The magisterial inquiry into the sale of three hospitals, which has taken more than four years, is, finally, concluded and, besides former prime minister Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, we have a long list of politicians, lawyers, accountants, civil servants and entrepreneurs who are expected to appear in court in the coming days.

We are all aware that checks and balances are fundamental elements in a democracy for they control the unconstrained exercise of power and ensure that the executive acts licitly and ethically. It is the separation of powers that ensures a system of checks and balances and the basis of a democratic society hinges on the four pillars: the legislative, the executive, the judiciary and the media.

Only if we have these pillars in place can individual rights be protected, power is exercised responsibly and governance is transparent and accountable.

We have long been waiting for the inquiry to be concluded. Already in February last year, judgment had been given that there was fraud in all stages of the concession deal awarded by the government to Vitals and Steward. Later in the year, the Court of Appeals upheld the judgment delivered by the First Court.

Now that the inquiry is concluded and the suspects named and shall soon be summoned in court, we need to allow justice to take its course.

It is a cardinal principle of justice that all persons summoned or accused of a crime are presumed to be innocent unless and until their guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt. The process of justice is in its initial stages, and we all need to wait for the whole process to be completed to know whether anyone is found guilty either by commission or by omission.

The outcry from the majority of us, these past weeks, has been for justice to be allowed to take its course. To be able to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth we need to allow the judiciary – one of the four pillars of democracy – to work without hindrance and without fear or favour.

To replace the conclusions of a judicial inquiry with the result of an election, as Robert Abela and his clique are suggesting, is reverting to mob rule

The judiciary, which comprises the system of courts, as well as judges and magistrates who sit in these courts, is tasked with ensuring equal justice to everyone under the law, irrespective who the person is.

Attacking Magistrate Gabriella Vella for doing her duty and who must have left no stone unturned to complete the inquiry is an attack on the judiciary and, therefore, undermines the democratic process.

This is the more serious since the attack is being lashed out by our prime minister who is supposed to be the principal person who should be safeguarding such pillars of democracy.

Steven Levitsy and Daniel Ziblatt, in their book How Democracies Die, state: “Democracies may die at the hands not of generals but of elected leaders – presidents or prime ministers who subvert the very process that brought them to power.”

They go on by affirming that “in democracies, institutions are designed to serve as neutral arbiters. For would-be authoritarians, therefore, judicial and law-enforcement agencies pose both a challenge and an opportunity. If they remain independent, they might expose and punish government abuse. But if these agencies are controlled by loyalists, they could serve a would-be dictator’s aims, shielding government from investigation and criminal prosecutions that could lead to its removal from power”.

To replace the conclusions of a judicial inquiry with the result of an election, as Abela and his clique are suggesting, is reverting to mob rule.

Following the dictum ‘might is right’ means that the powers that be decide what is right or wrong.

Former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino, when talking to Times of Malta, asserted: “It is the courts that, through their decisions and judgments, guarantee the rule of law and secure justice for all, ensuring that everyone, without exception, is held accountable for his/her actions. Not through the verdict of any people’s tribunal, even if expressed in a popular vote, however wide the margin is.”

And President Myriam Spiteri Debono stated that “our laws provide remedies where individuals feel subjected to prejudice”. She affirmed that there were legal remedies in cases where the legal processes were in some way vitiated.

We all want justice and we all want the truth to come out in the open. Because partisan politics deprives many from seeing and evaluating things as they truly are due to their partisan blinkers, the more we need to allow justice to take its course and not incite or put mistrust and doubt in the judiciary.

As it was succinctly pointed out in the editorial (May 8) of Times of Malta, “by sowing seeds of doubt and painting critical voices as enemies of the State, Abela risk eroding public trust in the very institutions meant to safeguard democratic norms”.

Ray Azzopardi is a former headmaster.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.