01 October 2014

The ‘art’ Of survival and dealing with ‘terrorists’

 - Tuesday, 01 May 2012, 00:00

by Leo Brincat

Sun Tzu might have come up with his own strategy on the art of war, but Lawrence Gonzi seems to be trying to hone to perfection the ‘art’ of political survival. Even at the expense of his credibility

By survival, I do not only mean that of his government but his own survival at the helm of the government and the party. Time has shown how right we were when we had claimed that the secret vote by his own party delegates had not solved anything or eased or abated the political tensions and uncertainty within the country.

A friend recently told me that the PN will do anything to cling on to power.

My instant reply was that they will not only do anything… but everything.

The more Gonzi and his coterie believe that the elections can be winnable if they rely as they did in 2008 on the powers of incumbency, the more they are likely to continue going that extra mile under the pretext of being perceived as not yielding an inch of ground to the Opposition or the so-called ‘terrorists’ within.

Recently The Malta Independent editorial argued that perhaps the PM is now putting into practice the credo of not negotiating with ‘terrorists’ or perhaps he is simply unwilling to let one of his ministers’ heads roll because one of his MPs is demanding it.

I am quite sure that Carm Mifsud Bonnici is expendable for the Gonzi administration, the same way that he is reported to have been sidelined by the inner circle close to Gonzi. But Gonzi is wise enough to realise that any vote of no confidence in one of his ministers will ultimately reflect badly on him as Prime Minister as well as on his own administration.

This is ultimately a power game, the bare truth about which was betrayed by Dr Zammit Dimech on TV recently when he tried to give the false impression that the PN’s uppermost priority right now is to see the Budget approved by parliament, to make sure that the people at large will benefit fully from its key measures.

Were this indeed the case, the PN would not have procrastinated so much in bringing this crucial vote to the boil.

In spite of having presented a late Budget in early 1997, the PL administration had seen the Budget through its various stages much earlier than Gonzi will be doing this time.

If the PN really had the budgetary measures and their implementation so much at heart, they would not have attempted to play the juggler’s or tight rope walker’s game by fanning some 16 different bits of legislation on the parliamentary agenda, only to use every trick in the book to shift the said agenda according to their own whims and fancies. So long as they continued to postpone as long as they could the crucial vote on the Budget Measures Implementation process.

The same PN MP argued rather feebly that he expected us to congratulate his government for setting the date for the Budget vote when until recently we had been criticising it for not saying when the vote would be taken.

This has nothing to do with the core issue itself.

Government procrastinated for these reasons – to extend its own political life as much as possible, do everything possible to try and get its own act together and rev up its own attempts at exercising the powers of incumbency to the hilt.

No wonder reports regarding the use of Villa Francia as a party/government nerve centre to mastermind the campaign were never denied although these had long featured repeatedly in the local media.

Knowing Gonzi, he will try to revive the PN’s flagging spirits by using the 25th anniversary of the PN’s 1987 electoral victory after 16 long years in Opposition. This explains why 9 May was expressly chosen as the date for the crucial parliamentary vote on the Budget.

How Debono will vote then is surely not something that we are privy to.

What solely matters as far as we are concerned is that our long-pending motions are treated with the urgency that they deserve.

On the other hand, if they will choose to rely on any means – including a Speaker’s ruling – to ‘defeat’ our urgent request, they will merely justify further our long-standing claims that they are power hungry and defiant in putting party interests before the national interest as well as the revival of the economy.

I will not speculate as to when an election is most likely and whether they will go the whole hog or else whether an autumn election appears to be more likely in the present scenario.

Do not be surprised if they will depend on a Speaker’s ruling regarding the urgent motions or else on the Speaker’s casting vote to pass a similar Budget Bill as the PL did in government in 1997/1998.

Most likely they will cite such precedents rather than recalling how vocal they had been in criticising them and rubbishing them at the time. What Dr Gonzi is not realising is that he is constantly and progressively losing credibility in the process by using his chosen bloggers to rubbish the rebel PN MP while at the same time trying to send messengers and envoys to appease him and buy ‘peace’ while doing his utmost to hide his own frustration as a party leader and Prime Minister that he simply cannot continue to bend over backwards to appease him as much as he has done in the not too distant past.

I have been told by reliable sources close to the PN that there are three lines of thought within the party in government.

• Those who think the elections are still winnable;

• Those who hope that through the powers of incumbency they can reduce a would-be PL majority to a one-seat majority in order to be able to attempt to destabilise us from day one;

• Those whose sole task in the coming months will be to try and rubbish the whole PL team as a power hungry bunch of incompetents.

Meanwhile, this has proved to be a week in which government continued to end up with egg on its face.

We had the Finance Minister continuing to drag his feet on publishing the findings of the inquiry into the Mercaptan’s scandal.

We had a star witness alleging in Court that regarding the super yachts scandal, a pivotal Mimcol official had told Court that he had urged the finance minister in vain to report anonymous allegations of impropriety to the commissioner of police, but that the finance minister was reluctant to do so – a claim that the PN-friendly media ignored completely.

We also had further proof of the constituted bodies’ frustrations, when the MHRA’s repeated calls for an urgent discussion on the alarming state of affairs within Enemalta was postponed once again within the MCESD in spite of previous commitments and promises to do so.

Meanwhile, the Gonzi show will continue to drag on. Most probably way, way beyond summer while the wheels of the powers of incumbency will continue to spin faster. So will the demonisation campaign against the PL as it did last Sunday. N. Korea and all!

This article was filed for publication before last night’s parliamentary sitting

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