A few days ago, my friend Edward Debono commented about an article I wrote regarding the message sent by Christian Peregin to Nationalist deputies for them to campaign and promote 12 proposals based on the recommendations made by the Three Judges and presented by the Nationalist Party.
My friend Edward told me “isn’t it better that you comment on the 12 proposals for good governance instead of trying to kindle the fire”. Edward Debono is a leading lawyer in what concerns rent laws and has fought assiduously against the injustices perpetrated by this law for which we are still suffering the consequences. And for this, I salute him. However, does he not feel that one or two of the Nationalist Party’s proposals are going to create further injustices?
Hence, I have great misgivings regarding some of the laws being proposed by the Nationalist Party. Let me mention the first one. The first proposal is that if a person is a member of an association that can be described as having mafia ramifications or remotely of a mafia-type, this is criminal and its members can be taken to court. To be precise, according to this proposed law, it is a criminal act to be a member of an association or of a group having mafia characteristics. The word association is very vague indeed and can have many different definitions and interpretations. This is how the Times of Malta described this proposed law: “Introducing a law to criminalise associations with a mafia-like character”.
And what does the Nationalist Party understand by this phrase ”associations with a mafia-like character”? What does it understand by the word character? And what does the Party understand by the word mafia? I here need to remind you that Manuel Delia has called me a Mafioso. This means that with this proposed law, I can end up in court because Manuel Delia has called me a Mafioso. I have also been called a Fascist by Manuel Delia. Do not doubt that a number of his followers believe that I am both a Mafioso and a Fascist. Therefore, according to this proposed law, I can be accused of being a Mafioso and also a Fascist because Manuel Delia has said so. In certain countries being a Fascist is a criminal offence.
And how am I going to know what a person belonging to the Mafia does? This is an extremely vague term and has many connotations. Or what is precisely meant by an association with Mafia characteristics? Whether an association is a criminal one or a violent one, the laws have already been enacted and are in place. Therefore, why is this new law being proposed? Could it be that it is being proposed to be in line with that famous “hate speech” law? All the police would need is to round up ten (10) witnesses who believe or think that I am a Mafioso or a member of an association having mafia characteristics because I wrote something not to the liking of certain individuals and at present what I have written does not fall under “hate speech” and that’s it.
In this manner, a Facebook group or page can soon change into an association with mafia characteristics, and those who comment become Mafiosi. All that is needed are a couple of journalists who spin a yarn about some comment or other. Then when you attempt to criticize them or reveal their duplicity, they come out with another law that the Nationalists are expected to pass which is that regarding “Amending the Constitution to entrench the right to a free press” to shut you up. This is not an amendment to “free speech” but an amendment to protect journalists who can say whatever they like and when you criticise them they insult you – as in my case – by saying that I am attacking them and threatening the free press and thus any comment concerning any journalist becomes punishable by imprisonment and fines.
We have already had the first test. Fr. David Muscat is going to be accused of “Hate speech” and all the police needs is to call up ten individuals to testify that they felt offended by what Fr. David Muscat said or wrote. This is how absurd and extremely dangerous the law being proposed by the Nationalist Party is.
Would it not be better not to continue with all these schizophrenic legalities? These are dangerous laws. Today, they are hitting Fr Muscat. Tomorrow, they could strike you. Perhaps, you could say that you would not make a statement that could appear homophobic because I am not going to pass any comment regarding gays because I am not interested in gayyaġni. Nevertheless, a political comment can quickly be interpreted as having Mafia characteristics and if I am described and rubber-stamped a Mafioso, those who are members of my group on Facebook could start being considered members of an association with mafia characteristics. After all, anybody can comment disapprovingly of some journalist or other, and immediately whoever passed the comment can find himself or herself in Court accused of breaking Constitutional law because he or she attacked the free press! This is how dangerous just two of the laws that Peregin wishes to introduce and raise a kerfuffle using the Nationalist deputies.