The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

TMID Editorial: Hermann Schiavone - Political mistakes and accountability

Friday, 12 April 2019, 10:43 Last update: about 5 months ago

It is not often that politicians admit they made a mistake. It is even rarer that politicians are prepared to pay the consequences of their error.

Hermann Schiavone’s decision to suspend himself from the Nationalist Party parliamentary group on Wednesday therefore must be acknowledged as a move away from what we have been accustomed to in Maltese politics. Frankly, it was the least he could so in the circumstances but there were many other occasions in which politicians who committed worse political crimes than Schiavone remained anchored to their position.

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Schiavone has also called for an internal investigation into his action, which has brought political shame to his party. His meeting with Yorgen Fenech to seek a sponsorship for a conference was the wrong step to take, given that the man has been named to be the owner of 17 Black, a company that was set up as part of the structure revealed in the Panama Papers involving Minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.

What has happened since the meeting was uncovered in the media leads to two observations.

The first is that the internal rift that exists in the Nationalist Party has been exposed again. No sooner had the story of the meeting between Fenech and Schiavone (together with another PN MP Kristy Debono who, now we know, was unaware that the person she was to meet was Yorgen Fenech) that the usual suspects in anti-Adrian Delia faction in the Nationalist Party started to blast away on the social media.

How could the party be seen to be fighting corruption have MPs who go grovelling for a sponsorship for a conference from the same people that the party is attacking? This was the main thrust of their criticism, which ultimately pushed Schiavone to suspend himself from the parliamentary group.

The anti-Delia faction was somewhat justified in coming up with such a reaction, but the impression one gets from the outside is that there is a small group of people who are always at the ready to find something through which they could cause harm to their own party.

The Labour Party pounced on Schiavone’s self-suspension to highlight the division that exists in the PN, describing it as a “fake action” intended to hide this issue and keep in check those officials, including MPs, who have used Schiavone’s mis-step to openly attack Adrian Delia.

The second observation is the difference between the way the Labour Party and Nationalist Party react to situations like this.

We are sure that there are Labour exponents who do not see eye to eye and who were angry when their colleagues threw bad light on the whole party. But one thing that has characterised Joseph Muscat’s 11-year-leadership is his ability to keep all his troops under his wing, stifling any dissidence at the root.

Each time some Labour minister was involved in some scandal – and there were quite a few – none of his or her colleagues were prepared to come out guns blazing. There were occasions when a few senior ministers expressed their discomfort, particularly when the Panama Papers were revealed, but these cannot be compared to the open war that exists within the Nationalist Party.

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