The Malta Independent 17 May 2022, Tuesday

Why Malta should worry

Kevin Cassar Sunday, 23 January 2022, 10:31 Last update: about 5 months ago

“What I can say is that, maybe without precedent, in these last two years we have not had a single, not a single episode of bad governance,” Prime Minister Robert Abela boldly declared.

That this is manifestly untrue is known by even the most committed Labour diehard. So why would Robert Abela risk making himself the laughing stock of the nation with his outrageously ridiculous comments? More worryingly, why would he jeopardise the chances of the nation to extricate itself from its punitive greylisting? Abela must know that prime ministerial statements are carefully analysed by those nations who will decide our future.  His deluded comments reveal his total detachment from reality, his utter failure to grasp the challenges the country faces and his complete unfitness to lead his country out of the mess his predecessor flung it into.

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His comment was not an off the cuff remark.  It was a scripted planned statement.  Much thought must have gone into including it in his speech. Why make such damaging claims?

Maybe because Abela knows the majority still believe him even when he lies through his teeth. Hannah Arendt wrote that “the ideal subjects of totalitarian rule are people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists”. Abela must know he is lying. He must surely be aware of the interminable list of gross examples of bad governance in the last two years including the ones he committed himself.

Maybe Abela believes his own lies. The personality cult that Labour carefully constructed may have swamped his very grasp of reality. The recent over hyped celebrations of his two years in office and the inflation of his amazing achievements - 24 records in 24 months - may have clouded his judgement. If he seriously believes his statement, Abela is in complete denial of the Herculean task he faces in convincing the world that Malta deserves to be forgiven the painful penalty of greylisting. If he doesn’t even acknowledge the problems that need to be addressed, how can he fix them?

Could Abela be emphasising the words “in these last two years” in an effort to quietly dump his toxic predecessor? Abela is quite categorical that it was only in the last two years that government has cleaned up its act.  The message he clearly conveys is that this was not the case with Joseph Muscat.  Abela has repeatedly denounced Muscat.  Accusations of impropriety and corruption are met with Abela’s categorical rebuttal that the event in question happened during his predecessor’s tenure. Carmen Ciantar’s contract was awarded under Joseph Muscat. It was Muscat who rewarded Konrad Mizzi with his lucrative MTA contract.  The Vitals deals were signed during Muscat’s rule.

By drawing a clear line between Muscat’s and his premiership, Abela attempts to make a clean break. No longer the continuity candidate, he now presents himself as the refreshing change that was needed to drain the swamp. As more of Muscat’s filth surfaces, Abela assumes the mantle of the hero who came after Muscat and had the courage to denounce his former boss - but does it so surreptitiously that he gains the support of party grassroots critical of the gross corruption of his predecessor without losing the support of Muscat’s diehards. Abela navigates the narrow and treacherous path between alienating the moderates and enraging the extremists.

Or maybe Abela makes such daft statements because he simply has no idea what bad governance is. He refers to “episodes” of bad governance.  Bad governance is not an episode - it is a culture deeply entrenched in his government’s fundamental core. The complete lack of transparency, the sacred oath to secrecy Labour embraces is at the centre of his rottenly bad governance. Abela refuses to publish his tax returns, refuses to answer legitimate questions about his wealth and its provenance, rejects all freedom of information requests, conceals the multitude of persons of trust his government appointed, withholds access to major contracts, hides how the millions of direct orders are awarded.

Labour’s bad governance is enshrined in the lack of accountability, the absence of meritocracy, the arbitrary policy making and the cheating of those governed.  It is manifested in the wrecking of the rule of law, the failure to prosecute the untouchables - Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Joseph Muscat and the unwillingness to serve arrest warrants on their friend the Pilatus owner and his team.  Abela’s disinterest in controlling corruption is a requisite for keeping Labour’s backers on side.

Abela’s wrath and the indignation of the party is triggered when a first attempt is made to investigate the serious allegations of corruption of their disgraced former leader. Labour responds with threats of total anarchy when Muscat’s absolute immunity and impunity appears to be under threat.  Jason Micallef wants to call the Labour mob into the streets. Manuel Cuschieri threatens that the institutions will have to roll over the majority of the population before they can get to Joseph Muscat. This is bad governance - the expectation of and the entitlement to loot the country with absolute impunity protected by the threat of total anarchy.

Bad governance doesn’t simply evaporate because Robert Abela wishes it away. It takes true leadership to institute real reforms that ensure transparency to fix it.  It takes a commitment to openness that ensures easy access to all government information for the public. It takes the strength to fight corruption by enacting laws, empowering institutions and ensuring law enforcement. It takes the decency of honesty and integrity. It takes a true leader setting the example, not a loudmouth uttering pompous drivel. It takes the fortitude to control the fanatics within your own party.

Sadly the nation is burdened with Robert Abela who presides over a multibillion euro culture of cronyism and exhibits the pathological mendacity of one who never made the leap from Labour’s fantasy world to reality. What’s even sadder is that the country is about to inflict another five years of dangerous dishonesty and deceit upon itself.

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