The Malta Independent 24 September 2017, Sunday

Creating the scenario for a political jury again

Michael Asciak Sunday, 10 September 2017, 08:39 Last update: about 15 days ago

I am not in the PN's administration nor am I a member of the party's executive although I have been a member of both in the distant and not too distant past. Therefore, in current parlance I am not a "klikka" guy. I am however, a party member and currently the secretary of the ex-MPs section in the party. I have a brain and a vote in the current electoral process to elect a new leader.

The situation currently unfolding before us for the election of a new leader is unfortunate. I say this because in the post-election period, there is much anger when there is an election loss, which I have always considered inevitable given the circumstances of the day and I do not really blame anybody in particular for the result although mistakes were made. The biggest mistake was turning the general election into a political jury on corruption when every lawyer worth his salt knows that these are very difficult if not impossible to win because people vote with emotions, not reason, in these cases. The election for the party leader going on now has unfortunately been turned into another political jury and the outcome is therefore likely to be predictable. I have given advice to the PN administration on matters on which I am Emotions win over reason in a political milieu, and crowds, unless emotions are tempered with a good dose of reason, will be unstoppable. considered an expert academically, but unfortunately, this advice was always ignored to the final disadvantage of the party. Among others things, I had told the party on the issue of gay marriage was that they should take a position which they did, but I warned them to allow a free vote in Parliament due to voter sensibilities on the issue as it would cause a furore and cause a furore it did. This episode stoked the anger even more. This was the prelude to what is happening now, as any moral rectitude by the party was lost in the ruckus that ensued.

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In the election for a new party leader, the PN administration needed to react to serious allegations by an independent journalist that one of the contenders has a Jersey offshore account which was being used for money laundering and which wittingly or unwittingly was being used to launder or layer monies from prostitution activities in Soho. This is a very serious charge given the present political climate, because government members and ministers are doing the same thing to avoid taxes and to launder ill-gotten gains and the PN has held then to account on this issue. The facts presented accompanied by documentation, which was published on social media, are there for all to see and nobody has yet refuted or explained them away to any substantial or acceptable degree. The retort that he did not know about this, or that the British police did not take action against him does not even start to satisfy reason.

Offshore accounts are set up with the aim of hiding money to avoid paying tax and allow money laundering. That there was sufficient evidence presented on social media and other newspapers that prompted party members to ask for clarification on these issues from the current party administration is a fact that speaks for itself. More so since many members were unwisely reasoning now that if you cannot beat them then join then and in order to fight fire with fire one needed a not so clean leader to weed out Joseph Muscat's team. The biggest calamity that can befall the PN is to accept a priori corruption as a 'given' in politics.

The PN administration rightly set up an ethics board composed of very valid individuals who concluded that according to the evidence provided by the particular candidate, there was no satisfactory explanation from the candidate in question. As regards the presence of the undeclared offshore account in Jersey in an HSBC Bank, this account was not being used to launder money from prostitution. The next step is completely incredulous and a huge mistake. Rather than sanction the candidate and terminate his candidacy as needed logically and ethically to be done and if necessary even restart the whole process again, the PN administration got cold feet and proceeded to repeat the same mistake it had made in the general election. It decided on a political 'jury' where the voters themselves would be decision makers on this issue.

Immediately, the emotional game started again even calling Joseph Muscat and his minion ministers as witnesses in the trial, asking whether their "alleged" offshore Egrant and other accounts were real or not. The contender's supporters were actually agreeing with the PL in government that there was not enough proof that those accounts were actually real and neither therefore were the Jersey accounts. Incredible but true, and with a very predictable outcome.

I am not at all convinced far beyond any reasonable doubt especially by all the social media trolling, vindictive manoeuvring, name-calling and malicious threatening by some, some of this I am sure organised, that what is presented as proof does not really exist. I am only on the side of truth. I will therefore vote with my brain on Saturday, 16th September to choose a person whom I consider clean and with a serious record to lead the PN and the country forward in line with its principles. I will also vote with my emotions in that I lived under corrupt, undemocratic and inadequate Labour governments in the past and I would not wish the same on anybody else in the present. It is possible that I will not have an outcome to my liking as the democratic game involves a majority of votes to secure individuals and policies in particular positions. I will respect that decision but for me everything depends on how things unfold in the future with respect to the direction the party takes in political and ethical philosophy and concrete actions. The ends do not justify the means… ever.

 

Dr Asciak is Senior Lecturer II in the Institute of Applied Science at MCAST.

michael.asciak@parlament.mt

 

 

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