Loyalty and integrity

“Without a fundamental commitment to the truth – especially in our public institutions and those who lead them – we are lost. As a legal principle, if people don’t tell the truth, our justice system cannot function and a society based on the rule of law begins to dissolve.”

This was written by James Comey in 2018 in his book A Higher Loyalty. Truth, Lies and Leadership.

Comey, was fired as FBI director by Donald Trump. At a bizarre dinner at the White House, Trump had demanded Comey’s personal loyalty, putting aside his duties as FBI Director. Trump pressured Comey to let go of Michael Flynn – his National Security Advisor for 22 days – then under investigation by the FBI. Comey reflects on Trump’s demands for personal loyalty and emphasises that there is a higher loyalty in all of our lives “………….. not to a person, not to a party not to a group. The higher loyalty is to lasting values, most important the truth.”

All this came to mind when reading through Ivan Martin’s encounter with Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer earlier this week. Unfortunately, some know the price of everything but they do not have an inkling on the value of anything.

When the chips are down, our true values emerge. If the real values have been carefully camouflaged, the impact when they emerge in such circumstances may be shocking. What has been carefully hidden from view, all of a sudden emerges in full public view.

Offering money to an investigative journalist to “remunerate him for his services” has switched on many red lights. The attempt at bribing the journalist is bad enough. It also raises the inevitable suspicions that bundles of €500 notes could also possibly be used to influence the judicial process. Only time will tell whether the possible becomes a probable.  Most of us would remember when, in 2002, the then Chief Justice together with another Judge, were bribed to reduce a prison sentence at appeal stage. The then accused who directed the bribery of the judiciary had insignificant wealth when compared to today’s accused.

We must be vigilant. It has happened and it can happen once more.

There is a common thread running through most of the bits of information forming the developing jigsaw puzzle linking all those mentioned in the Caruana Galizia assassination: money and loads of it. It is becoming clearer that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s investigation of the corrupt power station contracts is what led to her assassination. Tainted money was used to purchase access to influence and people that matter. The indications arising are too numerous to be ignored. This is nothing new, however, in the present scenario it is of the utmost significance.

Kudos to Ivan Martin who had the presence of mind not to accept a wad of €500 banknotes. His loyalty to his values as an investigative journalist was automatic. He did not pause to consider whether it was worth sticking his neck out. All of us should be proud of him.

Ivan’s integrity will be remembered for many years to come. His loyalty to his values will undoubtedly reinforce Maltese journalism in these testing times.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 8 November 2020

Leo Brincat: loyalties and lip service

epa04912519 Maltese Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and CLimate change Leo Brincat arrives for an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the conference center in Luxembourg, 04 September 2015. EU Foreign Ministers gather in Luxembourg to discuss on the ongoing refugees and migrant crises. EPA/JULIEN WARNAND

When Leo Brincat gave evidence before the EU Parliamentary Committee on Budgetary Control last week he was, as anticipated, quizzed on his position regarding the Panama Papers.

Leo Brincat made himself crystal clear by stating that he would have submitted his resignation – or else suspended himself from office until such time as matters would have been clarified – had he been himself involved.

He volunteered the information that there had been a point at which he had considered resigning from Ministerial office due to the manner in which the Panama Papers scandal was handled in Malta. He added that, eventually, however, his considerations did not materialise and he did not resign as he had no desire to be a “hero for a day and end up in the (political) wilderness” thereafter.

Then came the fundamental issue: what about his vote against the motion of No Confidence in Minister Konrad Mizzi which was discussed by Malta’s House of Representatives? He emphasised that he could not vote in favour of the No Confidence motion as he was bound by the party’s Parliamentary Whip! It was a basic standard of local politics, based on the Westminister model, he emphasised.

At this point Leo Brincat made it clear to the EU Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee that he had made a very important and fundamental choice: he preferred loyalty to the party whip to loyalty to his principles: those same principles which he has been harping on for ages. When push came to shove, solidarity with Konrad Mizzi took priority over good governance. This is what irked a substantial number of MEPs and prompted them not to recommend the  approval of Leo Brincat as a member of the European Court of Auditors. Leo’s declaration means only one thing: that his statements on good governance are only lip service to which there is no real commitment.

From this point onwards, the issue became one of principle, stated Slovenian Green MEP Igor Šoltes, Vice Chairman of the EU Parliamentary Committee on Budgetary Control and rapporteur on the European Court of Auditors, when interviewed by the local media. How is it possible to expect appointment to the European Court of Auditors and simultaneously give a nod of approval to Konrad Mizzi? Leo’s reluctance to distance himself from Konrad’s misbehaviour was his undoing.

Leo Brincat was considered as being technically qualified for the post of member of the European Court of Auditors but his public behaviour relative to the Panama Papers left much to be desired: it rendered him ethically unqualified.

Most of the information on Malta and the Panama Papers scandal is freely available online. In this day and age, MEPs and their staff, like anyone else, can easily look up all the information they need in an instant. They do not need any prodding by David Casa, Roberta Metsola, Therese Commodini Cachia or anyone else!

The facts are damning enough. Leo Brincat, unfortunately, came across as an ambivalent person who speaks in favour of good governance yet through his vote simultaneously gives support to its negation. Konrad Mizzi’s behaviour,, sanctioned in parliament by the vote of Leo Brincat and his colleagues on the government benches, signifies that the Parliamentary Labour Party in Malta does not care about good governance. Leo Brincat’s failure is quite representative of the Labour Parliamentary group’s behaviour in Malta, as they have all contributed to this mess – the effects of which are yet to come.

In fairness, I must also point out that the press had, at a point in time picked up information about a rowdy Labour Party Parliamentary Group meeting during which Leo Brincat and a number of other MPs (including a number of Ministers ) had argued for Konrad Mizzi’s resignation or removal. It is indeed unfortunate that Joseph Muscat did not feel sufficiently pressured to remove Konrad Mizzi from Cabinet, as that meeting was only followed up with cosmetic changes in Konrad Mizzi’s Cabinet responsibilities.

It is useless to try and shift the blame onto Joseph Muscat and his cronies. While Joseph Muscat is ultimately responsible, this does not exonerate Leo Brincat and each individual member of the Labour Party Parliamentary group; each one of them too must shoulder responsibilities for  failure to act in removing Konrad Mizzi from public office.

At the end of the day there is just one lesson: loyalty to your conscience is not up for bartering.

Xi smajt dwar il-lealta’: għand tal-grocer

greengrocer

Sewwa  għamel Simon meta qal li  għand tal-grocer wieħed  għandu jitkellem u ma jibqax  ħalqu magħluq.

Li jsegwi hu parti minn diskussjoni  għand tal-grocer:

“Jekk tkun ħriġt għall-elezzjoni mal-partit għandek tibqa’ leali lejn il-partit. Intqal f’waħda mill-blogs.”

“U ngħid jiena, jekk il-Kap tal-Partit Lawrence Gonzi ma ħax passi meta l-affarijiet ma jkunux miexja sewwa, u jipprova jgħatti kollox, min mhux leali lejn il-partit?”

“X’jiswa’ li Lawrence Gonzi jippontifka li kulħadd għandu jerfa’ r-responsabbilta’ tiegħu biex imbagħad hu u ta’ madwaru ma jerfawhiex?”

“F’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi iktar kien leali lejn il-partit Franco Debono minn Lawrence Gonzi.”

Lenti fuq ir-rewwixta : 2) Lealta’ tal-lastku

Meta nitkellmu dwar dak li għaddej bħalissa fil-Parlament id-diffikulta għall-pubbliku hi jekk il-Membru Parlamentari jaqbiżx il-linja immaġinarja tal- “lealta’”.

Lejn min għandhom ikunu leali l-Membri tal-Parlament?

Kif nifhimha jiena l-lealta’ tal-Membru Parlamentari dejjem hi lejn dak li jemmen. Li jkun konsistenti miegħu nnifsu u ma dak li tiddettalu l-kuxjenza tiegħu. Imbagħad wara tiġġudika l-istorja.

Hekk għamel il-Membru Parlamentari Għawdxi Kurunat Attard fl-ewwel seduta tal-Parlament fi Frar 1962 meta qasam il-Kamra u abbanduna l-Partit Demokratiku Nazzjonalista (ta’ Herbert Ganado)  u ngħaqad mal-PN ta’ Ġorġ Borg Olivier. Bil-vot tiegħu Borg Olivier fil-Gvern kellu 26 vot minn 50. Mingħajru kellu 25. Mingħajr il-vot ta’ Kurunat Attard  il-Gvern seta’ kellu diffikulta anke’ dwar il-kisba tal-Indipendenza ta’ Malta.  Wara li qasam il-Kamra Kurunat Attard baqa’ jitla’ fil-Parlament elezzjoni wara l-oħra sal-1987 meta ħadet postu fil-Parlament bintu Giovanna Debono. L-istorja tat il-ġudizzju tagħha.

Hekk ukoll għamel Alfred Baldacchino li qasam il-Kamra fl-1974 meta telaq il-PN u ngħaqad mal-Labour. Bil-vot tiegħu il-Gvern Laburista immexxi minn Dom Mintoff kellu 29 vot. Mingħajru kellu 28 minn 55 u ma setax jemenda l-Kostituzzjoni li kif kienet dakinnhar kienet teħtieġ 29 vot favur biex tkun emendata. (L-Ispeaker għalkemm ma kellux vot kien jgħodd bħala membru tal-Kamra. Għalhekk il-maġġoranza rikjesta għall-emendi Kostituzzjonali kienet ta’ nofs 56 li jigi 29. Illum l-Ispeaker m’għadux jingħadd!)

Ġorġ Borg Olivier  laqa’ lill-Kurunat Attard fil-PN. Ma qallux biex ikun leali lejn il-votant u jmur lura fil-Partit Demokratiku Nazzjonalista. Anke Dom Mintoff laqa’ lil Alfred Baldacchino: ma qallux ikun leali lejn il-votanti u jmur lura fil-PN!

Il-lealta’ kif definita fil-Parlament dejjem kienet waħda tal-lastku! Min iġebbed l-iżjed! Kif jaqbel fil-mument.

Il-lealta’ tal-Membru Parlamentari lejn dak li jemmen għandha twasslu biex isostni l-programm elettorali li hu intrabat miegħu waqt il-kampanja elettorali. Huwa dan l-għodda li bih il-Membru Parlamentari jgħarbel lill-Gvern fil-ħidma tiegħu fil-Parlament. Inkluż meta l-Kabinett innifsu jiddevja mill-programm elettorali jew ifittex li jagħmel affarijiet li jkunu inaccettabbli.

Il-Membru Parlamentari huwa obbligat li japoġġa l-programm politiku tal-Partit li f’ismu ġie elett imma għandu ukoll l-obbligu li ma jkunx servili. Il-lealta’ tiegħu m’hiex inkondizzjonata. Irid jimxi m’għajnejh miftuħin beraħ, b’leħen kritiku.

F’dan il-kuntest il-vot ta’ sfiduċja hu miżura estrema li jkun ġustifikat li jintuża biss jekk il-bibien jingħalqu u ma jħallux lill-Membru Parlamentari jagħmel xogħolu.

(darba oħra 3: Il-ġarra ġejja w sejra)