Despite the radical developments in Malta over the past months, it cannot be said that normality has been restored. After weeks of taking to the streets, we at Aditus Foundation welcomed Joseph Muscat’s resignation and Prime Minister Robert Abela’s statements on governance reform.
Yet, it would be foolish to believe or act as if Malta’s institutional shortcomings have miraculously disappeared.
Our democracy is still extremely vulnerable and we are concerned that the gravest threats come from within.
Notwithstanding their shameful activities, Muscat and Konrad Mizzi remain members of Parliament. There, they are able to exercise authority and influence laws that govern every aspect of all our lives and that of our nation.
This is clearly unacceptable and no argument on their political right to those two seats will make us think otherwise.
What is actually more shocking is to see members of government and Parliament publicly engaging with the two, including, of course, the mandatory selfie. Any sensible politican would want to distance himself or herself from the winner of the most corrupt politician of the year award.
Is it because they feel nothing wrong has been done? Or is it that all wrongs are soon forgotten? Or does complicity unite them? When we yelled “barra!” (out!), we meant it absolutely and unconditionally. Any behaviour that may be interpreted as praising, applauding, minimising or condoning Muscat’s or Mizzi’s past actions must not be tolerated.
At the root of the structural flaws in the way Malta is governed lie political greed and short-sightedness
It is also upsetting that the urgently-needed governance reforms will be proposed by a committee composed exclusively of Cabinet members.
The institutional shortcomings that successive parliaments and governments have constructed to secure and maintain their political power have been flagged by a long list of national and international observers. A superficial reading of the long list of their recommendations confirms that the Cabinet Committee on Governance betrays a worrying lack of understanding of the nature of Malta’s governance problems.
For the reform process to be successful, it must not be yet another exercise in loosely applied make-up. Instead, it must honestly and actively involve persons and entities not connected to political parties, granting them full access to the formulation, implementation strategy and monitoring of all proposed measures.
The prime minister and his new Cabinet ought to be reminded, on a regular basis, that it is largely following the perseverance of civil society organisations demanding justice, accountability and transparency that Malta is now at this historic crossroads.
On a similar note, the dominating presence of the two major political parties within the process to revise the nation’s most important document – the Constitution – is of serious concern. At the root of the structural flaws in the way Malta is governed lie political greed and short-sightedness. So it is inconceivable that the constitutional reform process will ever result in a text able to truly unite the nation around a system of principles, vision and governance structures.
Aditus Foundation has consistently underlined that corruption, bad governance, lack of accountability and nepotism are not abstract academic notions. They prevent communities, especially the most marginalised, from enjoying their fundamental human rights.
They deny justice when violations occur. They strip governance of its true meaning as a mission to serve a nation and its people, replacing it with a route towards personal enrichment.
We took to the streets to call for justice and accountability, as was our duty.
It is the prime minister’s duty to ensure that Malta is put back on the right track and this can only be done with honest, determined and inclusive reforms. Until then, our campaign will continue.
Neil Falzon is director of Aditus Foundation.