In his first interventions following the referendum result, Prime Minister Muscat embarked on a wonderful exercise in tautology. “Illegal acts will not go unpunished”, he thundered. or something to that effect. The audience was supposed to stand back in admiration (never be condescending to local politicians) and applaud this strong willed PM who was prepared to punish illegalities. Really? Why? Would they have gone unpunished had he not uttered those words?
Then there was the ultimate threat of cutting short the hunting season that had miraculously been declared open without so much as a by-your-leave (so long as the hunter-leaning ORNIS committee says so… backed by Labour of course…then hunt, hunt, hunt). However Muscat did say that he would stop the hunting season should it turn out that there are “flagrant illegalities”. Flagrant eh. We smelt a rat in this blog. The key was obviously in the control Muscat had over what would be termed flagrant and what would not.
Muscat had slipped however. He had tried once again to set the goalposts but in his shocked post-referendum rush (it may be true that he did not expect such a small margin) he failed to choose his words carefully so when first a cuckoo then a lapwing were shot the trend on twitter was rightly #zommkelmtekjoseph and #closetheseason. No amount of pharisee stances on immigrant deaths would change that.
Why had he slipped? Well. He had chosen the word “flagrant” – and, no matter how many stooges he can send to provide a warped definition of the term in the hope that by the time Lilliput settles on the matter the hunting season will have come and gone, the terms meaning is blatantly evident to all. Flagrant does mean blatant, obvious, in your face. There is no implication of gravity or duration over time other than that the violation is so obvious and immediately so.
The latin term “in flagrante delicto” (caught red handed committing a crime) is where we all have got this expression. When you refer to an illegality and you tag the word flagrant you cannot be meaning anything else. Unless, of course, Muscat is prone to amnesia or short-sightedness – the dreaded curse of illegal hunters.
There is no way around this mess other than to admit that flagrant is what flagrant does. And close the damn season.
Addendum: Notes on a hunting season (The Hunter’s Runs)
- Law: We still fail to understand the derogation and how it works. Nobody is asking what justification was given for this hunting season to open. What proof was given that the derogation criteria were fulfilled?
- Work and Play: A postman and a bus driver. Gone are the gentlemen in tweed and their hounds. Classes aside, how far does hunting affect the employment industry? I happened to be in Gozo on the day of the referendum result. A young boy, not more than 12, approached a teacher of his who was dining at table with me. “Don’t expect me in school on Tuesday and Wednesday. I’ll be in the dura with dad.” That’s two schooldays and two workdays out of the economy. How many more of these stories?
- High ground: It is stomach churning enough to see the bodies of the dead washed ashore following the migrant tragedy. It is even more disgusting to see the sudden moral stances being taken by many who had barely bothered with the issue before but who took to the ether to scold those speaking about the shot cuckoo and lapwing. It seems we must become a one-issue nation – for the convenience of a few.
- Education: It strikes me that I learn what a lapwing looks like only after one is shot. If only all this energy were geared into bird spotting, bird watching and a greater national pride in caring and conserving for the birds that pass through this land. If only the hunter and his son who get up early to enjoy nature did so with a good camera, a thermos and a diary for spotting. Would it be so damn difficult not to have to pull the flipping trigger?
We must plant the sea and herd its animals using the sea as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is all about – farming replacing hunting. – Jacques-Yves Cousteau