Commissioner Jim Gordon is a good cop. He wants nothing more than to clean up Gotham City. But, in the scheme of things, he is not much more than mid-ranking. The people working under him are inept, scaredy boys in blue. The politicians who employ him are compromised, complicit and corrupt. And the villains he must fight are much better connected and resourced than he is. As they see it, the Joker, Two Face, the Penguin and the rest are the city.
Fortunately, Jim Gordon has an ally who answers to an image of a bat projected on the night sky. The Batman has a deep pocket and wears a mask, so nobody knows where to find him to bribe him or threaten him.
The Batman is a symbol of hope for a cartoonist who has given up on the ability or willingness of ordinary forces of law to fight on the side of justice and lock up the supervillains that plague us. Of course, we can draw cartoons and read them. But there is no Batman. There isn’t even a Commissioner Gordon. All we have are the inept, scaredy cops and the corrupt, compromised political bosses.
And we have the supervillains who mock us with their self-indulgent publicity, their pathetic back stories, their audacious protestations of innocence and the loyalties they command from holding a city in their thrall.
Joseph Muscat taunts the country. “Catch me if you can”. “I have no fear of arrest,” he said, apparently without bluffing. Someone who is unfazed by the publication of mountains of evidence of inexplicable payments promised or paid to him by failed contractors he hired as prime minister does not rely on their ability to prove their innocence. If he could, he would. And, yet, he’s not worried.
You can see why. Muscat knows and expects that, without Batman, there’s no one in the ordinary running of the Maltese state that can touch him.
Magistrates can hire investigators to write their inquiries but, once the inquiry is done, it is a secret document that goes to the attorney general. The magistrate can ‘order’ arrests and prosecutions but nothing happens if the attorney general rejects that order. The police have ignored the evidence on what happened in the hospitals for five years, which means there’s no reason to believe an inquiry is going to move them into action.
The attorney general is Victoria Buttigieg. The police chief is Angelo Gafà. In possession of an inquiry report that ‘ordered’ them to act on the Pilatus Bank scandal, they moved to ensure the findings of the inquiry were suppressed, frustrated and undermined.
They did that because action on Pilatus Bank risked re-opening the Egrant scandal and get Muscat into trouble. They didn’t want to touch the supervillain. They were afraid of him or they were loyal to him. Either way, they worked for him.
We have supervillains who mock us with their self-indulgent publicity, their pathetic back stories, their audacious protestations of innocence- Manuel Delia
Muscat expects them to do their duty to him again in the hospitals case. Especially now that the trail of his direct involvement is so much more explicit than it had been in the Pilatus case. Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad had walked out of his bank the night Daphne Caruana Galizia broke the Egrant story, smuggling bags allegedly containing the incriminating evidence. Ram Tumuluri appears to have flown to Washington with the incriminating evidence and handed it to the Security and Exchange Commission.
That does not mean that Buttigieg and Gafà will not manage to be blind to the evidence of Muscat’s alleged crimes. He expects them to.
He won’t, however, be a hostage to their loyalty. His range of human shields is much wider. Muscat is too smart to allow himself to be taken hostage. It is he who must control the will of those who might take away from him the determination of his fate.
Consider Prime Minister Robert Abela. Muscat has caught his successor in a permanent fit of uncontrollable schizophrenia. Robert Sméagol Abela says his government is innocent of the alleged crimes of his predecessor and must therefore be congratulated for untangling the mess the VGH scandal put us in. Robert Gollum Abela lashes out at people who call for the prosecution of Muscat, dubbing them “extremist”.
The invisible gun pressing against the back of Abela’s head is the threat of the implosion of the Labour Party over which Muscat holds sway. If Abela does the right thing and withdraws his veto on the prosecution of his predecessor, Muscat will mobilise Abela’s support base against his successor.
Abela’s mantra thus far has been that we must allow institutions to do their job. That motto worked for him while institutions slumbered. The day any one of those institutions shows signs of life, the day some cop dusts off their stock of handcuffs and drives to Burmarrad, the day Muscat is stood in front of a judge and asked to make a plea to charges of corruption, bribery, money laundering and participation in a criminal organisation, Abela will not speak of institutions doing their work and being allowed to do so.
The threat of what they might do if the supervillain is captured is being whispered ever louder. They say that Muscat will be arrested over their dead body. They say they will go out in the street and never leave him alone, even if their blood must be spilled.
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