The Malta Independent 29 February 2020, Saturday

Robert Abela: take a giant step or remain king of discord

Victor Calleja Sunday, 26 January 2020, 09:20 Last update: about 2 months ago

The changes, the falls from grace, the comeuppance, the smugness turned into scowls, rather resemble a funfair with roller-coaster rides all the way. If it weren’t so tragic – and horrendously bloody – the country’s bumpy ride would be quite fun.

The mafia state we are in will need a lot of work to be cleaned up. God only knows how many generations it will take to win back some pride and belief in the institutions. Every day is a new tale of amazing rottenness that has gripped this land.

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Politicians have totally failed us, failed to deliver anything worth our while.

Our microscopic land could so easily be, or have been, a gem. Instead now we are seen as a pariah state, with a toxicity level which astonishes people all over the globe.

When the old regime of Joseph Muscat (not that the new one has changed much) ruled, one of the strangest episodes was when Edward Scicluna, the Finance Minister, related that a taxi driver in South America remarked on the amount of corruption in Malta.

Instead of hanging his head in shame and resigning or doing something about the problems, the then minister (oh he is still there and still heading our finance ministry) was aghast.

The reason he was aghast was that this reputational problem, according to the learned minister, was entirely caused by Simon Busuttil and his gang who bad-mouthed our virgin land. These evil people, abetted and aided by the horrible foreign media, were spreading lies about Joseph Muscat and his merry gang.

You would accept that an uneducated man with a brain on a par with an amoeba could utter such gibberish. You’d then expect the state or a family member to intervene and deprive such a human from even having a wallet. That the man who uttered this garbage is a professor and in charge of our nation’s purse, wallet and finance is way beyond belief.

This is but a small episode in what has been a true horror story of our last years.  We’ve now moved on and dumped Joseph Muscat. Yes agreed – Robert Abela is streets (and whole planets!) ahead of Joseph Muscat on the scales of governance. But make no mistake – he sounds so good in comparison, but he still hasn’t done much to shake the foundations of the mafia state.

He is – and for this I applaud him – making some good moves in the right direction. But beyond moves, proper decisions need to be taken. He needs to go beyond waiting for resignations and immediately start firing whoever needs to be fired. He also needs to go into inquiry mode: investigate everything that Joseph Muscat and his buddies did, ordered or passed on.

Robert Abela is shackled by his past and tied to a Labour Party core that hardly admits Joseph Muscat did anything wrong. He must be seen, especially in the EU, to be taking the right decisions and distancing himself from anything corrupt. But, beyond drumming on about how he needs to have a high benchmark, what did he do regarding the procedure to appoint a Police Commissioner? He went ahead and decided to change the rules as he thought fit, without too many discussions or consultations.

The new premier might have the right to decide himself but right now it’s not about only being above board or doing everything legally. He has to rise higher and be ready to discuss and find solutions with the party in opposition and with other bodies. It would be an amazing step forward if he was to ask for, listen to and bring in forces other than just the ones which are requested by the law of the land.

These are exceptional times. If Abela does not act exceptionally well and way beyond what the law allows him, then he will fail. And fail miserably.

Additionally, is Robert Abela ready to set aside his own position and have the direct orders his firm received from any ministry in these last six years investigated? Is he ready to properly investigate – with no bounds or remit exclusions – all the other ministers regarding their direct orders and decisions? Is he ready to ask for proper investigation into all the tenders or contracts that have been signed these last years? Is he ready to investigate properly all breaches by ministers and their minions where the environment is involved?

Is he ready to investigate all the deals that the Labour party has benefitted from, including sales of land and property requisitioned or gifted by the state?

Is he ready to check out how TVM and all the state broadcasting has been hijacked and turned into a propaganda machine for the Labour Party?

Is he ready to put our minds at rest and make it clear that the Attorney General has to go for the sake of justice to be done and be seen to be done?

The new Prime Minister has an unenviable to-do list. Of course he is being over-scrutinised but that is the norm not the aberration. The aberration was that Joseph Muscat got away with too much because he was treated like some demi-god who could do no wrong.

Many politicians of all hues have let us down. We have been told over and over that we cannot change as our national characteristics, our DNA, is flawed. That corruption and clientelism is endemic and that if we criticise anything we are agitators or negativists. And, finally, when wrong things are pointed out, the rebuttal is that those in power before did the same.

At least, so far, since Robert Abela took over, he has not used that line. This in itself is a good sign. But we do not applaud. We should not be applauding what is normal just because we are not used to it.

Politics is toxic. Several politicians care primarily about their party, then their country. Robert Abela needs to go a long way to discard this badge of political dishonour.

What the Prime Minister set out with the next Police Commissioner’s appointment procedure does not bode well. If Robert Abela can find the courage to reverse his position he will have taken a giant step to solve what is wrong in the country. If not he is just another tool of discord.

 

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