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The Institutions Cry(sis?)

We often tend to forget that as taxpayers and citizens, we are the prime employers of our country’s institutions.  Malta’s institutional bodies, such as the police force and the armed forces, are based in the Constitution and are tasked with serving the people and the law, not the powers that be.  They are duty-bound to protect our interest against any (read: even government) forces that might try to undermine their rights and well-being.

This fact has been totally lost in the Maltese “winner takes it all” political culture, to a point where the institutional bodies no longer serve the citizen, but serve the master who appoints them.  It is a telling sign that authorities established by law to be independent and self-sufficient are controlled by people appointed by the same government they are supposed to keep in check.  Are we so naïve to expect fair-play and protection in such circumstances?  How can someone expect a chairman or a commissioner to be independent when they are hand-picked by the government of the day to make sure they do not hinder their political goals.

As any employer would expect, periodical evaluation is key to determining an employees’ performance.  But I ask, how would we rate our institutions; the authorities paid by our tax money, to serve US?  In a time of such political turmoil, are we happy with the performance of the people we pay to defend our rights against all that is wrong?

Are we happy with a police corps rendered toothless by the instability brought about by having five different commissioners in as many years?  A Police Commissioner who is an avid fan of the person he is supposed to be investigating, placed there intentionally to serve as puppet to his master?  A police corps that does not investigate serious allegations surfacing in the media?  A corps that takes orders by Castille on when to investigate Castille itself?  A corps perceived to be taking orders in a way to delay the investigative process and thus going against the principles of the law it is bound to defend and adhere to?

Do we enjoy watching MFSA become complacent to private banks that allow PEP accounts and business transactions of dubious origins?  Why are we not punishing organisations that get embroiled in financial scandals such as Panama Papers, or catering for individuals such as “Corrupt Government of the Year” Aliyev?  Do we allow our country’s Financial Services sector, employer of thousands, to get its reputation tarnished by a group of corrupt individuals without a moral compass?  What about fair-competition and a level playing field for other financial services organisations that follow the rule of law?  It has taken us years to build this industry and a lot of diplomatic effort to defend our financial jurisdiction from being hailed as a tax haven, and it will take no more than such a scandal to put it in danger. 

Are we not incensed at the way FIAU is powerless to pursue its findings because it is brick-walled by the police’s unwillingness to investigate the very people that control it? 

These are the questions being posed by our citizens.  The people are getting restless and feeling depressed at our institutions’ inability to stand up and shield them from injustice.  To accomplish their raison d’etre.  You can sense the discomfort of living in a country where institutions protect the one percent instead of the common man.  We can only sympathise with the men and women who have to work in these institutions, knowing they can only do so much; knowing that they are being subjected to public ridicule and embarrassment by their superiors.  Knowing that they are being forced to betray the public’s trust. 

But the people, as their ultimate employer, are watching.  And judging all the way till the election.  

And in this election, an alternative is available. The Forza Nazzjonali coalition, led by PN leader Simon Busuttil, has already pledged that it will change the law such that key people heading our independent institutions are appointed by a two-thirds Parliamentary majority, to ensure their independence and impartiality, and to ensure they are not obedient to any master. Moreover, an inquiring magistrate for cases of corruption will be appointed in the same manner, with the power to initiate inquiries and investigations on his own initiative, without requiring the Police Commissioner’s, the Prime Minister’s or the Attorney General’s instructions.

A new Malta can be born from this crisis. The choice is up to us. 

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