The Malta Independent 17 August 2019, Saturday

Costa’s Concordia

Malta Independent Saturday, 2 August 2014, 08:52 Last update: about 6 years ago



After 30 months of presence on the Italian islands of Giglio near Tuscany, the massive wreck of the Costa Concordia, 951.8 ft long, 124.6 ft wide and 64.9 ft deep, has been shifted off the rock in which it had become embedded, re-floated and towed out to sea to arrive some five days later in the port of Genoa where it will be dismantled and scrapped.

A painful sight for the islanders of Giglio, reminded every day about the terrible tragedy that occurred, the departure of the relic of the ship, came with relief and also with some sadness as many goodbyes had to be said to the several worthy people and engineers, divers and all sorts of personnel that had practically made Giglio their home during these long months and who became greatly admired and appreciated for the salvage operation being carried out successfully and sensitively towards the people, those 32 passengers and crew who lost their lives, their families and the island and most importantly, the maritime environment.  At every stage of the plan, preserving the clear sea waters was paramount and an integral part of  the engineering  feat.

It will still, however, be hard to forget that night, with the sight of the ship on its side and the 4,252 persons on board (4,251 without it’s Captain), the human chain sliding down the edge towards life boats, jumping in the sea or hanging on to each other waiting to be rescued  from the nightmare.  The evacuation had been a disaster, confusion reigned, communication was completely lost by language and by announcements and contradictory orders.

Here was a mighty ship, owned by a powerful company, a familiar sight to so many harbours,  ports and islanders, so much so that it was the famous ‘inchino’ or salutation, that lead to its unfortunate predicament, struck so hopelessly aground.  Indeed, removing this beast was going to be a long and arduous task, calling upon great minds and unity to work together to solve this huge problem. The great thing is that they did it. Together they achieved remarkable goals and their amazing achievement salvaged not only the ship but the reputation of Italy.

So, today, on a political and economic  level, many Maltese citizens sense within themselves, the deep gash that occurred  during the course of a normal journey, and that anchored the PN to the Opposition with a definite ‘abandon ship’.  

What happened since then and what will happen to the party in the future is still uncertain.  No clear strategic direction has emerged yet, although signs are beginning to show.  There is no single strong voice to take the lead and communicate the agenda.  The executive has set up a policy fora platform to receive and discuss views and proposals on various segments, such as a long term vision for Malta;  economy and employment; social policy; education, health environment and agriculture, creativity, justice and home affairs, foreign and European affairs; and Gozo.  Although such an endeavour can be beneficial in contributing to policy, alone it is not enough and we will not know the source of proposals which can lead to more uncertainty.  Had it been the other way round, with the party executive first looking intensively into its agenda and coming up with the new policies and then presenting them to the Fora for their feedback and criticism, this exercise could have been more convincing and fruitful.

People may have their doubts about the interest and motive of participants, their energy and intentions, not from any individual judgment but because the collective group cannot replace the individual minds and history of the party parliamentary members and the Leaders.  If candidates chose to join the Nationalist party and contest an election in the name of the PN, become  approved and get elected, it is to be expected that they share a common political view and want to work for the constituents that voted for them.  At the same time, they are in a good position to know what people have on their mind, or at least, they should.  It has been said repeatedly that home visits are essential to gathering information about the reality and needs of the individual and going back to the party with those views and information and formulating that report back into policy and agenda.  If not, then all candidates and MPs should be made to keep continuously up to date with their constituents and the electorate in the way they prefer but the gathering of information and coming up with proposals should be on their brief and job description.

Once again, by ignoring the potential contribution of the party MPs and turning to the public or institutions to take the lead, there can only be a continuation of the detachment in the party between the leadership and it’s members and voters.  The public will not easily  trust their peers;  participants  on the fora  may have contradictory views and who will decide what ideas should be included or dropped?  Some will definitely go away disgruntled.  Others will claim ownership and possibly begin creating a clique.  Unity will be lost and vision compromised.

If, on the other hand, the party had demanded valid input from the MPs  and from some selected distinguished and trusted opinionists and a few business persons or investors, to come up with the draft policy on the various fora and then presented them to a panel of professionals and also ordinary citizens, then the result would be credible and based on the identity and morals of the party. 

Another subject which is essential to the future of the party is its economic situation.  Is there a committee or special group, made up of professionals, this time coming from outside would be good, entrusted to evaluate and implement the plan that Ray Bugeja had come up with?  There is an urgent need to deal with this issue and it cannot be left without serious action.

A cruise liner nowadays is not about cruising and a taste of luxury. It is about real estate.  All that space has to create revenue.  What about Dar Centrali?  Is there need today for this building?  Maybe it could be rented out as offices and the TV station leased to the staff who become shareholders and put on their own programmes and become responsible for financing each programme with advertising.  The PN could remain major shareholder.  An inventory of party clubs could surely yield a suitable alternative site which can serve as headquarters. If it is not that big, even better, so that MPs will need to go out to the kazin in their locality and work from there. 

Then there is marketing and image.  This definitely can do with engaging a professional company to look into the present situation and to innovate the party from the top down. 

Image and impressions are code nowadays.  Especially with the under 30’s who have been raised with this way of communicating.  Internally, a unified message must begin at once.  This does not mean that every person has to be of the same mind and not criticise.  On the contrary,  bring it on.  But there is an urgent need for consistency and one voice. 

The mentality has to change too.  Humility and responsibility will be the mark of the decisions and awareness of the limits faced today.  But the party also has a narrative which has been neglected for too long.  For PN supporters it is like someone knowing that they are good at something but holding back from believing in themselves because they had a disappointment, significant though it was.  But this party has a lot it can tell.   And it can pull itself up again.  Contrast how the situation with Libya is being handled today to how it was handled in 2011.  Contrast the 10% increase in the deficit, the rate of unemployment, the democratic deficit, the reputation of Malta and then enlist the country in believing in the next opportunity.  Make it worth their while to give support and debate the issues and  follow the work of the PN in Parliament and in the media.

What do they stand for?  Those of us who lived through the 70’s and 80’s know full well what was done in the past 25 years and what was at risk.  But they need to be clear about who they are.  The way votes are taken in parliament say something about the party and can demonstrate the direction it wants to take in the future.  They must lead us to that future – take us there with hard work.   Ultimately it is about the people, today made up in a significant way by the middle class and a different society, not changed but different.  Values are important but attitudes change.  It is important that they keep abreast of the changing attitudes and form policy that can handle new attitudes whilst defending values.

In the past 25 years the country has been economically successful and this was largely but not solely due to the PN government.  However, they need now to be both politically and economically successful.

The reconstruction must be thorough and clear.

Then the people can look out of their balconies again and enjoy the view without that awful reminder of that fateful shipwreck before them.

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