The public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galicia is now dominated by two key behaviours.
First is the ritualistic washing of hands and the assertion of innocence by some of the most senior ministers of the previous regime. This is immediately followed by the second – the consistent pointing of fingers suggesting that the criminality and corruption that hallmarked that regime was the work of a small cabal of individuals driven by greed, power and ego.
While there is a growing mountain of evidence that clearly supports this view, does it illuminate the full story or does it rather offer a relatively easy ‘get out clause’ for very many others so closely associated with that regime?
In short, is the governance problem now faced by the people of Malta the result of the despicable behaviour of a few ‘bad apples’ or is the system in which they prospered now so corrupted itself that it must be dismantled?
We have been routinely requested to ‘let the institutions of the state work’ against these bad apples. We have also been told that the institutions have actually worked. Is there any sense in which either of these statements could be taken at face value? Are they but another example of the political cant that characterises mainstream Maltese politics? After decades of abuse and deliberate mismanagement, is the architecture of Maltese governance healthy or is it now so compromised that it is in no way fit for purpose?
Is Malta currently a state that has been hijacked by a particular criminal faction in a dominant political party, or is it now so underpinned by criminality that the label ‘mafia’ state begins to make growing sense?
The current situation didn’t just happen. It was actively and purposively created by business and political interests, and not just by bad apples in the Labour Party. Its purpose is revealed in the manner through which almost all public contracts, jobs, assets and opportunities have been systematically sequestered to serve the agendas of those interests. The rights, shared wealth and entitlements of the Maltese people have been cast aside within this system.
So as we hear the evidence in the public inquiry, we need to remind ourselves to identify and name the systemic nature of the corruption being unveiled layer by layer. This amounts to the only realistic way in which we can begin to systematically challenge and eventually dismantle it.
When corrupt individuals get away with evil without punishment, this encourages others to ‘go along with’ or even defend this social norm and in the process corrupt others or force them to collude in this rigged system. This can promote a runaway context in which people defect from what they know to be ethical citizenship and the corruption becomes systemic. In effect, even though individuals themselves may not be corrupt, they nonetheless become corrupted.
Getting rid of the few not just bad but utterly rotten apples will not save Malta. The network of criminal attitudes, practices, institutions and policies, as well as the personalities that sustain them, must also be utterly rejected by all. The tribal party politics that spawn the situation need to be equally rejected.
To allow the current corrupt system to continue in tandem with the criminal behaviour of key individuals would be to give the green light to criminality overall. It would be akin to telling many in business, politics, administration, policing and regulation that corruption is of no consequence. Refusing to recognise the systemic nature of the problem simply ‘ups the ante’ for those predisposed to criminality.
The time is long overdue for all Maltese of goodwill to call a halt. To continue as now is to recklessly court catastrophe.
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