July 2013

An online poll on Malta Today shows that some 67% of respondents agree with Joseph Muscat’s proposed push-back policy. It’s just a poll, not a scientific study, however it’s indicative of public sentiment. For the sake of this article, let’s assume that 67% of the Maltese agree with such policy.

One might argue that if the majority is behind Muscat, implementing push back (on which he himself is now backing off indicating he was only using it to threaten the EU) would be democratic.

Thankfully it doesn’t work that way. A majority, even confirmed by elections does not in itself make a democracy. For instance both Putin in Russia and Erdogan in Turkey, were elected with a majority yet both cannot claim to be democratic. The rampant breaches of human rights, especially the persecution of political opponents and journalists make any of these leaders’ claims to be democratic nothing more than a joke, even though they got a majority in the polls.

I remember reading a quote (unfortunately I forgot its author’s name) that depicts all this in a single sentence:

“Would it still be a democracy if 51% of the population voted for the right to kill the other 49% with impunity?”

I think the answer is pretty obvious.

This may sound extreme and hopefully no country will ever arrive in such a dire situation. However it makes a point very clear: Having the support of the majority is still undemocratic if the basic rights of minorities are not respected.

This argument holds true for push-back. For a simple reason. What Muscat proposed was not the deportation of failed asylum seekers (which is completely legitimate) but a deportation that would have been carried out before they even had a right to file for asylum. And asking for asylum is a fundamental human right.

And while I do find the majority on the issue as worrying, I also find them irrelevant. They could have been 90% and still, implementing push back before one even had the chance to ask for asylum would be not only illegal but undemocratic.

It would, among other things, have turned the Maltese government into a very serious human rights abuser that wouldn’t mind breaking my own rights if it’s politically convenient.

Most Maltese know one fact on drug traffickers in prison. The fact that these are, in nearly all cases the small fish in the drug business. Mostly couriers who take huge risk and long prison sentences for little financial profit or drug addicts peddling some drugs to finance their own habit. Most of us know that a kingpin, those getting rich from drug trafficking, rarely ever get caught, let alone convicted.

What most Maltese don’t know is the other fact which is, to put it mildly, much scarier. What many don’t know is that there are people in our prisons who never made a single Euro out of drugs serving a sentence for drug trafficking.

How could this be possible?

Simple. In Malta (contrary to practically all other EU countries and, above all, common sense), sharing is dealing. When two or more people share say, a joint or a stash of heroin they’re not only committing the offence of drug use but also of trafficking – with each other.

This is why, for instance, Daniel Holmes who was never convicted of selling a single milligram of cannabis or that he had the intention to do so, has drug trafficking among his convictions. A charge on which the prosecution had originally asked for life imprisonment.

Daniel Holmes did not cultivate cannabis plants on his own but with a friend. The other guy, called Barry Lee, committed suicide in custody as soon as he came to know what a long term prison sentence he was facing. The plants belonged to both.

When both Daniel Holmes and Barry Lee admitted that they were using the same plants, little did they know that they were admitting to drug trafficking. Daniel Holmes was charged with trafficking with Barry Lee while Barry Lee was charged with trafficking with Daniel Holmes.

The case of Daniel Holmes is one I’m very familiar with. But I’m completely sure there are other people in Maltese prisons serving a sentence on drug trafficking without having ever even considered making money out of drug dealing.

Our laws are so absurd that the following scenario is possible:

A is a drug dealer while B is simply a consumer. A buys the drugs, sells them to B and asks the latter to roll a joint, which he does. They share that joint and get caught red handed smoking it.

A, being a drug dealer thus more street-wise denies everything except for smoking a joint. B, who is greener on these things and gets terrified by the police barking in his face says the truth and admits he actually did roll a joint and give it to A.

With a confession being the most powerful evidence against you and A being street-savvy hiring a good, expensive lawyer, there is the possibility that B goes to jail for drug trafficking while A gets a conditional discharge or a suspended sentence for simple possession.