Things look pretty grim. For the country to heal there must be justice for the corrupt former ministers who brought our collective name to worldwide disrepute. And there must be justice for the murderers who killed a journalist for discovering that corruption. A Venn diagram of those two sets of people may have an intersection.

But who is going to make arrests while the good cops are arresting the bad ones? Six years of abuse of the police force are now yielding results. In 2013, Malta had an upright police chief. The government fired him and replaced him first with a crony, then with a nincompoop, then with a coward and finally with a clown.

In the meantime, they ‘reinstated’ police officers who had retired or had been retired years ago, promoting them in abstentia and putting them in command of operations that would have led to the arrest and prosecution of politicians had they been in the hands of proper policemen. Instead, bent cops set up extortion rackets, and under cover of the uniform, rolled out a fully-fledged criminal organisation.

This country is used to respecting and trusting our women and men in uniform. But we’ve been shaken out of our illusions already when two soldiers shot unarmed civilians point blank and killed one for sport. We traced back that brutality to the government’s intervention in recruitment to the army and the rapid promotion of poorly qualified cronies to senior ranks.

Our police are also our prosecution service. They take the decisions on who gets charged with crime and who isn’t.

But in peacetime, the chaos in the police is even more consequential. Our police are also our prosecution service. They take the decisions on who gets charged with crime and who isn’t. The little tinkering this government has done in the attorney general’s office has so far had no material consequence. Prosecution is still under-resourced and quashed under the thumb of the government. And the new state attorney (who has been appointed ostensibly to take away the prosecutorial role from the government’s in-house counsel) is by all accounts still intervening in prosecutions.

Confused? Even judges are. Fourteen months since the Venice Commission said that the method we use to appoint judges does not conform with modern democratic standards, the government is yet to propose changes. That pathological procrastination has consequences now, as the European Court of Justice will this year decide whether some past appointments of judges were illegal and therefore invalid.

That’s not quite meltdown yet in the judiciary, but the chain reaction to disaster is well under way.

Our public administration suffers in silence. Career public servants are demoralised and neutralised, given inexplicable orders by an army of 700 ‘persons of trust’ who owe loyalty only to the party that put them there. The head of the civil service, who should be speaking for them and for the ethos of an apolitical but loyal public adminis­tration, defends instead the perversion of casually recruiting all government decision-makers from Super One.

Not quite meltdown but that’s only because the stamina of the civil service to plod along like a sturdy donkey is an ability strengthened by years of abuse.

The way out of the meltdown is that you keep doing the right thing

Parliament should be challenging all this but the only thing the parliamentary opposition is apparently capable of challenging is itself. ‘Meltdown’ is too timid a term to describe what’s happening in the Nationalist Party. Its leader is gentle and soothing when criticising, barely, the government. He is visceral and eviscerating when he speaks of opponents – as he represents them – on his own side.

While the opposition is too busy consuming itself, spending all that money in salaries and cushion positions for backbench MPs from the government party is a waste borne out of habit. Parliament may not be in meltdown but it is safe to say it’s as cold as dead.

If it wasn’t dead someone would be squeezing out of the government some form of timed roadmap for the implementation of the Council of Europe resolution from the summer of last year listing reforms this country urgently needs.

There is no political will to diffuse the concentrated power held by the prime minister, to reduce the dependence on “persons of trust”, to terminate the employment of parliamentarians with the executive, to guarantee the independence of judges, to guarantee independence of the decision to prosecute criminals, to re-professionalise and protect the independence of the police.

Criminal investigations into the Panama Papers, the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder and the Daphne Project revelations are stalled or never started. Electrogas, Egrant, Vitals, kickbacks for golden passports, Adrian Hillman, Nexia BT, Pilatus Bank, Satabank: all these scandals remain without a single charge in a court of law.

The ombudsman, the auditor general and the commissioner for public life standards are largely ignored. The financial intelligence agency remains under-resourced. Freedom of information is respected in the breach.

Whistle-blowers continue to be persecuted. The anti-corruption body remains prostrate showing no pulse.

Recommendations from the group of states against corruption and from the European anti-money laundering agency continue to be ignored except for announcements by the civil service chief giving ‘reasons’ why they should continue to be ignored.

Chris Cardona, Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat are named and renamed by witnesses in the proceedings against the people charged with killing Caruana Galizia.

The fact they knew about the identity of the killers before everyone else did seems now uncontested. The likelihood that they used that advance knowledge to help the suspected killers is high. The possibility that they knew about the murder before it was actually executed cannot be ruled out at all.

And yet they move about with impunity, unchallenged, unbothered, immune. Testimony and evidence heard in open court is no longer shocking because it is no longer surprising.

We heard Cardona’s phone number was the only one saved on a burner phone found on the seabed and used to kill Caruana Galizia. Cardona’s line of defence? “The police never spoke to me about it.” Of course, they didn’t.

Of course, Schembri knew about Melvyn Theuma’s involvement in the murder before anyone else did. Schembri’s line of defence? He can’t be bothered to give one. Of course, he cannot.

The one Council of Europe requirement the government has complied with is the public inquiry into the killing of Caruana Galizia that is underway and working on full steam. There is formal testimony of the pain inflicted on a journalist, her family and the entire country by a government intent on getting away with crime.

The fact that after two years of haggling the government agreed to open the inquiry shows that there is a way out of any meltdown. Consider also that the erstwhile unbeatable demigod Muscat is no longer prime minister. His protégés are looking for jobs. Nowhere near enough but it’s progress.

Consider no one goes to destroy the protest asking for truth and justice in Republic Street anymore.

Look not for the government’s admission they were ever in the wrong. Look not for apologies or vindication. Demand truth and justice. They’ll resist it for as long as they can. And when they cannot resist it any more they’ll grant it reluctantly.

Then they’ll say it was their idea and “the institutions are working”. Let it not matter who gets the credit.

The way out of the meltdown is that you keep doing the right thing.

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