Muscat reacted like a cornered man, while Abela launched a frontal attack
“Those who are trying to pick on you should think carefully – to touch you they must first roll over us, the absolute majority of this country. Now is the time for action – we have been putting up for far too long.” This was the ominous message Emanuel Cuschieri sent publicly to Joseph Muscat on the day Muscat’s house was searched as part of the magisterial inquiry into the Vitals hospitals deal.
That intimidating message was incited by Muscat’s own vicious reaction to the morning raid. As the wheels of justice slowly start to turn, Muscat finds himself cornered, his name cropping up in all of the country’s corruption investigations. And, in his trademark style, Muscat’s response was savagely ferocious. He fired threats and warnings propagating conspiracy theories, as vague and nebulous as they were ridiculous.
“If there is anybody who thought that by doing this I will be intimidated or that I will be silenced, the result will be the opposite,” he threatened. “The result will be that, if necessary, I will speak out, how I want, when I want and where I want.” What is Muscat threatening to speak out about? What does he know that might jeopardise the position of those holding the reins of power? Who is he targeting?
“Next Saturday is my birthday… I will turn a new leaf. I spent the last two years trying to be as quiet as possible but from the third year I will be more vocal, I will speak more over the internet and even face to face,” Muscat warned. “This story won’t stop here,” he scowled.
The dark brooding Facebook video was his first but certainly not his last, Muscat cautioned. He lashed out ferociously. He accused Jason Azzopardi of privately chuckling “you’ll see what’s going to happen to Joseph Muscat”.
He sowed doubts about the integrity of the magistrate leading the inquiry and accused her of taking the “theatrical route”. He fumed that no home searches of those behind the Egrant “lies” were conducted. He insinuated that journalists had been told about the raid and had turned up to report it. He charged that somebody was trying to humiliate him. Who did Muscat have in mind? Who is he accusing? Why so cryptic?
Muscat presents himself as the poor victim of some malicious evil conspiracy, led by Azzopardi, the despicable overlord of the judiciary and the entire police force.
But if Muscat’s savage and desperately ridiculous protestations were expected, Robert Abela’s frontal attack on the magistrate is in another league altogether. His outright threats against the judiciary have no place in a European democracy, particularly one under the spotlight for its atrocious record on the rule of law.
“We gave our full trust to the institutions, we gave them complete resources to fulfil their duties. Naturally, our institutions must use that trust and those resources solely for the strict administration of justice and for no other aim,” Abela warned.
And if that threat was not clear enough, he emphasised: “My message is that this government has put its full trust in the institutions, those institutions must be very careful to retain that trust every day”.
Abela is accusing the institutions of using their power for some “other aim”. He was critical of the magistrate, stating that “the magistrate has the power to request this but that power must be used within the limits of justice always and for no other aim”. That “other aim” again. Why can’t Abela tell us clearly what he is referring to? What does he have in mind? What is he accusing the judiciary of?
Robert Abela is playing with fire. His irresponsible statements risk fuelling tensions and partisan rivalries on the eve of an election- Kevin Cassar
Abela is sounding a sinister warning. If the judiciary acts in ways that displease his government, he will have no hesitation in withdrawing trust and resources. The judiciary deserves what’s coming its way for betraying the trust of his government. All other institutions should take heed, for Abela’s warning applies to them too. You step on Labour’s toes at your own risk. As Cuschieri bullied, the absolute majority of this country is ready for action – “just call and I’ll be near you, and I won’t be alone, there will be thousands with me”.
It won’t be the first time either. On June 19, 1987, former Labour minister Lorry Sant led a mob of Labour diehards into Valletta where 11 of them were due to be charged in court with abuses and irregularities at Żejtun polling stations during the general election. The mob ransacked the courts, destroyed documents and police vehicles and attacked the police. They burnt court records and files. They attacked the police station in Valletta and two of the witnesses who were inside waiting to give evidence.
The court case had to be adjourned due to the chaos that reigned in the law courts. Magistrates’ chambers were set on fire and firearms that were held in court were stolen. Some of the court documents were carried outside and burned in the street. Shops in Valletta were attacked and looted. Several Labour supporters required hospital treatment due to injuries sustained when they broke shop windows in an attempt to loot. Former Labour minister Joe Debono Grech was among those Labour thugs.
On August 25, 1987, when witnesses finally started to give evidence in court, Labour supporters attacked Auberge de Castille, throwing stones at the windows and overturning the cannons on the steps of the office of the prime minister.
All this happened with a Nationalist government in office. Things could get far worse with Labour at the helm.
Abela is playing with fire. His irresponsible statements risk fuelling tensions and partisan rivalries on the eve of a general election.
Muscat will not moderate his rhetoric. Indeed, he has made his intentions clear. He will become more outspoken, more bellicose and more vitriolic.
Nothing good can come of prime ministerial threats to the judiciary. Abela would do well to reflect very carefully what he is embarking on.