I was reminded recently of a phrase Simon Busuttil had used once — ‘Labour-proof’ — that Labour had taken out of context and ran with as some form of sectarian divisive dogma. Of course, the intention of that phrase was to commit to what many now so often complain about when they refuse to attribute responsibility to the corruption we are mired in on its perpetrators.
These self-described ‘objective’ people say that it’s all the Nationalists’ fault that Labour is so corrupt because the PN in government did not do enough to create rules and institutions with enough power to stop a subsequent Labour government from doing what Labour inevitably and irrepressibly does.
That logic is warped on so many counts. Firstly it is the usual product of appallingly low expectations of Labour. You expect them to be corrupt so when they do turn out to be rotten, they are excused as if they were not full-grown adults with any responsibility for their actions.
Secondly, it assumes that institutions and rules can in and of themselves stop populist, corrupt politicians from doing what they mean to.
Consider today’s excellent Ivan Camilleri summing up of the Ombudsman’s report on the travesty at the Armed Forces. The Ombudsman is an institution set up by the Nationalists with the power to act autonomously to review administrative abuse by the government. In investigating the hostile take-over of the army by a troop of political puppets, unqualified and untrained, except in serving the partisan interests of the Labour Party, the Ombudsman found a government unwilling to cooperate even by sharing its administrative files.
The Ombudsman went to Court to insist he is allowed to do his job and that let him issue his report which is damning evidence that in the space of three months back in 2013, the Labour government rapidly promoted its cronies, placed them on top of trained officers who outranked them by far, and transformed the nation’s armed forces into the armed wing of the Labour Party.
There’s a key element of that story. With all the goodwill in the world, the Ombudsman needed the protection of the Court in order to just be able to do his job.
The process of taking over the Court is more complicated than the process of taking over the army. But Labour is well and truly getting there.
Jason Azzopardi made a chilling observation on Facebook today. In the next 16 months, 9 vacancies will arise in the Judiciary. The government will continue to embark on its program of Labourifying the bench. It has already used every opportunity available to it in the past 5 years to remove anyone who stood up to it.
A few years ago they withdrew a plan to allow judges to stay in service until aged 68, to ensure the early retirement of judges that are not beholden to the Labour Party and their quick replacement with their cronies.
The trends are easy to detect. The President of the Judges and Magistrates Association was just a few years ago Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. He, Toni Abela, of blokka bajda and pulizija Laburist fame was turned down for a job in the European Court of Auditors by a European Parliamentary committee concerned that he was heard on tape admitting manipulating Labour-leaning police officers to cover up drug trafficking from the property of the Labour Party.
Nine more appointments like this and the judiciary becomes a proper Labour Party fortress.
The puerile, partisan, counter-productive solution would be to look forward to Labour losing elections and at some point a Nationalist administration replacing it and starting to re-acquire some sort of balance.
But a bunch of judges chosen for their PN-sympathy credentials are not a more welcome prospect than judges chosen because they are extensions of the will of the Labour Party.
Appointments made by PN administrations up to 2013 were made on the basis of the qualities of the judges and included a balance of people with background from either political tribe. Not that the selection was without error: the cases of Noel Arrigo and Patrick Vella are obvious examples of mistaken choices.
The issue here is not a situation were no mistakes occur. But rather a situation where the choices made have little to do with the professional qualities of the appointees and more to do with their party loyalties.
What Labour is doing now is not only taking over the judiciary but also effectively preventing any possible adjustment to the problem in the future. If, as should be logical, constitutional reforms bring about the removal of the power of the Prime Minister to appoint judges, the only logical alternative would be for new judges to be appointed by other judges.
That means that what Labour is doing is making our judiciary a future-proof Labour installation that, once it is reluctantly granted autonomy, will self-perpetuate as a barrier to anything and anyone that may challenge Labour in a court of law.
When Labour wanted to decapitate the army, they imposed a promotions selection committee made of people whose knowledge of military matters was limited to viewing during their vaguely remembered childhood a pirate VHS copy of Rambo II.
Once they put on top the people they wanted, they could then allow the army, as it was then re-invented, run itself in the shape Labour had wanted for it.
But an Ombudsman and a Court came in their way. They weren’t enough to stop them but they were enough trouble to cause some flutter of complaint.
Which is why to hold on to their unassailable power — in the army, the civil service, the police, anywhere that matters — what Labour needs to do now is finish its program of taking over the judiciary.
And then, with magnanimity, they will let the robed red monster they have created, waddle about and crush their enemies without even the need of a tether.