The Malta Independent 7 December 2019, Saturday

TMIS Editorial: Balls and chains

Sunday, 10 November 2019, 11:30 Last update: about 26 days ago

The accompanying editorial cartoon below these columns really says it all. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is very clearly suffering from ball and chain syndrome with his deputies continually putting spokes in the wheels of government.

And by default the situation has become a ball and chain for the country, if not an albatross around our collective national neck. That is because all the bad press that this government has had over recent years equates to bad press for each and every one of us.

And perhaps the biggest spoke in any wheel was the one that scuttled the prime minister’s alleged heart’s desire: a new job in Brussels before the year’s end. It is an open secret that he is holding the Panama Papers duo responsible for that abject failure. And instead of kicking himself upstairs, it is being said that he is now willing to kick the pair out of office.

Why he hasn’t done that yet, or why didn’t do that eons ago (eons because even a week is a long time in politics, as the adage goes) is just about anyone’s guess.

And in the meantime things just keep getting more and more complicated around the corridors of power in Castille.

Three leading government ministers are currently under criminal investigation, although they have made it perfectly clear that they intend to appeal the state of affairs.

This is perhaps the biggest scandal of all, having three ministers under criminal investigation, after the courts had waived their testimony because they could not incriminate themselves.

Now if these two rulings are not something that belies the business as usual attitude that the government uses as a mask, then we do not what is.

There is clearly something fundamentally wrong here, and even more fundamentally wrong is the fact that these ministers hardly bat an eyelid and simply issue terse statements about their intentions to appeal.

We are sorry, but that is not good enough. Not only is the fact of the matter that they – Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona and Edward Scicluna – are officially under criminal investigation abhorrent to anyone with any sense of civic decency, what is even more abhorrent is the fact that the population at large is so unaffected that it seems they could not care less.

Can anyone of a sound, rational mind imagine such deeds – we know them all so well that they hardly warrant detailing here – imagine any such things happening in, say France, the UK, or Germany without any action whatsoever being taken?

No, we did not think so. History, even recent history, has shown us different, and that history should have instructed us here in Malta about political accountability – that pipe dream that was the platform that this government ran on back in 2013, but which it has failed so miserably to implement in any way where it actually counts.

We here on our fair isles, however, appear to have become so desensitised to such allegations that we take them in our stride, ignore them and hope they will just flitter off and vanish.

The problem is that they won’t.  And the European Union will certainly not let them go away.

That much has been evidenced by some rather large EU states having banded together on Friday to demand the European Union establishes a new supervisory authority to take over from national oversight of money laundering at financial firms after a series of scandals lashed the bloc. According to Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Latvia, wherever there are large financial interests at stake, there is an accompanying risk of national supervisors being influenced directly or indirectly by supervised institutions or interest groups.

The move comes after banking and money laundering scandals in Malta, Latvia and Cyprus, where banks have been shut down. Now why Malta was not on that list of countries making such demands on Friday is best known to the government itself. Perhaps it wasn’t invited to participate given recent history.

One thing is for certain, we sure should have been on that list of the coalition of the willing to fight money laundering, especially given the battering and deep frying our reputation has been treated to over recent years.

The prime minister is very clearly weighed down by these and other balls and chains, but he will need to have the balls to break those chains in due course for himself, for his government and, indeed, for the betterment of the country as a whole.

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