The Malta Independent 12 May 2021, Wednesday

Just saying...

Charles Flores Sunday, 2 May 2021, 09:59 Last update: about 10 days ago

The recent spat between the Labour government whip, Glenn Bedingfield, and the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler, highlights one very important point of realisation: it takes someone who has not been in politics, but knows politicians well enough, to fill a post like that. There have just been too many scepticisms shown and revelations made, though it is highly significant that the usual chorus of political castrati against such deadpan situations has not found its voice.


Politicians certainly need to be overseen, to feel watched and to be disciplined whenever and wherever necessary, though, credit where due, it had to be a Labour administration that saw to that. With the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious that the atrocious mistake was to appoint someone who had been among them, gone down the same alleyways and played the same games. Fellow commentators elsewhere in the media have conjectured the appointment was part of a bigger political scheme, which may be true, but it is the crude reality of things as they stand that we have to focus upon and not the intricacies and ambiguities of the recent past.

The issue of leakages perhaps deserves foremost mention. If the Commissioner predictably insists that leakages that have occurred were not originating from within his well-strung domain, then it was the handiwork of politicians with an obvious purpose, in this case the Opposition representatives, because the leaked information seemed to form part of preconceived stratagems against the Party in power.

For the sake of our argument, government representatives could, hypothetically, also do the sneaky bit if they wanted, on issues they may deem to be highly damaging for the Opposition. That would be as condemnable and as harmful in most people’s eyes. But in this case, it just didn’t happen.

So where does the Commissioner stand? … on a large patch of political quicksand. The easiest thing for him, an ex-politician and ex-parliamentary secretary, is, and has been, to deny the accusations and to give limp explanations, including those about the appointment of advisers without a public call. It does give one the feeling that something is rotten in the state of Denmark and the Commissioner has to give serious thought to the idea of submitting his resignation. If he cannot trust the politicians of both sides of the House of Representatives he has to discuss issues with, who needs advisers?

Just saying, of course.


We can’t kid ourselves

We can’t kid ourselves into believing the European Super League story is a closed chapter and we can all recite Robert Browning’s charming verse from Pippa Passes:

The year's at the spring

And day's at the morn;

Morning's at seven;

The hill-side's dew-pearled;

The lark's on the wing;

The snail's on the thorn:

God's in his heaven –

All's right with the world!

Football, the world’s most popular sport, has long been the victim of sheer commercial greed. The international media’s Murdochs and the multinationals, assisted by politicians preaching their open market gospels and the game’s own authorities as both happily lined their pockets, saw to that with an incredible vengeance. Having grabbed all that was available and pushing merchandise down supporters’ throats and creating an industry so big that it was about to turn on itself for sustenance, it was inevitable that a new access to survival had to be found.

The raging fury of the fans, particularly those of the six English clubs that had the temerity to sign in for the ESL, eventually led to the end of the project. But it is only a truce. Big business won’t let stupid, little fan clubs stop them from going for bigger and better benefits, even if it means the so-called big clubs playing their games in the convenient bubble of no threats from relegation, no shock results and no perils to eternal dominance. Pretty much like the big nations within the UN, World Bank, EU and other institutions that only serve their purposes.

Nor should we kid ourselves into thinking UEFA is on the fans’ side. It never was. It came out of this illustrious fiasco smelling nice thanks only to the fans, but there are many who rightly doubt its new-found love for the millions of people who sustain the game of football worldwide would last up to the next attempt. Can it really muster a balancing act between keeping the big clubs happy but on a leash, without privileges and unfair preconditions, and the loyal fans across the continent who came out and made their position clear to anyone who thinks that after turning the sport into a relentless industry, now they can shovel it, the American way, to create a tension-free zone for their investments?

Football is not a commodity. It still is the world’s most popular sport; even the American and Australian leagues, as well as the women’s championships are now attracting thousands of fans. Your move, UEFA.


Keep it wild

Kudos indeed to the Environment and Resource Authority and Ambjent Malta for the new focus on the little island of Comino. It has always been my dream to see it getting greener and with the planting of 3,000 trees and bushes by spring of next year, it should be happening possibly even in my lifetime.

No less commendable is the aim to implement measures that would improve the Comino environment by restoring its habitat in conformity with the approved management plan of Natura 2000. This will include the removal of invasive alien species, the relocation of olive trees that do not form part of the natural habitat of the site, the removal of illegal structures and sundry stone BBQs and the restoration of rubble and barrier walls.

I am, however, wary about the installation of wooden barriers and the restoration of agricultural fields. A wild Comino, greener and protected to the nearest inch, is certainly more desirable than a neat, visitor-comfy islet where even a cigarette butt can be obtrusive. As with the case of the Hypogeum, there has to be a daily restriction on how many people can visit both the Blue Lagoon and the rest of Comino.


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