The Malta Independent 20 April 2024, Saturday
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The cumulative impact

Noel Grima Sunday, 21 May 2023, 06:49 Last update: about 12 months ago

Make no mistake. There is in politics something called the cumulative impact. For some time people could downplay the impact of what is happening around them but then the cumulative impact kicks in and everything starts happening all at once. By then redressing the situation gets out of the question.

On the face of it, the revelations of the past week seemed to have affected only those Nationalists who are always ready to down everything and start massing in protest outside Parliament. Or maybe some other fringe groups too.

But this was no Nationalist spin, nor some spin by ‘the usual suspects’.

The first off the blocks came from the National Audit Office, not usually considered a PN stooge. Ponderously and at great length it examined the background of the deliberations inside the Robert Abela administration regarding the sale of the three hospitals to the Steward Health Care, which the Court in Malta has just struck off as mired in corruption and not at all a “great deal for Malta” as the Health Minister (who was kept out of the negotiation) incautiously called it.

The NAO investigation found out that the entire Cabinet (including today’s President now enjoying a trip to the US) was kept in the dark and bypassed and none of them raised as much as a peep or whisper in protest.

As it is we seemed about to continue to fork out money under the Abela administration when the whole process was blocked by the State Advocate and other civil servants who warned this was illegal. This not inconsiderable detail was ferreted out by eagle-eyed journalists who read the whole NAO report and did not stop at the first paragraphs. To be fair, the NAO report was issued late in the evening after it was presented to Parliament but that’s no excuse.

The NAO report also included another substantial titbit that regarded how some of the monies had been spent by the recipients of the funds passed by Malta and this, in my opinion, was what sparked more anger and outrage.

Maybe the officials who had relocated to Malta to fulfil the Vitals work needed to spend money on accommodation, school fees for their children, luxury cars and on Netflix for example. But the list of expenses included branded and luxury items too.

When your elderly relative has to be kept in an airless ward, a former canteen, at Mater Dei and operations have to be postponed and people have to go private for operations at Mater Dei that kept getting postponed and you have to buy medicines because the hospital has run out of them and when you find out that Joseph Muscat was given (to say “earned” would be an obscenity) some €622,000 in the year he was kicked out, you’re in no state to see reason.

The crowd that gathered to protest on Wednesday might have been rather small as people have to carry on with their lives (I note here that the PN station continued with its ordinary and soporific transmission instead of broadcasting the protest called for by the party). But do not misinterpret this: the anger is there.

Then the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project together with its partners in Malta, The Shift and The Times of Malta, reported that the former Vitals Global Healthcare director, Ram Tumuluri has claimed in an official disclosure to the US authorities that he was repeatedly threatened by Joseph Muscat’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and others that he could meet the same end as Daphne Caruana Galizia if he did not sign the hospitals’ concession over to Steward Healthcare.

We may not be seeing all that there is but slowly the overall picture is emerging. There is nothing Socialist in all this, and in fact the lower classes emerge worse on all accounts. No one seems to be accountable and they all seem engaged in saying they knew nothing, were kept out of everything and had nothing to do with it. The country is still waiting for Muscat and Konrad Mizzi to acknowledge this was a deal gone wrong and to explain how the huge millions spent can be got back. And to apologise to the people.

To begin saying, as the government started doing last week that works to rehabilitate parts of St Luke’s Hospital are about to start, is a tawdry way of beginning to acknowledge the enormity of what happened.

The anger may not be evident at the Sunday appearances of the prime minister. It may not be fully evident from the monthly polls by friendly media. It may even not be evident in next year’s EP poll.

But it’s there and it’s growing. Robert Abela is fire-fighting for all he’s worth but right now he is still risking going down with Joseph Muscat.


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