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MALTATODAY 4 October 2020

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2 maltatoday EXECUTIVE EDITOR Matthew Vella MANAGING EDITOR Saviour Balzan Letters to the Editor, MaltaToday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016 E-mail: Letters must be concise, no pen names accepted, include full name and address maltatoday | SUNDAY • 4 OCTOBER 2020 Rule of law concerns PM must act upon Editorial AT the time of writing this leader, we do not know who will emerge as new PN leader. But we do know, from the drab campaign that preceded today's choice for the embattled Op- position, that Malta's next general election will be fought between a strong Labour Party, headed by a Prime Minister who took over from a belea- guered Labour administration with deeply trou- bled baggage; and an outsider lawyer who will still need to close an enormous trust gap kept wide open since 2013, if he is to stand a chance of tak- ing the PN into power. We also have key indications of what the PN can expect as of today. Both candidates come with baggage of their own: Delia's financial problems are, of course, already widely known; but even Bernard Grech, who politically started off with a clean slate, has had his squeaky-clean image tar- nished by reports of a history of tax evasion. Sim- ply put, Grech's behaviour – when still below the radar – did not match the high standards expect- ed of an aspiring Prime Minister. Indeed, both Delia and Grech will lack the mor- al authority to clamp down on widespread tax evasion, and to nurture a much-needed sense of fiscal morality in the country. Nor can either real- istically challenge the government on political im- punity. For while the self-employed may identify with the fiscal troubles of both leaders, they will surely remind both PN candidates of their own tax record when faced with tax investigations. Of course, Delia's and Grech's sins appear ve- nial compared to the Panama scandal of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri. But by ditching these toxic elements, Labour may ironically turn the tables onto the fiscal morality of the incoming Opposition leader. Still, nothing should detract public attention from the problems of Malta's government and society under the weight of the Caruana Galizia assassination and public inquiries. But not only will the PN have to contend with trying to win trust from Labour by hitting out at its governance record; it has to yet to settle its problematic identity crisis, with both candidates hailing from a socially conservative wing of the party. Grech had campaigned against the introduction of divorce in 2011; he started his campaign by opening up to a debate on abortion, and prom- ising to respect a referendum on such issues. But his attempt to reach out to liberals faced a backlash from conservatives, and Grech quickly committed himself to resign if abortion is ever approved by referendum. Such U-turns illustrate that the PN still lacks a clearly-defined political identity; and this leaves the party vulnerable to manipulation, by a Labour government that has often – very successfully – exploited this internal divide by pushing through its liberal agenda. The choice of a new leader was an opportunity to address this identity crisis, once and for all. As things stand, any outcome will not provide a solu- tion to the deep crisis the Opposition is currently in. Not just yet. No room for complacency This week saw the release of the EU's first-ever rule of law report. Malta has registered a degree of success: under Prime Minister Robert Abela, we have seen an all-important response to the Venice Commission recommendations on judicial appointments and separation of powers. And although the report concludes that there is room for further improvement, Abela has set the bar high with the removal of Konrad Mizzi, the non-reappointment of Chris Cardona, as well as the punishing but necessary resignation of Justyne Caruana. However, he cannot afford to rest on his laurels. The report found that "deep corruption pat- terns have been unveiled", which have raised a strong public demand for a significantly strength- ened capacity to tackle corruption and wider rule of law reforms. "A track record of securing convictions in high-level corruption cases is lacking. A broad reform project has been launched to address gaps and strengthen the institutional anti-corruption framework, including law enforcement and pros- ecution." This newspaper shares this concern: deep-seat- ed corruption patterns are not only existent, but there are deep patterns of organised criminality in Malta which remain unchecked. Once again, as often referenced in this newspaper, this organised criminality has a thread that runs right through the Caruana Galizia assassination and the gang- land murders that preceded it. No overindulged view of Malta's 'serenity' can change the fact of our island's dark underbelly. Abela and his ministers should not hope that this will go away. It will cost them dearly if they make inaction on rule of law and criminality their hallmark. 3 October, 2010 Contractor challenges minister to sue him for libel TURNKEY Projects director Charles Magro has reiterated everything he made public about "(Finance Minister) Tonio Fenech's private villa and JPM Brothers Limited," a company owned by the Montebello brothers regarding works at his private residence. Magro was replying to a press statement is- sued by the Finance Minister on 26 September 2010. In a statement issued yesterday morning, Ma- gro insisted that he was not going to withdraw "a single word of what I have said and every inter- view that I might made about this case." Magro challenged Fenech to "sue [him] for libel as soon as possible" if he thought that chat Magro had said was a lie. "I do not have anything to fear because what I have said is the truth and the reality." Magro also revealed that he was going to take an oath on what he had said "and pass it on to the press at the right moment." Regarding his employment at Enemalta, Magro also challenged the finance minister to "check [his] working records at any time, he should find that I have a good conduct." "I wholeheartedly await Fenech to sue me for libel so that I would have the occasion of re- peating in Court what I have already told Edgar Galea Curmi, who works at Prime Minister Law- rence Gonzi's office," Magro concluded. On 8 November 2005, MaltaToday had re- vealed that Fenech was embroiled in a dispute with Rainbow Turnkey Projects, owned by Ma- gro, who claimed they have not been paid in full for works carried out at his house. According to Magro – who was subcon- tracted by JPM Brothers to carry out the ren- ovation – JPM director Peter Montebello told him the works were a favour in return for the minister's intervention in the sale of the Jerma hotel to entrepreneurs George Fenech and Joe Gasan. Fenech had vehemently denied acting as a broker in the sale – which was understood to have fallen through – and on 9 November 2009 filed a judicial protest against this newspaper, demanding an apology. ... Quote of the Week "I always had a soft spot for the United States and its people… nut I have a larger soft spot for the sovereignty of an independent and free Malta, and its neutrality" Labour MEP and former PM Alfred Sant on reports of a SOFA with the United States MaltaToday 10 years ago

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