There are just some premises that betray the unintended motivations of those who postulate them. “Who farted?” is a question asked by the person in the room implicitly admitting they did the deed. It’s just one of those things. Who smelt it dealt it.

This is a South Park way of saying that the guy who says most forcefully that the mafia doesn’t exist is the guy who just wants to make sure nothing is done to touch it. I always go back to Baudelaire: the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

Robert Abela is resisting a recommendation by the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry to include in Maltese criminal law a definition of a mafia crime and introduce appropriate penalties once it is established that a crime has been perpetrated by a mafia organisation. The prime minister is not criticising the inquiry for the proposal. It’s been there on their list of recommendations since they published their report last summer. He’s promised to implement their recommendations every other week since then. A few days ago, he claimed he had already implemented most of their recommendations.

Of course, he’d done nothing of the sort. He knew the judges weren’t going to publicly contradict him so he expects, probably rightly, that time and the general elections will kill any of the inquiry’s recommendations that would have had any material impact on Joseph Muscat’s government had they existed at the time. Robert Abela is obviously concerned with his own government and having any laws in place that would in any way inhibit the criminal intent or activity of anyone within it.

The Parliamentary Opposition lost its patience and translated the recommendation into a draft law which Parliament is debating this week. Robert Abela has announced he’ll block the proposed anti-mafia law saying the PN want it so they can call Malta a Mafia State.

No one needs a law to call Malta a Mafia State. All they need is to see Malta’s prime minister publicly take sides in favour a suspect of major crimes who has had their house raided by the police to search of evidence entirely within the limits of the law and against the officers who did the search and the magistrate who sent them to do it.

When the State – the prime minister, no less – sides with crime against the law, the State is an accomplice in that crime. The only reason Robert Abela doesn’t want an anti-mafia law is because under such a law his conduct in defence of organised criminals would come under scrutiny. That’s just a risk he’s not prepared to take.

The fact that the country did not rise in outrage at the remarks of the prime minister yesterday, not to mention the likelihood that the country will elect Robert Abela to be its prime minister for another five years even after this, shows how deep our problem is. Accepting, even ignoring, the prime minister’s argument demonstrates that we really don’t know what laws are for.

To begin with let’s all understand what we’re talking about. The PN’s bill for an anti-mafia law is a translation of the relevant provisions in the Italian criminal code. The Daphne inquiry explicitly referred to article 416 bis in the Italian criminal code and the PN looked it up, translated it and proposed it for inclusion in Maltese law.

Italy is in no way the only country that has this sort of law. Many countries do. Famously the United States has RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act. They’ve had it since the 1970s and they’ve used it to clamp down on the families and the bosses who never called themselves mafia and pretended to be insulted by the use of the term. But it didn’t matter. This is not about what criminals call themselves or believe themselves to be.

This is about criminal organisations that use fear or the threat of retribution in order to secure for themselves economic advantages such as government contracts or effective commercial monopolies. The idea is that you don’t just punish the button men holding smoking guns (I don’t know, the Koħħus of this world say) but that you also catch the guys who hire them, the guys who help them such as bent cops, corrupt judges, or politicians in their pockets, and the guys who just sit back and hoard the profits from the racket.

Countries who have laws against this are not Mafia States. Quite the contrary Mafia States are countries who allow this to happen with impunity. Like ours.

But even if you think all this is an exaggeration and I’m only imagining that a corrupt organisation or corrupt organisations are a permanent feature in our landscape, that should not be a reason to disagree with having a law against it.

We have a law against genocide for crying out loud. We have laws that punish war crimes and crimes against humanity. How likely do you think any of those laws are to be broken and applied any time soon? But when Parliament adopted a law defining genocide, criminalising it and determining what punishment should be handed down to anyone convicted of it, no MP stood up to object saying that introducing an anti-genocide law would make Malta a genocidal country.

It’s not just that such a claim would be stupid in the extreme. It would raise the suspicion, where none would have previously existed, that anyone objecting to a law punishing genocide would want to make sure they’d not be punished if they ever perpetrated the crime.

An anti-mafia law does not conjure a mafia, in the same way that murder will happen whether you have a law against it or not. No murderer checks if the action is prohibited before they perpetrate it. But not having a law against murder means that once the perpetrator is apprehended nothing can be done to punish them.

That’s what Robert Abela wants for the mafia. He wants the Maltese State to continue to be helpless when confronted by the mafia. He denies there is a mafia. Which means he helps it hide and he prevents honest people working in our institutions from accessing a legal arsenal considered mainstream in many democracies (including by ways of example Italy and the United States) that would let them fight it and beat it.

Robert Abela knew just what to do. He didn’t go into a debate with the Inquiry on whether we need an anti-mafia law. Them he just ignored. Now that the Opposition have proposed the law he’s reducing the issue to good old fashioned political football. That way nobody cares.

But in both phases of his resistance (his silence in the face of the Inquiry recommendations, his refusal in the face of the Opposition’s proposal) all Robert Abela has been doing is help the mafia hide. Which makes him complicit. Which makes this a recidivist, unrepentant, wilful Mafia State that has already killed and will kill again to ensure nothing stops the profits flowing.