The Malta Independent 17 November 2019, Sunday

A small step for man

Rachel Borg Saturday, 9 November 2019, 09:07 Last update: about 8 days ago

At 10:56 p.m. ET on July 20, 1969, the American astronaut Neil Armstrong put his left foot on the lunar surface and famously declared, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The resignations by two board members that were submitted this week, give us some of that feeling of reaching the moon, of taking a leap into the dark but that yet shed light on a desperate situation.

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First, Nationalist Party MP Marthese Portelli resigned from her post on the Board of the Planning Authority. The decision came in the wake of the highly controversial permit that was granted to the applicant for a sprawling villa to be built over a rural ODZ area in Qala, Gozo, for which she voted against granting the permit. 

The second was received from Nationalist Party MP Ryan Callus who tendered his resignation from the Lands Authority post where he served as a member on the Board of Governors.  The Lands authority has also recently been under the microscope following the transfer of decisions to be taken by the authority, to the Chairman, James Piscopo, a close confidant of Joseph Muscat.

Both are correct to resign and demonstrate a long-awaited coherent position towards the hijacked Boards and Authorities by Joseph Muscat’s cohort. 

We need a mature political discourse, one which goes beyond sporadic PR and press releases or press conferences.  There has to be a politics which defines the values and the objectives of a party and sheds light on the future.  They, the MPs and delegates must be in sync with the public interests and serve their needs not by judging whether or not they support the policies but by whether they are on the side of the truth and justice.

For way too long now the Nationalist Party has been indulging Joseph Muscat and his benches.  It started with the New Way platform of Adrian Delia and went on with the obsession of being “posittivi”  (positive) and behaving like they had some alternative government waiting in the wings to come to rescue the day when each day they slipped further and further away from credibility and trust. 

Incoherent behaviour by Nationalist MPs Kristy Debono and Hermann Schiavone in paying a visit to the office of the very same person who is alleged to have a significant part and more in the 17 Black scandal surrounding Minister Konrad Mizzi and Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, was infantile if not anything else.  A political party that is over a century old, the PN, behaving like a rookie party by ignoring its values and priorities and instead simply going after survival.  Ironically, this only served to send it deeper into the pit.

So, it did come as a surprise, that Portelli, MP for Gozo and Ryan Callus both submitted their resignation this week, showing a maturity that has been little seen in the recent years.

It is not enough though for individuals within the party to do the right thing.  They must be backed by solid policies, coherent behavior and speech and a united party.  Recent protests in favour of the environment and the large march of “iz-zejjed kollu zejjed” may have brought the urgency and the sentiment of the protesters to the notice of the political sphere, if not for their interest then for their place being overtaken by NGOs (non-governmental organistions).  NGOs can often reach where political parties and delegates cannot but parties should always have a vision and commitment and drive a debate in a way that can influence decisions.

For too long now whistle-blowers, NGOs and some newspaper and online journalists have had to lead the way in exposing the nepotism, the absence of checks and balances and the take-over of national institutions and organisations which are meant to be there to implement policy and protect the constitution of the country and the rule of law.  Instead all we have seen is a Planning Authority which operates from an extraterrestrial order it would seem and the Lands Authority driving a horse and cart through the middle of transparency.

Our Courts are currently also under the micro-scope as the NGO Repubblika takes its case against the appointment of judges by the Prime Minister to the European Court of Justice.

The flood of permits issued by the Planning Authority without regard for the holistic, human, and environmental cost surrounding applications, or for the heritage value, is simply astounding.  It is here that we find Marthese Portelli standing up and saying “Basta”,  issa daqshekk! 

I cannot think of any time when it is good to indulge bad behaviour and a total absence of meritocracy and accountability.  What belief are you holding on to by sticking by untrustworthy partners?  This is not about a difference of opinion which is only fair and democratic and the majority is there to govern but when the minority is simply referenced and devoid of any real power, that is not a democracy.

People cannot do their job properly when there is an undemocratic system.  On paper it may look like things are being done fairly but we all know that the reality is far from the truth. 

Another institution which needs a forensic examination is the national broadcaster which has become a Labour commodity.  It goes on and on across the spectrum, with the national orchestra and who can forget the embarrassment of the Valletta 18 City of culture and the way that Board was taken over, not by meritocracy but by political appointments.  There too, many artists and performers had chosen to withdraw from the festival because of bias, discrimination and protest against the management style and attitude.

The bag is not complete without mentioning the Police Force.  The terrible international reputation that we have gained is due entirely to the lack of law enforcement and ignoring the judgements of the Court.  Calls had been made for the resignation of the Commissioner. Why is he still there and why don’t we still hear calls for him to be removed?  Better than laying wreaths of flowers at Daphne’s memorial on the Great Siege monument at a delicate time, would be to highlight all the responsibility that lies with the Police and the Minister for Home Affairs in both the investigation and the lack of protection or deliberate instigation that preceded her assassination. 

So let us say that although it may not be quite a giant leap for mankind, it has been at least a step ahead from the past and a breach in the armour of Labour’s oligarchy.

We do not want to see incoherent acts without any basis of belief or loyalty.  If the opposition really want to become again a united party, everyone must be on the same page about where the lies end and the truth begins.  There is no room to indulge anyone whether from the same side or from the opposite side.  Black is black and white is white.  In the past, politicians would go for grey, to please all sides.  That time is over and will not find the support it seeks.  Look at the Labour party of Jeremy Corbyn who has been trying to accommodate both leavers and remainers in the Brexit ordeal.  See also how President Trump was booed and chants of “lock him up” were directed at him when he recently attended a sporting event.  People may know that the situation is beyond their ability to change at the present time but that does not stop them from using their way of showing disapproval, by protesting with boos and chants. 

“Shame on you” needs to take a giant leap for mankind.

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