The Malta Independent 26 June 2022, Sunday

The bully

Kevin Cassar Sunday, 22 May 2022, 09:45 Last update: about 2 months ago

“You are cheap and mediocre”.  

“You represent the past”.

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“With the one before you I could discuss and reach an agreement, but with you….” 

“You always want it your way or no way”.

You’re so confrontational”.

“You just want to deviate from your own serious problems”.

“I hope this won’t be your attitude, it’s already not looking hopeful with you”.

These were not the words of an emotionally stunted man intent on humiliating and destroying his wife. This was Robert Abela abusing the Opposition leader Bernard Grech.

On 14th April, immediately after being sworn in, Prime minister Robert Abela announced that he would be keeping Anglu Farrugia in the role of speaker.  “I don’t see any need for change in the role” he announced off-handedly.

Anglu Farrugia had shamelessly and repeatedly taken Labour’s side, defending the scandalous behaviour of a procession of Labour MPs. He undermined and contradicted the Standards Commissioner at every turn. He abstained on the Commissioner’s report on Carmelo Abela’s abuse of public funds.  He refused to accept the Commissioner’s report on Rosianne Cutajar, instead opting for further investigation and then refused to allow witnesses to be called by the Opposition MPs. When the report was finally endorsed he took it upon himself to issue the “stern reprimand” to Cutajar but refused to share it with members of the standards committee.  Instead of a reprimand, he simply informed her that she had been reprimanded . When Cutajar called Claudette Pace a whore in parliament, instead of demanding an apology from Cutajar he simply told Pace to just carry on with her speech.

He protected Joseph Muscat by ruling that he could not face sanctions after being found guilty, by the Standards commissioner, since he was no longer an MP. He refused to summon Muscat to the standards committee over Konrad Mzzi’s obscene €80,000 contract.

He rejected a request to name a parliamentary hall for Daphne Caruana Galizia. Not even her brutal assassination moved him to speak the truth. He refused to co-operate with the inquiry board, even when offered to testify behind closed doors . He squandered hundreds of thousands of public funds on multiple unnecessary foreign trips. He embarassed the country with his mangled speeches. He forgot the name of the President hosting one of his visits. The Freedom Files Analytical Centre issued a report entitled European values bought and solddocumenting Azerbaijans bribing of Western politicians. In that report Anglu Farrugia featured prominently, roundly condemned for declaring Azerbaijan’s rigged elections “free, fair and transparent”.

“Given the justified criticism of Farrugia’s handling of controversies, the time has come for a change” a prominent editorial noted.

Abela knew this. He knew the opposition would find Farrugia unpalatable - particularly since no other speaker ever served a third term.   Yet before Parliament was even convened, without a token attempt at consulting the opposition leader, Abela took his decision. And made it public.  This was a shameless demonstration of his power, a public humiliation for the opposition, its leader, and the voters they represent.  And to rub it in, he commented “I don’t see any need for change in the role”. Need for change there most desperately is. But here was Abela publicly dismissing the serious and justified concerns about Farrugia’s manifest unfitness for the role.

When parliament was eventually convened and Anglu Farrugia  was nominated, the Leader of the Opposition politely commented “It would have been better if there had been a consultation on the matter”. “I hope that in this legislature, Farrugia will be impartial”, Bernard Grech added.

Abela was ready for him.  Abela knew what the opposition reaction would be.  He unleashed a vicious attack on Bernard Grech, on the very first day of parliament. “It is surreal that Grech used his first speech in parliament to accuse the country’s highest institution of being impartial” he mocked, “the attitude of the opposition shows that the decision made on 26th March did not instigate any change”. “I hope that this will not be the attitude that the opposition will take during this legislature, but it’s already not looking hopeful” he sniggered.

At his manipulative best, Abela swiftly changed tack.  “I am extending my hand of friendship, to reach some kind of compromise” he added.

That was no hand of friendship. It was the hand of an abuser. He’d done it before.  He ridiculed Bernard Grech on the eve of the election - “I extend the hand of friendship to whoever the Opposition Leader might be next week”,

Abela’s tactics are straight out of the emotional abuser’s handbook. From the name calling to the character assassination, the public humiliation and embarassment, the dismissiveness and the self contradiction, Abela uses them all. Having created the perfect storm by ramming Anglu Farrugia down the opposition’s throat, Abela then blamed the opposition for “not changing” and having the wrong “attitude” when they opposed his nomination.

Like every abuser, Abela loves using the word “always”. “The opposition leader has unfortunately always taken a position where it is either his decision or no decision” he accused, swiftly followed by his uttterly hypocritical claim that “I will not take a confrontational approach”.  That’s exactly what he was doing. 

That self contradiction is typical of emotional abusers. As he publicly assaults the opposition leader at parliament’s inauguration, he claims to offer a hand of friendship. Belligerently confrontational, he claims he will not be confrontational. As he decides alone who should be speaker, he accuses the opposition leader of always wanting to take the decisions. As he adopts a rigidly uncompromising position, he claims “the PL’s strong mandate imposes on us a duty to reach a compromise whenever possible”.

“We need to start a dialogue of mutual respect and not attack each other” Robert Abela declared. Just days later he was calling Bernard Grech “cheap and mediocre”.

Lydia Abela was right to ask “how can we claim to be a ‘good society’ if we allow people to abuse others and get away with it?”

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