The Malta Independent 26 November 2022, Saturday
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Setting children an example

Kevin Cassar Sunday, 2 October 2022, 10:01 Last update: about 3 months ago

“I would like to conclude by conveying a message my ten-year-old daughter Giorgia Mae, who is here in the audience, wished me to pass on when I explained I would be addressing this meeting of world leaders. She said ‘I would like the world leaders to be an example to us children and to leave behind a beautiful earth’”. This was Robert Abela at the UN General Assembly.

Wise words from a ten-year-old - words her own father should heed.

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What example should world leaders set - especially for children?  Especially for their own children.

Leaders should keep their word.  Fourteen months ago, Robert Abela published the Caruana Galizia inquiry report. He “pledged to implement all the recommendations made by the inquiry board, including on the protection of journalists”. Over a year later, Abela has implemented practically none of those recommendations.

He’s appointed a ‘group of experts’ to sit on a committee tasked with looking at government proposals on journalism. That “group of experts” includes Saviour Balzan who’s been paid so handsomely by so many ministries and government entities that Abela’s government mounted 40 separate legal challenges to the Data Commissioner’s ruling to release the information. Abela doesn’t want us to know how much he’s paying Balzan.

Abela promised he would table the committee’s report in parliament within 10 days of receiving it.  He hasn’t. Abela didn’t keep his word.

Abela promised “there will be open consultation on the implementation of recommendations”.   There was no open consultation.  The committee’s meetings were held behind closed doors and without any dialogue with the public, journalists or other parties. Abela’s “group of experts” were even sworn to secrecy. Abela broke his word again.

Telling the truth should be another example leaders should set their children. The whole truth and nothing but the truth. When Abela was asked whether he made money out of a deal with alleged kidnapper Chris Borg over a Zabbar plot, Abela replied “I am not going to answer any questions so you can then spin them - now this evening watch Xtra”. 

Xtra is the TVM programme hosted by Saviour Balzan. It was just a small plot in Zabbar, Abela declared. What he didn’t declare was the €45,000 he made off that deal. Abela didn’t tell the whole truth.  He didn’t tell us that he struck that deal on the very same day Chris Borg got a permit to build apartments and garages on that plot from the planning authority, whose lawyer was Abela. Abela was providing legal services to Borg at the time.  Yet he still entered into a highly suspicious business deal with his client for €45,000. No wonder Abela lost his rag when his dodgy deal was exposed.

Abela didn’t tell us the whole truth about his Zejtun villa either.  He acquired it at rock bottom price days after the multiple illegalities on the property were sanctioned by the Planning Authority he was legal advisor to. He didn’t tell us that he rented that property to two Russians who’d submitted applications for a Maltese golden passport.  Abela knew his property was uninhabitable.  Yet he ‘rented’ out the property to those Russians to provide them with false ‘evidence’ required to prove their ‘genuine’ link to Malta.

When the EU issued a ‘reasoned opinion’ insisting Malta’s golden passport scheme breached EU law, Abela argued there was a “robust due diligence system in place”.  He knew well there wasn’t. He knew the changes to the scheme Labour agreed to were just a sham. Despite Labour’s commitment to the EU that only those with ‘genuine links’ to Malta would get a passport, The Guardian revealed that many with absolutely no link to the country were still being sold passports. Abela knew it. He was contributing to that deceit personally. The Guardian’s allegations that clients never used their ‘rental properties’ and only rent them to get their passport were true - as Abela knew too well.

Abela didn’t tell us that his wife Lydia was registered as an accredited agent for passport sales in 2018 when he staunchly insisted on retaining the scheme and continuing to sell golden passports. His justification for retaining the passport scheme was that “proceeds are being reinvested in projects”. No matter how clean the projects you invest in are, it’s still dirty money. And hiding the truth is hardly the best example for children.

As for leaving a beautiful earth, how about starting with our own country? Abela and his predecessor enabled the single largest building spree this country has ever seen.  Labour has been responsible for the destruction of green areas, the uprooting of over 2,400 trees and the uglification of the country. Abela appeases and rewards his friends, like Joseph Portelli who Abela met a few days before Portelli’s Sannat megadevelopment was greenlighted. Abela sold the country to enrich a handful of developers and party funders. Gozo is steadily being turned into another Bugibba. Portelli started work on his swimming pools in the middle of Marsalforn valley before a permit was even issued. The Manikata chapel is dwarfed by a massive development immediately adjacent to it. A massive block overshadows one of Gozo’s protected windmills. Sta Lucija’s open area will soon turn into a multi-storey development thanks to Labour party’s deputy leader. Even President Vella publicly lamented the destruction of Zejtun’s village core.

Malta’s true ugliness is not in its cement and bricks. It lies in the rapacious greed of a leader who struck dodgy deals with shady characters to make some extra cash, in his obsessive secrecy and dogged refusal to be honest and truthful with his people, and in his shameless robbery of state funds to sustain his friends and party funders through illegal direct orders. The real ugliness is in a leadership that puts its own power and private interests before those of the nation and its people.

It’s about time politicians stop exploiting children - especially their own.

 

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