The Malta Independent 25 February 2020, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Joseph and Simon – A tale of two opposites

Thursday, 16 January 2020, 09:48 Last update: about 2 months ago

Sometimes a string of unrelated events, when put together, send out a strong message.

In this case, it is just two events, completely separate from each other, that shed so much light on two people who have been among the protagonists of Malta’s political life in the past years.

The two events had to happen within less than 48 hours of each other, as if to emphasize the difference between the two people involved.

On Monday, Joseph Muscat left Castille for the last time as Prime Minister, having resigned in disgrace after his office was linked with the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Then, on Tuesday, it was announced that his arch political nemesis Simon Busuttil will be leaving the Maltese Parliament to take up the job of secretary general of the European People’s Party, the group that embraces the Nationalist Party as one of its members.

Let us remember that Muscat craved a position in any European institution, and worked hard for it, quite openly. He said he wanted to leave Maltese politics and aimed high, for one of the topmost jobs in Europe, the same Europe that he wanted to keep Malta out from. But he ended up with nothing.

Muscat’s closest aides let us know that he was close to getting the job at the end of last summer, and that he had missed it by a whisker. We do not know if this is true. But if ever there was any intention for Europe to give Muscat any position within its institutions, today Europe must be breathing in relief as it would have been a great embarrassment for it to have Muscat within its ranks after all that happened during the last weeks.

Conversely, there was no indication whatsoever, at least in public, of Busuttil’s chance. And so it came as a surprise, to many of us, that he had been appointed to such an important job. That the announcement was made the day after Muscat resigned under a heavy cloud could only be seen as the cherry on the cake for Busuttil.

Muscat beat Busuttil handsomely in the last election. But while Muscat now drops down several levels because of his own inaction in the face of corruption, Busuttil, who fought tooth and nail against corruption, rises several notches up.

As it happened, Muscat was forced to quit after weeks of protests demanding accountability, pleas to address the inadequacies of the judicial and police system, and a government mired in corruption scandals that rocked the foundations of democracy – apart from, of course, OPM links to the murder of Caruana Galizia. There could not have been a worse exit for Muscat.

This is also because his resignation ultimately came for the reasons that Simon Busuttil had repeatedly accentuated when the Panama Papers scandal broke in 2016. At the time, Busuttil had been Opposition Leader, and he had been the first to lead protests against corruption, protests that continue to this day. He had called for Muscat’s resignation back then – remember the “barra, barra” shouts? – but Muscat had ploughed on, preferring to defend people close to him, the same people who, four years down the line, brought him down.

It is therefore sweet revenge for Busuttil. His appointment – coupled with Muscat not getting his and the latter’s resignation – is proof of the kind of solid, clean reputation Busuttil enjoys among his peers, something that Muscat can only dream of.


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