The Malta Independent 3 December 2021, Friday

TMIS Editorial: Statesmanship

Sunday, 4 April 2021, 10:55 Last update: about 9 months ago

This country has reached the stage where we have daily revelations of more and more mafia-style practices right at the heart of Government.

Never in our less-than-pure history have we plumbed such depths. Never did we have allegations of corruption within Castille. There’s so much being revealed that we risk becoming inured to it.

Just this week it was revealed that the man behind Macbridge – the second shady company that was set to, along with Yorgen Fenech’s 17 Black, pay millions into the Panama companies owned by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi – belongs to Cheng Chen, who was involved in multi-million euro deals by Enemalta.


This piece of news follows hot on the heels of claims, by the three men charged with murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia, that a former minister and a sitting member of Cabinet were involved in serious crimes.

It comes days after Nexia BT’s bosses, who at one point were reportedly working from within Castille, were charged with money laundering and the falsification of documents, and in the same week that Keith Schembri was finally charged with corruption in a deal that saw the Times of Malta defrauded of millions.

Every day brings with it a new scandal, it seems, and most of them took place during Joseph Muscat’s tenure.

The Prime Minister is now resorting to the classical Muscat diversionary tactic, by proposing a Cannabis reform which will no doubt create a debate. We tell him, loud and clear, let’s debate cannabis legalization by all means, but not now! Now is the time to clean the Augean stable.

In fairness to Robert Abela, he is caught between a rock and a hard place. His is the unenviable self-imposed task of getting rid of the rot, without brining down the Labour Party. From this perspective, he hasn’t done too badly. But that is a Labour agenda and not the agenda Malta requires. By following it, he risks becoming part of the Muscat cover-up.

If we go back to 1998, we find Robert’s father, George Abela, then Deputy Leader of the PL, resigning from his post in defiance of Alfred Sant’s stance. This brought him in sharp conflict with Joseph Muscat, who was squarely in Sant’s stable. George Abela eventually contested Muscat as successor to Dr Sant, and lost. Yet, in typical Muscat conciliatory style, he embraced his erstwhile foe’s son, Robert, not only giving his law firm a myriad of sinecures, but eventually appointing him his legal adviser and giving him a seat at the Cabinet table whilst retaining his lucrative legal profession.

When Chris Fearne looked destined to succeed Muscat, having garnered the open backing of most of Muscat’s Cabinet, Robert Abela came out denouncing a Faustian pact (patt imxajtan), without ever saying who the parties to this pact were. This has led to a suspicion that it was indeed he who entered a pact with Muscat, offering continuity. Whilst continuing economic prosperity was a lofty goal, given that Muscat had to leave because of his failure to denounce the misdeeds of his close collaborators, Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, the risk was that he’d cover up for them.

The jury is still out whether this is what happened. In truth revelations have increased, but has this been thanks to the PM or in spite of him? Has he truly sought justice, or has he tried to limit damage to his party, and only done the minimum required not to become a downright accomplice to the wrongdoing? This is the crux of his premiership.

Is he prepared to cut Muscat loose once and for all, and to ensure that there is a full independent investigation into deals like the Vitals hospitals privatisation, all deals involving Electrogas and Enemalta, Crane Currency and the IIP passports-for-cash scheme? Will he do what is expected of him and order an investigation into all the deals that Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi touched? Is he going to actively pursue justice, or passively allow it to drag on as slowly as possible?

He has of course been assisted by the Covid distraction and by an Opposition that remains weak. This is the pitiful state our dear Malta has reached. But truth will prevail, and if Robert Abela doesn’t do his duty of ensuring justice even if it harms his party, he’ll go down in history as the PM who covered up his predecessor’s wrongdoing. Hardly a fitting legacy. We urge him to pluck up the courage to govern without fear or favour.

Only then will history judge him as a true gentleman and statesman.


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