The Malta Independent 24 January 2022, Monday

Support or subterfuge?

Kevin Cassar Sunday, 28 November 2021, 10:21 Last update: about 3 months ago

“If I did not support her nomination I would be doing exactly what she did to our country.  Therefore the answer is yes, I support her”. This was the twisted logic of Prime Minister Robert Abela’s reply to a simple question - will you support Roberta Metsola in her bid for European Parliament presidency

A simple yes or no would have sufficed. But his statement betrayed so much about his character. Abela’s comments are never totally straight - never an honest direct answer. The deviousness, evasion, the sarcastic dig, the weasel word - all build up to a distasteful slipperiness

The insinuation he left hanging in the air is an invisible choking gas - “what she did to our country”. Yet none of those present demanded an explanation from him.  They knew what Robert Abela meant.  It had been explained by the man behind Labour’s 2013 election campaign, Mario Philip Azzopardi, in his offensive Facebook post.  “Doing harm to Malta” was the Labour film director’s judgement of Roberta Metsola.

So if Roberta Metsola caused Malta so much harm, wouldn’t Abela’s support provide her with a bigger stick with which to beat ‘our’ country? Isn’t he now complicit in harming “our” country? If Metsola is so undeserving because of her treachery, why support her

Robert Abela’s phony statement of support is typical Labour.  No matter how badly you’ve behaved or how much harm you’ve wrought, if you’re Maltese it doesn’t matter. Loyalty to our own precedes justice.  Family supersedes the rule of law, as Evarist Bartolo revealingly put it. Loyalty to “our” country means overlooking corruption, dishonesty, duplicity and crime. In Labour’s book, Metsola broke all those rules when she stood up for truth and justice. By denouncing a journalist’s assassination, the corrupt deals she exposed and the rotten politicians who signed those deals, Metsola broke the rule of family. She chose to condemn what was evidently wrong - and Robert Abela wasn’t having it.

When his former boss, Joseph Muscat was duping the nation, Robert Abela was his consultant.  When Konrad Mizzi opened his secret Panama company and signed a 100 million euro exit clause for Steward, Abela voted in his support. When he became prime minister he nominated Mizzi to lead the OSCE delegation.

So even though Metsola harms ‘our’ country, Abela still supports her. Because that is what he does. He supports those who harm ‘our’ country as long as they are Maltese. Abela is caught in his own warped logic - a prime minister who’d rather harm his own country by supporting those he claims harm Malta than denouncing them for their misdeeds.

Of course, Robert Abela is not really offering Metsola support. In a masterpiece of duplicity he voices support even as he discredits and denounces her. He launches his attack couched in the mist of “what she did to her country” as he offers his false endorsement.

Abela is walking a tightrope. He is desperately trying to endear himself with both camps. With his declared “support” he attempts to win over the moderates who see him as a compromising statesman rising above party politics. But he simultaneously seeks to please the Mario Philip Azzopardis, who detest Metsola to a disturbingly pathological degree, with his unsubtle attack.

He pleases neither. He is exposed as petty and pathetically infantile. His insolent ripostes and snide Super One comebacks are reminiscent of the previous leader - continuity indeed.

“At the Sigma conference at MFCC which you attended, COVID rules were not observed - weren’t you giving a bad example?”, he was asked. “As you can see, today I am wearing my mask,” he deflected. Robert Abela was photographed without a mask attending the conference, with Minister Silvio Schembri, in close proximity to many others, all mask-less. He and his entire parliamentary group, with few notable exceptions, are regularly televised flouting COVID rules in parliament. Yet when challenged about his regular disregard of COVID rules, he appealed that “we should adhere to restrictive measures - my appeal is one for responsibility”. As the number of active cases rise more than four-fold, the irresponsible Abela and his MPs flagrantly and openly ignore the very COVID restrictions his government imposes. While we observe the rules, he defies them.  While we make the effort, he couldn’t be bothered. Abela says one thing and does the opposite.

As he unjustly smears to discredit and impugn, he mouths support. As he calls for responsibility, he recklessly breaks the rules. His MPs follow his example. He flagrantly displays his indifference to conventional decency. He interprets Labour’s victory at the polls and the positive predictions of surveys as a sweeping mandate to discard respect and civility. He gleefully tramples over the rules the rest must obey. With his unsubstantiated insinuations he insults the thousands Metsola represents. 43.3% support for his party (Maltatoday 8/11/21) should not entitle the prime minister to behave appallingly. While demanding solid proof of his own colleagues’ abhorrent behaviour, he flippantly and irresponsibly casts unsubstantiated allegations against Metsola. Abela hasn’t yet realised that he is primarily the prime minister of the whole country and not just Labour leader.

The truth is that Metsola has made her country proud - recognised and lauded for her integrity, courage and competence. But Abela believes his own stories - and wants the nation to believe them too. That is “harming the country” - peddling lies, denigrating and stirring antagonism against a successful political adversary, instead of rejoicing at her success.

Abela has little room for manoeuvre. Labour’s demonisation of Metsola is the genie let out of the bottle. Abela can’t control it now.  He is dragged by the raging torrents Labour has unleashed and for which he has only himself to blame. In the eyes of Labour supporters, like Mario Philip Azzopardi, by supporting Metsola, Robert Abela “is aiding the sworn fascist enemy of the Labour Party and empowering her to do more harm to Malta - I will not vote for you again, you’ve let us down”.

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