The Malta Independent 25 August 2019, Sunday

Conspiracy theories

Mario de Marco Tuesday, 22 March 2016, 12:59 Last update: about 4 years ago

I refer to Simon Mercieca’s opinion piece entitled Mario de Marco and Adrian Hillman which appeared in the Malta Independent’s edition of 21 March 2016.

Mr Mercieca is free to comment and interpret things the way he seems fit. He should not however twist facts to suit his line of argument. This is precisely what he did in his piece.

Simon Mercieca starts off by arguing that it is impossible to believe that Adrian Hillman did not influence the editorial policy of The Times. Mr Mercieca can choose to believe what he wants. However, for correctness sake he should have pointed out that the editors of The Times issued a statement denying any such interference. In their joint statement, the editors wrote “Never has a commercial consideration motivated an editorial decision, never mind a political one”.

He should have also stated that the claims are being investigated by an independent board appointed by the Board of Directors of Allied Group. It is the view of many that Allied Newspapers have acted correctly and promptly in these difficult times.

To substantiate his claim of undue interference, Mr Mercieca refers to what he calls decisions taken by the editors of The Times to demonise Lawrence Gonzi and ministers who were close to Dr Gonzi. He questions whether I had a hand in this. Mercieca’ s claim is the stuff of science fiction.

Mr Mercieca is not the first to have come up with the suggestion that The Times was unduly biased against the Gonzi administration. The last five years of the Gonzi administration were in Dr Gonzi’s own words a perfect political storm. Whatever could have gone wrong, did in fact go wrong. Unfavourable external political and economic realities combined with longevity in government, and internal strife within the Party and Parliamentary group made governing a herculean task.

On top of that, some of the decisions we took as a government were questionable  – decisions that I have no qualms in assuming collective responsibility for. As the Gonzi government forged ahead from one difficult situation to another, we as a Party started losing popular support and also the sympathetic ear of the independent press, a press that perhaps we had taken for granted.  

The journalists of The Times, like journalists from other independent media, werepresumably not cocooned or immune to what was happening at that time. Most journalists in the Times and the other independent media criticized the stand we took as a Party in government on the divorce issue. Various young journalists thought that the Party was too conservative on LGBT issues and was refusing to move ahead with the times.

Does Simon Mercieca honestly think that their position was part of some conspiracy against Dr Gonzi as opposed to a justified position representing a more liberal attitude prevalent amongst our younger generation from which many journalists hail? They criticized government just as most of the independent media is now questioning this government on a regular basis. No journalist worth his salt owes any government a living.

But let there be no doubt, every article that was printed or published that criticized the government I formed part of or my colleagues, hurt me and angered me. My anger was however not directed towards the journalists who wrote the article but rather at our inability as a government to turn a difficult situation around.

The solution in such difficult circumstances is not to attack, question, intimidate or ridicule the members of the press that rightly or wrongly exercised their right to hold government to task but to either right your wrongs or to work harder to convince others that you are right.

Mr Mercieca then implies that the attacks on government were part of a “bigger plan” which were to culminate in me becoming leader of the Nationalist Party. To substantiate his argument, he refers to an article I wrote in the Times soon after the 2013 election defeat. From time to time, I do pen opinions in The Times. I find it somewhat strange that Mr Mercieca, himself an opinion writer, is questioning when and how I should express my opinion.

While on the subject of the leadership campaign, may I state that I was initially a reluctant contender. I only accepted to submit my nomination when I came around to recognizing the importance of giving the Party delegates a strong and varied line-up of candidates to choose from. I do not regret throwing in my name into the hat as the keenly fought leadership battle helped strengthened the Party and was in itself the first step that led to the Party rediscovering its link with the roots.

Admittedly the last four months have not been easy for me. To say that I have been to hell and back is perhaps a euphemism.  People think I am “brave” carrying on with my public duties, engaging in debates, given my circumstances. I do not believe I am.  Each day I question why I am in politics. I am however drivento stay on by a sense of duty towards the ordinary man and woman I meet in the street as opposed to those who live in ivory towers and enjoy spinning conspiracy theories. 

 

 

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