Look at this headline. It says an NGO, a professional association, and a non-Parliamentary party said something about something. That would sound like the beginning of a joke, except that the humour, such as it is in this case, is about one other entity who said nothing.

There was a time when the opposition Nationalist Party, the only Parliamentary opposition party this country has, used to agonise over the charge by its opponents that its agenda was determined by an NGO which the opponents described as a minority faction within it.

The way they dealt with the agony varied from time to time. But they were almost never capable of ignoring Labour’s taunts that “the establishment”, “the Simon Busuttil faction”, and the other sundry ways One TV described Repubblika, was the real boss. The PN too often, almost always, allowed itself to be mind-fucked by Labour, changing its tone, and taking its decisions conditioned by how Labour would cover them on their media.

It’s as if they hoped that at one point Labour TV would cover a PN event and would report that the PN was now a great party, worthy of Labour’s admiration, because the PN has freed itself from the clutches of the bad guys at Repubblika.

Tactically speaking that’s stupid of the PN. The opposite party’s propaganda is not going to allow any fact to come in the way of their standing narrative that the PN is worthless.

The consequences are worse than tactical.

I have no idea if the PN yesterday decided not to comment about the prime minister it is paid to hold to account openly admitting that he had secret and forbidden conversations with members of the judiciary, because Repubblika, the Chamber of Advocates, and ADPD had already said something about it.

It doesn’t matter why they stayed silent. It doesn’t matter if it was some tactical decision to avoid being accused of the crime of agreeing with something Repubblika said or because the guy or gal at the PN who’s responsible for monitoring the prime minister’s speeches ate a bad oyster on Sunday morning and has been squirming with cramps since.

What matters is how this looks. It looks like the Parliamentary opposition is fine with the intrusion of the executive branch on the judiciary. It looks like the PN is ok with the forced merging of powers the Constitution expects to be separate.

You see, a rule of law NGO like Repubblika has a job to do and that includes calling out a prime minister who tries to normalise pulling the strings of judges and magistrates. It is logical for them to say something about this. As it is logical for the professional association of lawyers to say something when it sees an outrage their profession is in duty bound to prevent. As it is logical for all political parties outside government, even the ones outside Parliament, to express their concern.

There would be absolutely nothing wrong, nothing sinister, about the Parliamentary opposition, whose job it is to hold the government to account, to express its disagreement as well. Just because it is not alone, or even the first, to raise the alarm, does not mean it should stay silent.

Rather, it is extremely worrying that on a matter like this they behave as if they don’t care. The implication is obvious. The implication is they approve of a prime minister who controls magistrates and judges and their only regret is they are not the prime minister.

Silence is not merely a tactical choice. It is implicit complicity.

Whether they said nothing because they agree with Robert Abela, or because they’re not organised well enough to bring themselves to speak up about what matters in something like a timely fashion, or because they’re too scared of Labour TV pointing out that the PN and Repubblika are agreeing on something as if that would be the end of the world, the fact is the opposition is paid to do a job and it ain’t doin’ it.

Photo: Matthew Mirabelli, Times of Malta