The Malta Independent 29 February 2020, Saturday


Claudette Buttigieg Thursday, 16 January 2020, 09:23 Last update: about 2 months ago

One of the first Facebook posts to pop up on my timeline on Sunday morning was Neville Gafa’s now notorious “Kontinwita’” (Continuity). It turns out it wasn't continuity for him, though. He felt he had to resign on Tuesday. But does that mean he was wrong?

He was mistaken to be triumphant about his prospects. However, we know that for things to remain fundamentally the same, some things had to change.


Robert Abela's campaign bore the clear mark of hidden hands, much bigger than many of us thought or even imagined. As a sharp-minded friend told me on Sunday morning, “Robert Abela’s campaign was perfect. Keep your mouth shut, give a couple of fake news items on Chris Fearne to sections of the media and concentrate on those giving you their vote (not on the general public). From day one, they used the same strategy of saying something which is a mirror image of the truth: “ma inix lest nghamel patt djaboliku,” (I am not ready to partake in a diabolical pact), indicating that Fearne made one when in actual fact Abela himself had already agreed on one.”

For this friend, those rejoicing that Muscat’s plan has failed are mistaken. This is “Muscat’s plan". The name has changed from Muscat to Abela, but the plan remains unchanged. As Franklin D. Roosevelt put it, “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

You do not have to agree with this view that Abela simply replicates Muscat. But there is no doubt that Muscat's staff helped Abela in his campaign. There are enough overlapping interests for collaboration.

This strategy has exposed that the inner circle in control of the Labour Party and, consequently, of the country, is even smaller than we thought. It is clear, observing the body language and the efforts made by Cabinet ministers on stage while greeting Abela as their new leader, that many of them fell for the trap and exposed themselves in favour of Fearne. Some might have made pacts of their own with Fearne in exchange for possible positions in his new cabinet.

Throughout the campaign, Abela used a language previously used by Muscat. Him being the underdog for instance. We all know how Muscat was no underdog. Clearly, neither was Abela. But where does all this leave us, the citizens of Malta?

By the time you read this, Robert Abela will have chosen his new government. Sure, there are changes. But are they the changes that really matter? Sadly, I think not.

On Xarabank, Robert Abela made it amply clear that he doesn't think any apologies are owed to the Daphne Caruana Galizia's family on the evidence that has emerged so far. He also had no compunction in hugging Konrad Mizzi on Sunday afternoon. Whether he meant it or not, it is pure cynicism.

When Robert Abela speaks of good governance and the rule of law, I would like to remind him that, in his speeches prior to becoming Prime Minister (particularly in Parliament, where I followed him attentively), he always denied that there is anything wrong with these issues. When he insists that the situation in our country is not tragic, but rather in “a sensitive moment,” I would like to remind him that the situation is more than desperate. Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated in the same period that he was sitting very close to Joseph Muscat during Cabinet meetings. She was assassinated on his watch too.

No, the ship is not on an even keel, as Robert Abela put it. The ship has been leaking water. Now it has been taken to the shipyard to be patched. But it is the same ship and the storm is far from over.

The ship will have to face the storm again once it leaves the port. I just hope the new captain does not get sea sick too easily. The waves out there are not looking any calmer once the ship passes the breakwater.

Some may think that now that Muscat is gone and Abela is at the helm, then all is fine and dandy. They may also feel that we are not giving Abela enough time to kick-start his government and take the decisions necessary.

My reply to these people is very simple. Look back at the plans and decisions taken by Muscat before the 2013 election as well as those taken in the first days of his government. If we don’t want history to repeat itself, if we really want things to change for the better, then we must be super-vigilant about all that is going on. We cannot allow early decisions to be taken under the pretext of beginner’s mistakes. We were fooled once with that excuse. We will not be fooled again.

Robert Abela comes from a political family. Through his father’s experience such “mistakes” should be avoided from the start. The bitter taste we have needs much more than sugar-coating to go away. We, the people, are watching carefully. We expect better. We demand better.

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