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Over the past two days, there were three important headlines on the local front which deserve to be discussed. Let’s give ourselves a palate cleanser from the bitter aftertaste of COP28 and start with something positive.

Congratulations are due to Manuel Delia and the brilliant team of lawyers who represented him in court: Eve Borg Costanzi, Paul Borg Olivier, and Andrew Borg-Cardona. They were proven right when they insisted that his constitutional right to investigate the deplorable conditions in prison was breached when authorities flatly refused his request to do so.

The ruling, which was delivered on Monday, explicitly orders authorities to allow Manuel to visit the prison without restrictions except for one which only a judge like Tonio Abela could come up with: any area in which high-profile prisoners involved in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder are being kept is off limits. It is a landmark case that bodes well for any future instances in which the government may try to pull the same kind of manoeuvre.

Manuel had filed the case in September 2020, at the time when former prison director Alex Dalli was busy terrorising the daylights out of every prisoner that as much as looked at him funny. I can say ‘terrorising’ with confidence because I had spoken to several individuals whose loved ones were in prison at the time. What they described was nothing short of brutal tyranny.

Meanwhile, shadow justice minister Karol Aquilina, who seems to thoroughly enjoy rattling the monkey bars on the government’s benches in Parliament every now and then, stopped just short of naming names when he claimed that the government is rushing to narrow down the parameters of the law which regulates court mandated freezing orders, ostensibly as a tactic meant to protect disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat from the possibility of having all his assets frozen if he is charged with money laundering.

Sporting his well-trained poker face with its slight, trademark furrow, Muscat denied this was the case and then proceeded to fumble a few words about how he has no faith in the magisterial inquiry which is looking into the greatest heist this country has ever seen: the hospitals concession. Fuck right off and have the dignity to accept that there are consequences for the infuriatingly staggering amount of corruption you were involved in already.

The justice minister, Jonathan Attard – a sniveling loyalist who, incidentally, owes his entire career to Muscat – also denied that the law is being rushed through Parliament and instead attempted to justify it by stating that the amendment is meant to prevent breaching the fundamental rights of alleged money launderers (cry me a river about it).

In its current form, the amendment would essentially narrow down ‘freezable’ assets to those which can be directly linked to illicit activity instead of a dragnet approach that amounts to most, if not all, of the accused’s assets. If you want to learn more about freezing orders, I had written a piece about the subject here.

The third headline I wanted to mention ties together the magisterial inquiry which Muscat is cowering in his boots about, the opposition’s brief flashes of inspiration, and the reason why Attard is allegedly intent on quietly sliding his old boss a cop-out below the table. No word on what Muscat’s piss-soaked boots might cost, although you can read all about his €23,000+ watch and his wife’s beloved collection of expensive, kitschy handbags here if you’d like.

The Nationalist Party also took the state advocate to court following the latter’s refusal to issue legal proceedings with the intent of recovering the hundreds of millions of euros which were gifted to former hospitals concessionaire Vitals Global Healthcare and then, Steward Healthcare. The case was filed following the Opposition’s previous judicial protest against the state advocate, the attorney general, and the police commissioner for failing to initiate any kind of action to hunt down and retrieve the concession money.

The action that is described in the articles I highlighted above is all happening within the immediate radius of the last bastion of hope there is in this country – our courts.

The problem?

The fact that this bastion, one which would ideally serve as a key feature embedded within an imposing fortification to be feared and admired by all, has been under constant siege at the hands of the government itself instead. The ramparts are riddled with craters and those who are manning the walls are running low on provisions and even lower on morale.

It is surreal to think that the judiciary, which normally tends to refrain from passing judgement about institutions unless a case merits it, feels compelled to regularly remind everyone that judges and magistrates are drowning in work and that justice cannot be served in a timely fashion unless the government coughs up more money and personnel.

It is absolutely disgraceful that rule of law in Malta has regressed so much that it takes teams of expert lawyers, independent journalists, and the opposition battling it out with the government on all available fronts for any semblance of justice to emerge. Even then, it is questionable whether justice can truly emerge years later or whether it will simply amount to a shadow of its former self.

Dalli, who remains directly responsible for the 13 suicides which were completed within the three years he was in charge of the prison, is strutting about in his military fatigues in Libya, serving as the Maltese government’s special envoy on a 103,000 salary. He hasn’t faced any consequences for the severe accusations which were made in his regard as former prison director. Ultimately, the authorities’ denial of Manuel’s request did serve its purpose, in the sense that a journalist did not get access to prison when it was most needed.

To date, Muscat remains free to pretend he’s an important person in the pathetic world of football while living it up overseas in his downtime. The co-conspirators whose dirty paws are all over the hospitals concession – fellow disgracees former health and energy minister Konrad Mizzi, former chief of staff to the prime minister Keith Schembri, former economy minister Chris Cardona, former finance minister (now Central Bank governor) Edward Scicluna – remain free, too. The hospitals remain in a state of neglect.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that even with all the obstruction, the lies, the denials, and all the corrupt cronyism they can muster, justice will slowly but surely make its way towards those who deserve to be bludgeoned by it.

When we are up against these kinds of odds, it just takes a long time and a whole lot of people who cannot stand these ghouls for another second to make it happen.

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