The Malta Independent 15 July 2020, Wednesday

TMIS Editorial: Joseph Muscat - Goodbye and good riddance

Sunday, 12 January 2020, 10:00 Last update: about 7 months ago

The era of Joseph Muscat is over, and the end could not have come too soon.

In a tear-jerking (not for everyone) speech on Friday night, Muscat went through a list of his achievements, mentioning everything from low unemployment and economic growth to civil liberties and IVF.

It would be unfair to say that Muscat did not do anything good during his seven-year tenure as Prime Minister, but it would also be unfair to list the good and leave out all the bad.

ADVERTISEMENT

The GWU-owned newspaper l-Orizzont ran a full-page photo story on Muscat’s exit yesterday, with the headline ‘Invictus – the beginning of the end of a career without defeat.’

While it is true to say that Muscat has not lost a single election he has contested – 10 in all – there are a great many things that the outgoing PM has lost, both for himself and for the country as a whole.

For example, he has lost a great deal of the respect that he used to enjoy among Labourites. Yes, most Cabinet members and PL officials were there to show their support for the departing leader, but in some cases this was nothing but a show. Many of these same people have declared, even if not publicly, that they no longer back Muscat, who led an economically successful but corruption-ridden administration.

Likewise, many regular PL supporters have turned their back on Muscat, feeling betrayed by his actions and inaction and his defence, to the very end, of his sidekick Keith Schembri, who has been heavily implicated in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and who has still not been brought to justice. Many others feel offended by Muscat’s inadequate action in the case of Panama Papers Minister Konrad Mizzi.

Muscat has, for all of us, lost the respect that Malta previously enjoyed at an international level. Our country’s name has been dragged through the mud over and over again, and this did not happen because of the independent or international media, as some would have us believe.

It happened because Muscat repeatedly failed to take action against those who shamed Malta through their actions and corrupt practices. It happened because, under his watch, the institutions did not do their jobs properly and because huge scandals were not properly investigated. It happened because some of the people named in Daphne’s murder are very close to him, worked for him or gave him lavish gifts.

Muscat said on Friday that he and his family had paid the “highest political price,” but the fact is that the highest price was paid by the journalist who was blown up for uncovering government corruption – revelations that led to no action being taken, despite the gravity of the crimes and misdeeds committed.

And the country is also paying a high price – Malta’s name is nowadays associated with corruption, a breakdown in the rule of law, money-laundering and all sorts of negativity.

Yes, unemployment has fallen and the economy has grown, but will that still be the case a few months down the line, when the effect of all that has taken place over the last couple of months begins to sink in?

And let us not forget that the Daphne murder scandal is not the only one that has rocked this administration, and the country; Old Mint Street, Café Premier, Australia Hall, the hospitals’ privatisation deal, the fourth-floor meetings, the rape of the environment, the power station and Socar deals, Pilatus Bank, the FIAU reports, the Panama Papers, the hijack of the army and police force, the controversial judicial appointments, the sale of passports scheme, the Libyan and Algerian visas scandals... the list goes on and on.

We could also mention the meritocracy promise – Muscat’s pre-2013 election battle horse which turned out to be nothing but a farce. Instead of meritocracy, we got rampant nepotism.  

While some will remember Muscat as a sort of saviour who delivered Labour 10 election victories, others will remember him as the stubborn PM who refused to resign when his position had clearly become untenable, as the PM who – instead of doing the right thing and stepping down – stayed on until the end, and spent his last month in office travelling the world while the country’s reputation floundered.

Muscat says he took the decision to step down so that “unity can win over hatred” and because every Prime Minister should put the interests of the country before his own. In reality, he stepped down because he had no choice, because he ruined his political career with his wrong decisions.

This will be Muscat’s legacy.

  • don't miss