The Malta Independent 25 May 2020, Monday

TMID Editorial: Coronavirus – More support, fewer obstacles

Wednesday, 8 April 2020, 08:50 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Nationalist Party is trying its best to make its voice heard during the Coronavirus crisis we are all facing together.

It has presented a bill aimed to protect media houses from SLAPP lawsuits that could financially cripple them, rightly continues to insist for the government to look into the deal that was reached under the Joseph Muscat administration for the privatisation of three hospitals, taken the initiative to protect democracy in Hungary and is also calling for a public inquiry into the collapse of a building in Hamrun which caused the death of a woman.

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It is holding a press conference almost every day, sometimes with the participation of its leader Adrian Delia, to give us its views on a particular subject that is being hit, in one way or another, by the pandemic. Delia himself is then interviewed regularly – by the PN’s own journalists – on the party media and then also delivers his Sunday sermon, now via technological means as the PN has cancelled all public activities.

Very often, through these events, the PN is standing out as a single voice of dissent to what the government and health authorities are doing in the prevailing difficult circumstances. The employers’ organisations were also critical of the government after the initial financial package aid to companies in difficulty did not meet expectations, but after the matter was sorted and a fresh bundle of measures were announced they understood that it is best to pull the same rope in this moment of national crisis.

The PN is not doing that, and while a party in opposition should carry out its duties in keeping the government in check, in situations like the one we are in it should, if it chooses not to support, at least try not to create unnecessary hurdles.

One such obstacle was, for example, the accusation that a company knew about a call for tenders that was to be issued for the building of a pre-fabricated hospital to cater for Coronavirus patients. This allegation put back the project by more than a week, as Health Minister Chris Fearne ordered an investigation before the process could continue.

The company that was named by PN MP Jason Azzopardi as having this alleged preferential treatment had not even been interested in the project, let alone bid for it. But it took a week for the investigation ordered by Fearne to conclude. And we all know that each day is important as the country tackles the Coronavirus pandemic, with numbers continuing to rise steadily, so this one-week delay could be costly.

Delia has said several times that the Opposition is ready to work hand in hand with the government in this difficult situation. Well, Azzopardi’s allegation was certainly not the right way by which the PN put aside partisan politics on a matter of national concern; instead, it tried to score cheap points, creating a stumbling block which ultimately backfired against the party itself.

Ironically, a few days after his faux-pas, Azzopardi was rewarded by his leader by being given the justice portfolio in a mini reshuffle Delia carried out after the recent changes to his parliamentary line-up. Azzopardi had earlier been responsible for the environment, but his appointment as the party spokesman for justice put him back where he really wants to be, in spite of being very much in the forefront in times when Delia was under fire from within his own fold.

This reshuffle, Delia has said, intends to put the PN in a better position to address the challenges the country is facing and will have to tackle once to Coronavirus pandemic is overcome. But for the PN to be able to make any inroads into Labour’s lead, it is not enough to juggle portfolios from one MP to another.

The PN is still struggling to be perceived as being relevant and credible. This situation is a deficiency in our democracy.

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