The Malta Independent 19 December 2018, Wednesday

Losing track

Noel Grima Sunday, 4 March 2018, 10:53 Last update: about 11 months ago

I have come to the conclusion that the Nationalist Party in its present format is taking a very wrong decision – it should stop or at least minimize references to corruption that the party was harping on prior to last June’s election and to focus almost exclusively on the admittedly bad VGH deal.

By doing so the party is turning away a big segment of its popular support, as was shown in last Sunday’s polls. People are getting confused – what was party dogma yesterday now lies rotting by the roadside. The same people the party attacked as corrupt or anyway favouring corruption are still all there. What is missing, more than the former leader, is Daphne Caruana Galizia and we all know how that came to be.

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Admittedly, last June the party, which had been led to believe it stood a sporting chance of winning, lost heavily by even more votes than it had lost in 2013. Many, inside the party and outside it, have been led to believe the confrontational approach based on allegations of corruption was to blame and have been agitating for change.

Since then, the party has changed its approach and turned its focus elsewhere. The polls show that this change has disaffected supporters and many have walked away. The party’s base has been whittled down to the bare roots, those who, come what may, will always vote PN. The party’s new leadership does not seem to be successful in attracting new support; on the contrary, it is losing old support hand over foot.

Labour helpfully adds to the confusion by dredging up cases from the past and dressing them up to sound like today’s cases of blatant corruption thus making all cases approximately the same.

It is indisputable that the PN years also had their share of cases of corruption. No PL administration had a Chief Justice and other judges removed for corruption. Nor the vast network of alleged corruption in oil procurement. At lower levels of government, there were many cases of alleged or proved corruption.

Unhappily too, there were cases where ministers simply refused to take steps against key aides accused of corruption. And some key ministers are to this very day suspected of corruption. Therefore, the first step the past and the present leadership should have taken was to admit to the sins of the past and to remove those tainted with suspicion of corruption. But I doubt if this is at all possible.

What I find very disgusting is that the two parties delight in throwing allegations of corruption at each other but are only marginally interested in getting to the root of things and limiting and eradicating temptations of corruption by means of the introduction of transparent processes that ensure fairness and justice. Labour does not want this because it is in power and PN does not want it either because it may find itself in power.

Simon Busuttil has been characterized as the only PN leader neither to win an election nor to become prime minister but I ask myself how he would have acted had he won. The fact he was Gonzi’s deputy in the twilight of the PN years when there were so many dubious cases around does not go with the fearless fighter against corruption.

Are we doomed to become a byword for institutionalized corruption? As I said in another article, other countries are also tainted by corruption, to a greater or lesser extent. We are a small nation where individual votes count more than in bigger countries and consequently the temptation of clientelism is more present. We seem to have dredged the bucket of clientelism to its last drop – jobs, promotions, houses, the lot. The more our country grows, the better our economy does, the less people on the dole, the more, paradoxically, the opportunities for big or petty corruption increase.

That is why the situation will increasingly call for all people of goodwill to stand firm, however great or lowly their position, in defence of fairness and justice, at whatever cost.

 

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