The youth known as Il-Benghazi was unfortunate enough to be the hunter who would bear the brunt of his companions’ anger – the one who would be the ultimate scapegoat in this charade that has been the 2015 Malta Spring Hunting season. I say unfortunate when I mean that this fool deserves the full force of the law for his brazenly ignorant action of shooting down a kestrel close to the precincts of a private school and in full view of kids.
The charade ended much in the same fashion as it had begun – with an imperial tweet by his excellency the prime minister exercising what seems to be his own prerogative of opening and shutting the spring hunting season at will. The biggest loser is of course the law – the rule of law. A season that should never had been (legally) whose foundation was (legally) challenged in a failed referendum and that was kept open at the mercy of a questionable prerogative of a prime minister came to an end and the scapegoat was punished in a court of law that also acted rather questionably when it came to reasoning with the FKNK and KSUmbertu’s presence.
We now have time for a Bird’s Eye View of what happened and of the damage caused – both civic and political (not to mention the dead birds and injured little dutch boy). Let’s do this in steps:
1. The season should never have opened. The lie of the automatic prerogative was spread by the Prime Minister the day after the referendum ended. The wheels had already been put in motion by the puppet ORNIS committee recommendations. No whiff of how and why the derogation criteria would be satisfied. We still act as though hunting is a god given right sanctioned by an EU directive. Even the people behind the NO campaign have much to blame for this. No education.
2. Muscat’s tricks. They’re wearing thin. I’m sure he is painfully aware of the fact that nobody was impressed by the last minute “iron fist” approach when the season would have ended anyway within three mornings. Well, some people might still swallow the line that Muscat was being tough with his “last chance” talk with the hunters – and they might be convinced by the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the presumed 9,500 innocents vaunted by Lino Farrugia who are being “punished” for the wrongdoing of a few.
3. That last statement. This idea that hunting is a right and that there is this Imperial Prerogative in the hands of a government to open and shut the season so long as the hunters “behave”. That’s dangerous reasoning that results from the erroneous thinking outlined in point one above. Even Magistrate Depasquale confusingly spoke of FKNK’s interest in the case against the last hunter as being one of an “injured party”. Really? Under what law exactly? Before Magistrate Depasquale was a man who had broken a clear cut law – his crime would exist whether or not the hunting season was open because the man shot at a kestrel (near a school) which is a bird that cannot ever be hunted. How then do the FKNK feature in this? Are the hallowed courts of law to fall into the trap of the political twisting of our laws?
4. This is not the end. It is the beginning. Muscat has lost most of his street cred with hunters. Busuttil cannot illude himself of some kind of tryst with the deluded lover. He must move fast and do it now. The time is ripe for the PN to reflect on its policy towards hunting. It has all that is needed on a plate – a directive with clear conditions and one that is intended to safeguard the environment and protect the fauna that flies over and in the islands. All the PN needs is to commit to applying the letter of the law. That would mean never again abusing of the weakness of the derogation, it could mean championing the cause of conservation and severely limiting hunting rights to what is allowed by law and by scientific testing. Heck, why not go all out and promote a policy of turning the island’s reputation over its head and transforming it into a bastion of nature observation and conservation?
Yes, the referendum did bring about some “good” when it came to voters not following the leaders. Interest may thin out now that the season is over. For the leaders among us this is no time to be complacent. In less than eleven months time the hunters will be back knocking on the door for a new spring season. No prizes for guessing that the best prepared for that eventuality will come out the victors for the future.
Just as I finished typing I checked the news and there it was: Muscat not ruling out the spring hunting season opening in 2016. As though it were up to him to decide.