The Malta Independent 20 August 2017, Sunday

Keith Schembri: the albatross round Malta’s neck

Daphne Caruana Galizia Thursday, 18 May 2017, 11:09 Last update: about 4 months ago

Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, is not just a problem for the government and the Labour Party. He is a massive problem for the country, and what’s worse, a problem with no end in sight if Muscat is re-elected to power. And this is because Muscat has no intention of getting rid of him. Not only are they extremely close, but Schembri is a crucial part of Muscat’s now infamous 15-year roadmap, now reduced to 14 years (five in Opposition and nine in government).

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Some people say that Schembri is a problem for Muscat, but I don’t agree with that. Problems are matters which afflict us despite our best efforts to avoid them, and which we try to eliminate or ameliorate. Problems are not situations, people or things which we embrace. A problem child is one thing – our daughters and sons are ours always, no matter how problematic – and those who firmly believe that marriage is for life think similarly about problematic spouses. But a problematic friend is another thing altogether. We can leave those behind. And a problematic chief of staff is somebody you sack, not somebody you cling to and defend.

I happen to think that Keith Schembri is by far the bigger problem for the country than Joseph Muscat is. Those two are partners in crime, it is true, but there is no doubt in my mind as to who controls whom. It is Schembri who manages Muscat and not the other way around. As a couple of schemers, they work extremely well together, but whereas Schembri has made it amply evident that he can scheme his way through shady deals outside the world of politics, and is using his political clout to improve his access to people and situations through which he can maximise his secret money-making opportunities, Muscat has no access to money deals outside politics and needs his clout as prime minister for that kind of influence, just as he used his clout as prime-minister-in-waiting.

What we have here is an arch political schemer working in tandem with an arch illicit-deal-making schemer. They are totally dependent on each other in using the wheels and contacts of government to their own avaricious ends. But if it all blows up in their faces, Schembri’s chances of survival in the world outside politics are greater than Muscat’s, which are negligible. Of course, if Muscat is voted out of power and the police begin to do their duty, both he and Schembri face an extensive investigation for corruption, money-laundering, trading in influence and tax evasion. Muscat repeatedly says that there is no proof against him. But this is what is known as “plausible deniability”. He has worked things out so that he can say that none of this has anything to do with him. But let us be brutally factual here: he knows exactly what Keith Schembri is up to, and yet he defends and protects him. That can mean only one thing, and it really isn’t pretty or reassuring.

Even those screaming loudly for something they call PROOF know, if they are honest with themselves, that if they discovered that their business partner, their employee, their trusted aide, the manager they put in charge of their shop, was found through overwhelming evidence to have been cheating and taking, they would kick him out on his ear and call the police. If they wanted to keep things quiet, they wouldn’t call the police, but seek to come to some arrangements. But either way, the man would be out on his ear, the friendship or relationship would end, and mistrust and anger replace it.

Whatever ‘it’ may be, those two are in it together. They are working against the interest of the country and its citizens, but they depend on our votes to keep them in power and doing what they do: cheating us, striking sleazy deals behind our backs, blacking out contracts, and turning over Malta’s public hospitals to unknown persons hidden behind nominees in the British Virgin Islands. I think that if we are ever fortunate enough to discover the ultimate beneficial owner/s of Vitals Global Healthcare Ltd, to which Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat have signed over so many of our state hospitals, we are in for a bit of an ugly surprise. Or perhaps it will be no surprise at all, but merely confirm what so many have been suspecting all along.

www.daphnecaruanagalizia.com

 

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