The Malta Independent 24 October 2021, Sunday

TMIS Editorial: Muscat’s blame game - a reform opportunity for Abela

Sunday, 22 August 2021, 10:30 Last update: about 2 months ago

Disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat finally broke his silence this week and gave an interview to Times of Malta – the first interview he has given to an independent media house in years.

Incredibly, despite the endless failures of his administration when it comes to good governance and financial regulation, and despite his own grave mistakes, Muscat continues to pin the blame on the Nationalist Party, which has been in opposition since 2013.

In his unwavering style, Muscat either compared his own administration’s transgressions to those of previous Nationalist governments in a bid to justify these failures, or blamed the PN for “not acting in the national interest.”

He conveniently forgets that these circumstances that he believes called for the ‘national interest’ were caused by serious shortcomings by the government he led for eight years, or by the wrong decisions he took while in office.

Muscat must acknowledge that Malta’s reputation lies in tatters not because the PN would not play ball and defend the Labour government’s corruption. No, the reason why the country is in the state it currently finds itself in is the corruption that went unchecked for all those years, the culture of impunity fostered by the people in Castille, the failure to act against money laundering despite all the warnings and many, many more.

Malta’s once proud name has been stained because Muscat’s Labour turned the Maltese government into a money-hungry machine that bedded big business, entrusted untrustworthy politicians with multi-million deals, ran unethical schemes and courted controversy at every turn.

Joseph Muscat cannot blame anyone but himself for appointing, defending and keeping by his side people like Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, who were embroiled in scandal after scandal.

The PN had nothing to do with Muscat being named as ‘OCCRP Person of the Year for Corruption and Organised Crime 2019.’

It had nothing to do with the situation that led to the murder of a journalist by people who felt they were protected by government and who had infiltrated the highest levels of administration. Just like it had nothing to do with the shady Electrogas deal, 17 Black, the FATF grey listing and countless other scandals.

How can the Nationalist Party ever be blamed over something like the Panama Papers and the obscene hospitals privatisation deal?

What was its role in these scandals, apart from speaking out, calling for investigations and, in some cases, taking the matter to court so that the people are given back what is rightfully theirs?

What should it have done – kept its mouth shut and defended corruption ‘in the national interest’?

While it is true that, as a political party, the PN sought to get some mileage out of the endless list of scandals, we’d rather have an opposition that speaks out against corruption rather than stand idly by while the country burns.

Muscat is clearly bitter about his political downfall, but he has to man up and admit that this was his fault, and his fault alone. As Prime Minister, the buck stopped with him, and he must accept the consequences of the decisions he made. Those who criticised him after he messed up cannot be blamed for that same mess. And they cannot be blamed for speaking up and demanding higher standards from a country that was supposed to be the ‘Best in Europe.’

The real problem here, however, is not Muscat’s unchanging attitude. After all, he is out of politics (unless his supporters annoy him to the point of returning).

The real problem is that Muscat’s tactic is the same one that is being used to this day by the Labour Party and the government. Their arguments are identical: blame the opposition.

This is quite incredible from a government and party who always refer to the opposition as being “irrelevant.”

Prime Minister Robert Abela prides himself on having heralded several reforms over the past few months. But doing away with this culture of shifting blame and criticising those who speak out against corruption is perhaps one of the more urgent reforms this country needs. 

 

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