14 AUGUST 2002
A cultural problem
The resignation of two judges has not closed the chapter on an otherwise ugly affair. It should, if anything, pose some questions to why this has happened in the first place.
Sceptics will say; at last!
We will attempt to answer these questions in the context of our cultural and social experiences.
It is normal in Malta to accept gifts and commissions. One does not reach the top if one does not fit the mould. It is not abnormal to ask for favours in return for something.
Needless to say, the judges mortal mistake reflects a decadence that only proves that there are no limits to how low we can stoop to earn that extra dime.
It starts at school, where students flood their teachers with gifts. No one within the schooling structure has ever considered suggesting that this kind of habit infects a teachers objectivity when assessing pupils performance.
No one seems to have noticed that presenting gifts to teachers in Germany and France is considered as grossly unethical.
It continues to certain bank managers who are inundated with luxurious and expensive gifts from some of their clients and to some notaries and lawyers, who put their seal on contracts and conceal the real values of sales.
The decadence infiltrates tendering procedures, which are poisoned with illicit lobbying.
But it does not stop here, the politicians, the ones who gladly wash their hands clean whenever their canvassers or supporters run into trouble, are laden with freebies from businessmen and interested parties alike.
True, certain politicians earn little or no money, but then assessing what they receive in terms of gifts far outweighs what they earn.
What is considered as the norm in Malta is considered as serious fraud and abuse in other countries.
Tax evasion is so widespread in Malta that it is unthinkable that anyone could end up in prison as a result of their illegal activities.
Rumours abound, but are difficult to prove, of officers in government service who take bribes and of others who seek commissions to speed up applications.
Indeed, there are certain rituals that have become acceptable in Maltese society but are considered unacceptable in other societies.
When in 1992 the Commission investigating corruption was called in to investigate the infamous auxiliary workers scheme, one of the presiding judges (today on the commission for the administration of justice) would not clearly condemn the political patronage that supported the scandalous state of affairs - even though the scheme became a playing ground for canvasers and hotheads, and the government files pertaining to the case were burgled on election day in 1992 and Lm4 million spent was unaccounted for.
There are so many other examples.
When in 1999 the MDC was led by a Chairman who also served as a financial consultant, no one cared to notice that some of the MDC clients were being channelled to the personal consultancy services of the Chairman himself.
When it comes to developers and speculators, one can only refer to the hordes of scientists who make it their profession by cooking up impact studies to suit the needs and requirements of the developers - to ensure that at the MEPA level little or no opposition is rekindled.
This country is one of favours, nepotism and networking. It is no different to Belgium, Tunisia and Sicily. We too have our unique system of omertà and a scratch my back and I will scratch yours attitude.
It involves the vast majority of voters, entrenched in a system based on clientele-ism - governed by the thought process that I will give you my vote if you serve my specific interests.
This is itself the biggest problem of all.
The judges who acted so foolishly probably believed that if everyone else can get away with it, why cant they?