quite likely correct but no less horrendous for that. That assumption is that the action of a law enforcement agency here has no regard for the quality and the plausibility of an allegation and all and any allegations, wherever they come from, are treated equally.

That is truly worrying and not just for politicians. Take allegations of domestic violence for example. If I were to allege that Theresa May perpetrated domestic violence would the police take into account the fact that I have never actually been in the same room with her in my entire life before they open a file? Would they not treat an allegation of such a nature coming from me differently than they would treat an identical allegation from her husband or her children, say?

Therefore, going to Robert Musumeci’s conundrum here, would Theresa May’s obligation to act correctly in the face of allegations of domestic violence she denies change if the allegation was made by someone who has never actually met her or if it was made by someone who lived with her for decades?

But the example the interviewer challenged Robert Musumeci with is not any allegation of domestic violence in respect of Adrian Delia. It was the ongoing FIAU investigation into money laundering. That is the point when Robert Musumeci spoke of the ease which should not be acceptable of forcing politicians out of office by somehow generating an investigation which has no reason to exist.

And at that point questions about the quality of our law enforcement arise. Because it is one thing for law enforcement agencies to tick off random slander from uninformed but aggrieved people who create fiction for whatever warped reason they might have to damage someone else. But it’s altogether another for law enforcement agencies to find there is a case to answer and spend the time and the resources to gather sufficient evidence for prosecution.

In legal terms at that stage you are obviously innocent until proven otherwise. But there is a point when a person becomes a formal suspect of a crime. In other jurisdictions that is a specific legal status where you are effectively cautioned for being under investigation. You are indeed presumed innocent but you are told evidence is being collected that might be used to prove your guilt in a court of law.

At the end of a process like that, there is a short list of possible outcomes. Investigators may find that there is evidence of innocence and your name is cleared. Investigators may find that there is evidence of guilt and may proceed to prosecute you. That also provides two possible outcomes. The court might be satisfied of your guilt or innocence and if found guilty another series of possibilities opens up with appeals and so on.

In all of these scenarios, law enforcement and the judiciary may be unable to prove a crime or secure a conviction which is not to say that any of that confirms innocence. They know you did it. They can’t prove it.

Now what Robert Musumeci is arguing here means one of two things. One the one hand he may now be arguing that only guilt proven in a court of law and following conviction can justify a demand for a political resignation. If he is arguing that we are categorically departing from any accepted standard of public propriety in a western democracy.

Alternatively he is arguing that investigations can be initiated in this country by law enforcement agencies not on the back of evidence and reasonable suspicion but on the back of partisan political motivation. Of course we all know this to be the case entirely. As Silvio Camilleri had put it speaking from the bench two weeks before Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed we are flirting with a rule of delinquents. 

The law is used to bash people in political disfavour. Anything from the VAT audits to suffocate Daphne Caruana Galizia to the infamous ‘investigation’ on Occupy Justice for the ‘crime’ of using money to buy candles and flowers without the government’s permission are just outward signs.

Speak to anyone in the professions and they will tell you how they measure the zeal of regulators at the FIAU with the same metre of the regard they are held in the government’s eyes. They’ll pick on you if they think you’re not in with the tagħnalkollers.

We do know this. But for Robert Musumeci to admit it in defence of Adrian Delia standing as he does on a Labour Party platform is truly jaw dropping. He is willing to admit that to hurt someone for political reasons law enforcement agencies in Malta allow themselves to be used by political enemies of entirely innocent subjects of their investigations.

The next point Robert Musumeci makes that I want to dwell a bit upon is his declared belief that even in the case of a proven crime or a conviction, politicians who want to be retained “by the people” ought not to be expected to resign.

This is as far from accepted norms of democracy as we have ever come in mainstream discourse. The argument that a popular vote can over-rule the dispensation of justice is the final victory of populism over the rule of law. In starkly simple terms Robert Musumeci argues that popular support entitles people who enjoy it exemption from the law. They quite literally are above it and cannot be reached by it.

This horrendous notion has been boring into democratic life for some time. Silvio Berlusconi introduced in Italy the principle that to avoid becoming a prisoner one must first become prime minister. That was only the first chapter in a book that is blurring the lines between political corruption, organised crime, authoritarianism and an unsightly flirtation with fascism.

Robert Musumeci is not alone here. He is in extensive company that is reversing the conventional wisdom that politicians are held to a higher standard into the authoritarian idea that televoting and the applaudometer can immunise corrupt politicians from criminal action and consequence.

I wrote when I started this piece I would not assess Robert Musumeci’s remarks on the basis of why I think he’s making them. 

But then he betrays his motivation in the third point he makes and that is creating a line of sympathy between Adrian Delia, presumed by Robert Musumeci to be the victim of untruthful allegations, and Joseph Muscat, declared by Robert Musumeci to be the victim of untruthful allegations.

Which is an extraordinary point to make in the same 10 minutes where he’s already argued that law enforcement and judicial bodies in Malta are open to be used by politically motivated agents to discredit political enemies. Does that not necessarily mean that the same spineless law enforcement and judicial bodies can be used to clean the name of the guilty as they have done with Joseph Muscat?

After all Joseph Muscat’s popularity, by Robert Musumeci’s logic, exempts him from criminal consequence. “Għax iriduh in-nies”.

I’ll close with Robert Musumeci’s pivot at the end. Having determined that the veracity of the allegations against Adrian Delia is not relevant because Adrian Delia is popular and wanted by the people, he proceeds to recommend to Adrian Delia swift action against those who make the allegations.

His remarks, though cryptic, are implicit. He recommends a pogrom, a mass extermination of those in the PN who disagree that a leader facing allegations of the type faced by Adrian Delia should be held to a lower standard than you and me. Like a cartoon hunchback butler named Igor he waddles towards Adrian Delia and recommends to him swift and bloody action. Pinky and the Brain.

And then at last we can’t help remembering why Robert Musumeci says this. Because like the people he knows have control of law enforcement agencies to act, wittingly or not, in the interest of the Labour Party, he is one of those who manipulate Adrian Delia to, wittingly or not, do the same.

No one is happier with the sight of the Nationalist Party devouring its own children.