The Bank of Valletta’s last correspondent bank for USD transactions has given notice it wants out. BOV said it will look for alternatives. It won’t be an easy task. These days the feasibility of our existence as a financial services jurisdiction hangs on a precarious thread. The government is doing everything it can to look good but the splattered blood and mud is not going to go away with a wiping of spittle.
Any new correspondent bank will have to ask if the Bank of Valletta can be a trusted partner. I wonder if any potential correspondent bank will look into their corporate social responsibility program when they conduct their due diligence tests. They will find BOV’s answers to The Shift News saying the Marigold Foundation always belonged to disgraced prime minister Joseph Muscat’s wife Michelle even though the BOV’s annual reports – published at the Stock Exchange – for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 make no mention of that at all.
On the contrary all those reports (I checked them one by one) say Marigold belonged only to the BOV while the BOV was in joint ventures with third parties in other foundations such as the Joseph Calleja Foundation.
The bankers are caught lying to cover for politicians known for their corruption. Would you buy a second hand car from these bankers? More to the point, would you risk your own banking license by working with such crooks for the meagre USD business the BOV brings? Mela le.
Now they’re seriously panicking. The Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry this morning answered questions to Times of Malta saying the inquiry will stay in place for as long as it needs to, even, if necessary, beyond the deadline imposed by Prime Minister Robert Abela. This is not an act of defiance as such. The inquiry is conducting itself under the terms of reference it was given that give it discretion on determining when it’s ready.
How is Robert Abela going to react to this? Is he going to impose his will on an institution that exists to investigate and assess the conduct of his government and his government ministers? If he does, he’ll be confirming that culturally at least we have acquired nothing from the experience of reforming our institutions after Joseph Muscat made them the wraiths that allowed Daphne Caruana Galizia to be killed.
Ordering the premature shut-down of an inquiry into the conduct of the government is not a power the government being investigated should have. And yet.
Consider all the uncorking of Diet Cokes by Edward Zammit Lewis today at the Venice Commission’s reaction to June’s law reforms that we have managed to – how did he put it? – “enhance our anti-corruption framework and introduce more effective checks and balances in favour of an even stronger democratic system”.
Another positive #VeniceCommission report recognizing our efforts for #judicial reform, enhancing our anti-corruption framework and introducing more effective checks & balances in favour of an even stronger democratic system.@RobertAbela_MT | @EvaristBartolo | @stefanzrinzo pic.twitter.com/k4WxVt6omA
— Edward Zammit-Lewis (@ZammitLewisEdw) October 9, 2020
This is supposed to make us look good in the eyes of the world. Words come easy. I’m sure Lukashenko, Alhiyev, Orban, Mnangagwa, Bolsonaro and Diaz-Canel could speak well of their ‘strong democratic systems’. But we don’t judge them by their words. We judge them by their conduct. Robert Abela too. Will he respect checks and balances when he’s the one being checked? Mela le.
And the Venice Commission report of today wasn’t the great reading Edward Zammit Lewis would have you believe.
The word “disappointed” was used a lot and that was about the conduct of the government. The Commission was disappointed the government rushed through reforms without allowing it to comment, which means the laws have to be changed again because they’re full of errors. The Commission was disappointed a lot of changes that are still necessary haven’t been done yet.
And the Commission is disappointed the government refused to consult civil society and the public about the changes.
Read this from the Commission’s report:
The current constitutional amendments are meant to have a profound and long-term impact in Malta and hence require wide consultations within Maltese society. Thus, the rushed process through Parliament comes not only as a surprise but also a disappointment, despite the Government’s assertions that the dialogue in Parliament was structured and broadcast in television. Confining the discourse to political parties in parliament without meaningful public consultation is akin to denying citizens their democratic entitlement to have a say in the shaping of the constitutional order.
They told the government we could watch them on TV and that amounted to proper consultation. Straight out of 1984.
The Venice Commission spoke of the government “denying citizens their democratic entitlement”. Does that sound to you like Edward Zammit Lewis’s “enhancement of a stronger democratic system”?
Why am I speaking about this in a post that started out as a comment on losing all USD correspondent banks? I won’t answer that yet. Here are two other pieces of new that will also seem unconnected.
Three government ministers and their former colleague Helena Dalli gave a press conference today announcing a policy for anti-racism. Helena Dalli said the policy does not merely need to stop us being racist. It needs to make us anti-racist, campaigning all for the rights of other people. Like Neville Gafà.
Nice words. Lies from a government that is taunting the opposition leader because he won’t agree that Malta is “full up” and unless migrants come with a bag of money they may as well drown or die under the whip in a Libyan concentration camp.
The other piece of news. The government signed over the Miżieb and Aħrax parks to hunters and banned access to two of our last remaining open spaces for most of the year to anyone without a gun. The signing happened behind closed doors because if you’re armed with a double-barrelled rifle the government will give you public land, but if you’re armed with a camera or a microphone the government will shut the door in your face. They’ve become as secretive as Ghaddafi. But that’s by the by.
This is not a criticism of the government’s public relations. It’s a criticism of the government indifference to the rule of law and to the right of all of us – armed or unarmed – to enjoy what little common good has been handed down to us and hasn’t yet been squandered by the greedy few.
No US dollar transactions. No independent institutions. No democratic rights. No human rights. No access to public space.
These are all one thing, multiple faces of the same monster. These are the last horrors of an administration that started out driven by avarice and corruption and by its end lost even the evil brains that put us in this mess.
This country is now unable to turn the page if it continues to be led by the people who are stuck justifying and defending the misery they have inflicted on this country for the last 8 years. We’re not going to become a better country if Joseph Muscat’s ministers continue to rule – the ones who shared in the greed or the ones who looked away because it behoved them to do so. Nor are we going to be healed by the ministers who succeeded them because their authority is entirely invested in the reputation of the Labour Party.
There’s no other way to say it. We will not start healing before Labour is removed from the seat of power.