The Malta Independent 22 September 2017, Friday

Joseph Muscat and trust

Stephen Calleja Wednesday, 7 December 2016, 09:09 Last update: about 11 months ago

While there is so much public anger about the long list of scandals in which the government is embroiled, this rage is not translated into public outcry and disdain against the people involved and others who are defending them, including the Prime Minister.

Surveys have shown that a sizeable chunk of the population believes that corruption is rampant, but the same respondents are then the first to say that this government and its Prime Minister should be given another chance. It should be one thing or the other. Otherwise it would mean that corruption is being accepted and condoned.

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Would you return to buy from a shop whose salesman misled you into thinking that the product you are buying is perfect, only for you to find out when you go back home that it is broken and cannot be used?

Neither can I understand why Prime Minister Joseph Muscat remains so trusted by the people, according to the same surveys, when he reneged on his promise to resign if the gas-fired power station was not completed in two years. We are now close to doubling that timeframe and the power station is still not in operation, but the PM is still there. Politicians who do not stick to their word should be kicked out, not supported.

In nearby Italy, Matteo Renzi resigned minutes after he lost the referendum on the constitutional reform. I do not like the man one bit, but I praise him as a politician who kept the promise he made with the Italian people. Muscat, who considers Renzi as one of his idols and with whom he shares a common feature called arrogance, should take a leaf out of his friend’s book.

The PM cannot be trusted also because he failed to deal with the Panama Papers scandal in an appropriate way – that is by sacking Konrad Mizzi – and now he is facing the consequences of his inaction. No other minister can now be punished by Muscat for any inappropriateness, simply because no scandal has exceeded the level reached by Konrad Mizzi when he opened a secret company in Panama.

And so, once it was decided that Konrad Mizzi retains the title of minister, any other minister involved in a (smaller) disgrace cannot be expected to resign. Neither can the Prime Minister force such resignation or eliminate the culprit. It is therefore no wonder that Evarist Bartolo is hanging on. “If Konrad didn’t go, then why should I?” he must be arguing in the wake of allegations regarding the way he handled accusations of corruption which, on the whole, do not involve him in person. I don’t blame him.

There are other things.

Muscat’s placing of flowers at the foot of Raymond Caruana’s grave on the 30th anniversary of his murder is nothing but a political stunt. Government-friendly media made a big deal, depicting it as a gesture of goodwill and reconciliation, but it’s nothing more than an attempt to gain mileage out of what was one of the darkest days in Malta’s political history. It would have been better for Joseph Muscat to have publicly apologised to Pietru Pawl Busuttil, the man who was wrongly accused of that murder in what was the frame-up of the century.

It is also so hypocritical of Labour to make such a big fuss of Malta’s European Union presidency when it fought tooth and nail against Malta’s EU membership. We wouldn’t be here if they had it their way in 2003.

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