The Malta Independent 21 September 2021, Tuesday

A portrait to hide

Kevin Cassar Wednesday, 15 September 2021, 09:36 Last update: about 3 days ago

Patrick Dalli, former Labour Minister Helena Dalli’s husband, is angry, very angry. And he’s not one to mess with.

Not for the first time, Dalli is livid at Labour.

Dalli drew a portrait of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat. It was secretly hung in Castille’s cabinet room. There was no formal unveiling, no invitation for the artist and Muscat, not even a press statement. Muscat’s own government was snubbing him - for good reason. Muscat had caused enough problems for Robert Abela. As he struggles to convince FATF, Moody’s and our fellow European Union countries of his commitment to remedy Muscat’s catastrophe, the last thing Abela needed was an event commemorating the pungent legacy of his predecessor. Dalli didn’t like it one bit.  His wife was a close ally of Muscat and was rewarded with the European Commissioner post. His son Luke was a close friend of Muscat.  Patrick felt that Muscat, the 2019 Man of the year in organised crime and corruption, deserved better.  He sprang to Muscat’s defence.  In a comical post, Dalli crowned Muscat father of modern Malta.

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But Dalli was also annoyed that his artistic genius went unrecognised.  Not only was there no event to show off the oil on canvas, but to rub salt into the wound, ONE news didn’t even mention his masterpiece. Other newsrooms reported the portrait had been surreptitiously hanged when they spotted it in the cabinet room as the Libyan prime minister met Robert Abela. ONE did not. So Dalli unleashed one of his notorious outbursts. ONE’s newsroom was the target of his wrath: “You should be ashamed of yourselves”. He complained bitterly that for ONE, Muscat’s portrait was of “no news value”.

Jason Micallef was soon sucking up to Dalli. The eminent art expert Jason Micallef assessed Dalli’s work - “frankly it is amongst the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful”. Micallef let slip that Patrick Dalli was commissioned by the state to produce Muscat’s portrait. But the OPM stated on 12th August 2021 that Muscat’s portrait was donated to the state at no cost.

Jason Micallef took the opportunity to attack media organisations which dared query why the hanging of Muscat’s portrait had been hushed up. “What poor media we have, lost in pettiness and inanities”, he remarked. Micallef, however, did not respond to Dalli’s main accusation that ONE had simply ignored it.

In 2019, when Therese Comodini Cachia questioned why government spent 15,000 euro of public funds on a nude blond by Helena Dalli’s husband, he was incensed. Joseph Muscat, through a direct order, squandered thousands of euro in a painting of dubious value. Comodini Cachia was right to complain on our behalf. But Patrick Dalli’s sense of entitlement knows no bounds. “For your partisan information,” he rebutted rudely “the price of my art is established by myself and nobody has the right to value my work”.  But it is up to the purchaser to decide whether to pay the sum requested. Of course, if your wife is a former minister in Muscat’s cabinet and your son his bosom friend, you can dictate both.

Government had no shortage of beautiful paintings.  It didn’t need another nude. It certainly didn’t need Dalli’s nude.  Despite his boasts, Dalli does not even feature in the top 1,000 contemporary artists on Artprice report 2000-2020.  Ralph Fleck, a Danish artist, ranked 994 could only command an average of 6,600 euro for each work.  But Dalli, who’s not even listed, collected 15,000 of taxpayer euros. And probably more for Muscat’s portrait.

Dalli’s shamelessness reached its pinnacle when he turned up at Silvio Schembri’s ministry and made a scene.  He was livid because the newly appointed minister terminated one of several consultancies his son Luke had been awarded by his mother’s government.  Luke was earning 12,000 euro per month off that consultancy.  He was also earning 36,000 euro from Ian Borg’s Lands Authority for work that was usually done by in-house lawyers. Edward Zammit Lewis and Robert Musumeci were also paid for the same work. Simultaneously, Luke was legal officer at the Malta arts council earning another 23,000 euro per annum. But Luke’s father blew his top. He accused Schembri in an offensive post of: “arrogance at its best”. “Put your mind at rest, it wasn’t to ask for any favour,” he claimed. No, just to confront the minister for pulling one teat out of his son’s full mouth. Despite his inexperience, Luke was special. He was not only Helena’s son but the close friend of Joseph Muscat and Glenn Bedingfield.  He travelled to Piemonte with Muscat and Keith Schembri for Diane Izzo’s birthday party. He produced “Taghna t-Tnejn” with Bedingfield and it was his idea, according to testimony at the inquiry, to depict Daphne Caruana Galizia as a witch.

Luke’s brother, Jean Marc, was also employed by Chris Cardona.  Luke’s girlfriend was recruited as a person of trust in Luke’s mother’s ministry.

Patrick gets pretty worked up when his family’s privilege is threatened. In one bizarre situation, he challenged Salvu Mallia, who had made pejorative comments about Dalli’s wife, for a confrontation at Valletta’s Republic street. Dalli resorted to a 17th century favourite, the duel, for avenging the honour of his spouse. 

In March 2019, Dalli lost a libel case against journalists who exposed illegal works on his farmhouse in an ODZ area. Dalli argued that he was being persecuted by journalists. The appeals court rejected his ridiculous argument and ordered him to pay all costs, confirming that the facts reported were “substantially true”. Dalli was stunned. How was this possible?  He was the minister’s husband.

Patrick Dalli epitomises the arrogance and sense of entitlement of Muscat’s clique. For those amongst Labour’s grassroots who work honestly and assiduously for their employment and livelihood, Dalli’s attitude is a kick in the teeth. This is not the modern Malta of meritocracy Muscat promised. He’s no father of modern Malta.

 

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