The Malta Independent 12 November 2019, Tuesday

Foreign interference

Alfred Sant MEP Monday, 14 October 2019, 07:15 Last update: about 28 days ago

In the European Parliament’s plenary last week, a debate with vote was held on a resolution which condemned foreign interference in European national elections.

I am one of those who remember the negative propaganda run against the Labour governments of the 1970’s and 1980’s for resisting foreign interference in Maltese political affairs, orchestrated then by the Nationalist Opposition.

ADVERTISEMENT

One cannot exclude outright that political and other formations take part in political activities organised outside their national borders. But this needs to be framed within clear and transparent rules, applying equally to all, and applying to all kinds of intervention.

It just does not make sense to take for granted as acceptable all interventions that we or our friends indulge in – but then to rise up against whatever and wherever those we disagree with do on the same lines, especially if they happen to be Russian.

***

HSBC

For HSBC as a bank, Malta was always a minor sideshow. When Mid-Med Bank was sold to HSBC on the cheap by the Fenech Adami administration some twenty years ago, for HSBC this was a juicy titbit it just could not let pass by and not gobble up. The government needed ready cash to demonstrate that the reforms in budgetary management that in government we were implementing between the years 1996 and 1998, were not needed. The Mid-Med privatisation provided that cash.

HSBC were not really interested in the development of the Maltese economy. They wanted the profits they could secure from the local enterprise without committing themselves clearly to it. Over the years, they allowed Bank of Valletta to carry the financial burdens that economic devlopment brought with it. They just danced – as indeed they could not but do – to the tune of HSBC, the global bank, all of it.

At present, HSBC is not doing as well as its shareholders worldwide would like. It needs to cut costs and phase out those commitments where best profits are not being made with least effort.

***

Magellan

In “Over the Edge”, Laurence Bergreen provides an excellent account of the round the world voyage undertaken by the armada that Ferdinand Magellan led. It was the first time such an enterprise was carried through. The challenge was as follows: could one, by sailing west of Europe, reach the Molucca islands, which were located in the Far East? From the Moluccas, exotic spices worth their weight in gold and more, reached Europe.

The book follows Magellan’s journey, till he at last succeeded to get past the extreme outreaches of South America and then navigate into a huge sea which nobody before him had yet explored, the Pacific, always sailing “west”, till the Moluccas would be reached... But Magellan is killed before that happens, in a senseless battle that he got drawn into on one of the islands of the archipelago we now call the Philippines.

After Magellan’s death, the story continues... till the last surviving ship of the armada that he had left Spain with, returns home, much the worse for wear, almost dead in the water, with just some twenty people on board.

It is a tough story, where hardships predominate. Bergreen places it in its historical and sociological context. Those were the years when European powers were beginning to set out on their far reaching colonial adventures right across the whole world.

  • don't miss