However problematic this penning on the high seas is bound to prove, it is an alternative to Option One the government went for over the Easter weekend. Presumably inspired by Christ’s sacrifice, Option One was ‘let them drown’. The government blamed the crossing on the migrants who should have changed their travel plans like everyone skipping their shopping trip to Rome or their honeymoon in the Maldives. So, if they insist on travelling while the harbours are closed, let the bastards drown.
Though the government could rely on widespread racism, the pressure from NGOs and a criminal investigation that started after Repubblika’s action rather spoilt that party.
So, they needed to go for option 2. Put Neville Gafà to use, hire a bunch of sea-faring pirates (though it should be clear that the owner of the Mae Yemenja Charles Grech was never convicted of smuggling charges he faced in Malta and nothing came of a clamorous arrest after being caught with stupid piles of cash in Libya) to push the migrants who insisted on not dying of thirst back to Libya.
Again, that did not work. The cunning plan of painting over the fishing trawler’s name was not enough for the boat not to be recognised and to be traced back to Grand Harbour. The school-boy subterfuge that looked like the idea of someone who watched too many 007 movies for their own good was as transparent as Robert Abela’s reading glasses. And relying on Neville Gafà to keep a secret was like getting me to pace you at your triathlon training.
Option One and Option Two have now, hopefully, been discarded and the government are trying something else that would not have the effect of having the racist monster they created turn on them. Ah, the challenges of being Viktor Frankenstein.
Even if they’re trying something new, it does not mean the government can rush to turn the page. Option One led to the death of 12 people. A criminal inquiry is establishing whether the cause of death of those 12 is in fact the decision not to go out to save them.
Option Two has just been picked up by the rest of the world. It’s incredible that Robert Abela thought the world would not be watching. The first mess started with a New York Times report on Maundy Thursday. Did Robert Abela think they lost interest? That’s not likely. Malta is world famous for having had Joseph Muscat as prime minister. Did they think that our tendency to choose crooks who do not flinch at murder for our tribal leaders had washed away when we chose Joseph Muscat’s personal lawyer to be our commander in chief?
How silly is that?
Yes, the world has been watching. The New York Times too. Read this detailed feature published last night. And pause on this significant reflection by a legal expert they consult:
“The facts available raise serious concerns that we are seeing the emergence of a novel systematic pattern, such that may even put Maltese state officials in danger of criminal liability, at home or abroad,” Dr Mann said.
Itamar Mann, an expert in maritime and refugee law at the University of Haifa in Israel. Dr Mann may not be an expert on the practicalities of law enforcement in Malta. Here prime ministers and ministers may be ‘investigated’ but so far have never been prosecuted. No one is optimistic that’s going to change this time round.
But the “criminal liability abroad” bit is a shiver looking for a prime ministerial spine to run up. A crime has been committed. This is not going to go away.