The Malta Independent 30 November 2022, Wednesday
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The age of decadence

Kevin Cassar Sunday, 20 November 2022, 08:30 Last update: about 11 days ago

“Why do you keep defending Owen Bonnici?”, Robert Abela was asked. “Because I have full trust in him,” came Abela’s curt reply.

Abela sees vices as virtues and virtues as vices. And so does his party.  Time and time again, Labour has defended the indefensible committed by its own. Labour has not only closed an eye to the atrocious behaviour of its own ministers, MPs, political appointees and close associates - it repeatedly condoned their behaviour.  Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Chris Cardona, Rosianne Cutajar, Carmelo Abela, Brian Tonna, Adrian Hillman, Joseph Cuschieri, Frederick Azzopardi, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, and of course Joseph Muscat were all staunchly defended by Labour for years. Prime Minister Robert Abela has now fully endorsed the absolute mess that Owen Bonnici made of the National Orchestra.

Bonnici clearly attempted to bury the abuse reported to him by the victim.  He refused to answer questions put to him by the media, weeks after his meeting with the victim. Only when it became clear that the story was out did Bonnici desperately back paddle to save his own skin. 

The level of abuse was staggering.  It had been going on for years.  Members of the Orchestra had raised concerns but they were bullied into submission or forced to leave.  Sigmund Mifsud remained at the helm even when two consecutive artistic directors were forced out by his intransigent and hostile approach.  He was not questioned about his autocratic style or the serious complaints levelled against him.

Sigmund Mifsud is now accused of tampering with evidence and intimidating orchestra members not to speak to the police.  The victim testified how she reported having her bottom slapped and her top lifted as well as receiving sexually explicit messages from her abuser to Sigmund Mifsud several times. She met Mifsud in October 2021, January, March and July 2022 asking him to intervene to stop the abuse. Instead of protecting her and taking action against his friend, he told her to delete the messages and called her “too sensitive”.  He threatened to take steps against her if she did not “change her position”.

Owen Bonnici was told directly by the victim what she had been subjected to. Bonnici didn’t report the case to the police.  He didn’t suspend Sigmund Mifsud or investigate the complaints. He didn’t instruct his permanent secretary to call employees to seek further information. He didn’t even call Sigmund Mifsud to demand an explanation. Bonnici did nothing.  He belatedly claimed that he referred the victim to the Commissioner for Domestic Abuse.

Faced with Owen Bonnici’s staggering incompetence, if not criminal negligence or worse, Robert Abela not only failed to condemn his minister but publicly endorsed him, stating categorically that he has full trust in him.

Our Labour government is rotten to the core. It is disoriented, confused and eaten by its own moral decay.  It is increasingly incapable of distinguishing between true and false, good and bad, right and wrong. Labour has entered the period of decline marked by cynicism and frivolity.

As they reach their high noon of popularity and electoral success, the seeds of collapse have been planted. The virtues of dedication, sacrifice, duty and honesty have been uprooted by a selfish greed and vanity that seeks only to consolidate Labour’s power. Rather than taking the right decision to sack Bonnici, Abela protects him knowing full well that in so doing he earns Bonnici’s loyalty and strengthens his own power as leader.  Taking the difficult step to sack him would risk antagonising Bonnici and his supporters creating waves that might destabilise Abela’s leadership.

Faced with a clear choice between the interests of the nation and his ministers, Abela always chooses his friends and himself. By shielding Bonnici, Abela is really thinking about himself. And for Abela, Abela always comes first.

This is not the first time, and certainly won’t be his last. Anton Refalo, caught with a historical artefact in his back garden, remains in post. Abela didn’t utter a single word of disapproval or condemnation. Instead he staunchly protected Refalo.

That is Abela’s message to the nation. Nothing is inherently moral or valuable.  There is no such thing as objective truth. Abela’s society is increasingly value free - it no longer believes in much of anything and has no guiding ideal. This is the age of Abela - the age of decadence - where the only thing that counts is money and power.

Rather than regarding money as a by-product of hard work and virtuous action, he sees money as the be-all and end-all, the ticket to salvation. In his stinking deal with Chris Borg over a “small Zabbar plot”, Abela made €45,000 out of a business deal with the alleged kidnapper who was also his client.  Abela bought a sprawling Zejtun property for a pittance and no architect was sent by the Inland Revenue Department to conduct an independent evaluation. Abela made €36,000 by renting that uninhabitable Zejtun property to Russian prospective passport buyers.  And all the while he was raking over €17,000 per month from his Planning Authority contract.

When a police officer who repeatedly failed his exams but was still allowed into the force beat up innocent people simply because of their skin colour, Robert Abela insisted that the institutions are working. How can you call a police force that recruits violent racist thugs a functioning institution? Abela wasn’t concerned that such a man had been recruited into the force.  He took no steps to prevent it happening again.  He did not demand any review of recruitment processes. He didn’t ensure a total overhaul of police recruitment.  He did not insist that those leading the police force who failed so abysmally should be held to account. It didn’t matter to him that innocent vulnerable people had been beaten up.  Abela was content simply to see the police officer arraigned in court, probably only to receive a suspended sentence years down the line. 

Prosperity ripens the principle of decay.

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