The Malta Independent 29 September 2022, Thursday
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The devastation dealt by demagogues

Kevin Cassar Sunday, 7 August 2022, 09:58 Last update: about 3 months ago

The world is slowly coming to its senses. The wave of populist demagoguery is waning. The strongman who promised to save his country was just a fraud. The man who rode a whirlwind of applause and adulation has come crashing down.  He’s now a wanted man, pursued by those who once exalted him, denounced by his own promoters. From Donald Trump, to Boris Johnson, to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to Vladimir Putin, their end draws closer.

We watched in disbelief as the impossible happened.  A pompous, vulgar phoney who bragged of “grabbing them by the pussy”, who boasted he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and wouldn’t lose voters, won the Republican Presidential nomination.  He went on to become President.

That sense of unreality hit harder as Britain voted to leave the European Union. The man who lied that 350 million pounds would go to the NHS if Britain voted for Brexit became Prime minister. An entitled liar, sacked for making up quotes and with a track record of dishonesty, cheating and deception rose to lead the United Kingdom out of the EU.  Instead of the windfall the NHS was promised, Britain’s health service was wrecked. As Boris picked fights with European allies, his promises of international trade deals never materialised. Instead of making Britain great again, Johnson diminished Britain.  UK economic growth is predicted to be the worst of the G20 nations, except for Russia.

Vladimir Putin, the former KGB agent, was warmly welcomed by world leaders, particularly Donald Trump. Putin promised to restore Russia’s glory, its position on the world stage, its pride. Europe was falling over itself to buy Putin’s gas, to welcome his oligarchs, to sell them passports, London mansions, luxury yachts, champagne, and wines. European leaders queued for an audience with the great Russian.

All over the world, populist strongmen were seizing power, democratically.  From Narendra Modi, to Jair Bolsonaro, from Racep Tayep Erdogan to Victor Orban, to Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Illiberal autocrats, disdainful of norms of decency and democracy were on the rise. They promised to restore greatness to their nations.  They promised prosperity, low taxes and a bright future.  They pledged a new dawn. They guaranteed a life of comfort.  And the people believed their fairy tale.

But fairy tales cannot survive reality. It took only a few years for the people to recognise they’d been duped. Gota Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s revered former President, was driven out, not only of his luxurious official residence but out of the country. Who would have imagined that the man termed the Terminator, the all powerful victor over the Tamil tigers, with his massive popular mandate of 2019 would end up humiliated in this way? As his country suffered economic meltdown, Rajapaksa attempted to flee to Dubai but was turned away from the VIP lounge.  India refused to take him. Desperate to escape the baying mob that overran his palace, Rajapaksa finally took a military jet to the Maldives, leaving behind a suitcase full of documents and thousands of dollars in cash.

Trump who commanded deep loyalty of millions is now exposed as the ruthless, reckless mastermind behind the criminal attempt to mount the 6th January insurrection at the Capitol. The majority of Americans now believe Trump was criminally responsible and should be charged with a crime.  His closest allies, including Bill Barr and Jim Jordan, testified against him.  Even his own daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner gave evidence to the January 6th panel condemning Trump’s attempted coup.

Boris Johnson, the darling of the British media, the bumbling former London mayor, the Brexit champion now cuts a pitiful picture. Abandoned by his closest aides, denounced by over 57 of his ministers and condemned by former Prime Minister John Major, Johnson walks the plank. His dishonesty and deception, his disdain for decency brought him his disgraceful downfall.

The wreckage and carnage that Putin has wrought in Ukraine and the devastating consequences rippling through the entire world, opened the world’s eyes. Putin’s admiring hordes who enabled his murderous rampage now scramble to cushion the blow.

In Malta, the revered idol of the Labour party, brags insolently about Daphne Caruana Galizia’s irrelevance. Joseph Muscat boasted his government survived “her most virulent onslaught”. For him, “it was time for sitting back, taking the popcorn out and enjoying the show”. The LIBE committee published its report on 11 July.  It expressed its “concern about the impunity afforded to Joseph Muscat who remains unprosecuted for serious and substantiated evidence of corruption”.  Muscat protested his innocence. But Accutor AG, the company that paid Muscat tens of thousands of euro also paid hundreds of thousands to Ram Tumuluri, Shaukat Ali, his two sons and his daughter.  That same company received millions of euro of taxpayers’ money from Steward Healthcare, the company Muscat stood up for after stepping down.

Muscat promised heaven on earth.  Instead of ridding the country of corruption, Muscat riddled it with corruption. Thanks to Muscat, Malta accumulated billions in debts from dodgy deals he struck - Vitals, Steward, Electrogas, Mozura. Meanwhile Muscat collected tens of thousands of euro in his BOV account from a company which drained millions of taxpayers’ money through Steward.

His successor Robert Abela loyally protects his former boss, concealing their secret deal for Muscat’s use of taxpayer funded office space. Abela continues to funnel millions into Steward. He still conceals the Mozura report. He’s not implemented a single recommendation of the Caruana Galizia inquiry report. He’s still pumping millions in direct orders to his friends and business partners.

It took an economic catastrophe for Sri Lankans to realise they’d been fooled.  It took mounting inflation, exorbitant living costs and a litany of lies for Britain to realise Boris was a fraud. It took injuries and deaths for America to recognise the dangers of Donald. It took a murderous war for Russians to pick up Putin’s perils. What will it take for Malta to wake up to the liability of Labour?

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