The Malta Independent 2 December 2023, Saturday
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PLEASE. What is this country?

Sunday, 10 September 2023, 08:15 Last update: about 4 months ago

Alessandra Dee Crespo

This quote by Daphne Caruana Galizia immediately came to mind when the story about the widescale benefits fraud hit the headlines last Sunday. What is this country, indeed. Sunday Times of Malta revealed that hundreds of people were being investigated for fraudulently claiming monthly benefit payments averaging €450, with former Labour MP Silvio Grixti implicated as having allegedly provided false medical documents to back up the claims. Do you remember when Joseph Muscat alleged that an Egrant document was falsified? Do you remember the chaos that ensued? From the Labour camp, of course.


No sitting MP is involved in the benefit fraud racket”, bleated our audacious prime minister, in between hoping to stick it to the Opposition or those pesky people at Repubblika. So this begs this question, if Robert Abela knows who is not involved in this criminal operation, he must surely know who is.

The report on Sunday was no new discovery,” bragged Abela, demonstrating his predilection for furious digging when in a hole, “So much so that I took the political decision a long time ago on this case that led to the resignation of a PL MP,” he finished triumphantly, chin jutting out in petulant defiance. Interesting. So the prime minister admits he knew of the benefits racket for at least two years, and swept it under the carpet. Abela, you’re gonna need a bigger carpet.  A woman who was claiming fraudulent benefits told investigators that an official at Castille told her to go to Grixti “because he knows what he should do and maybe can help. That man at Castille and Grixti were angels to me because I was so desperate at the time.

Then Labour and its apparatchiks have the audacity to clutch at their pearls and take out the smelling salts like Victorian damsels in distress in a bad gothic novel, when we either quote Rosianne Cutajar’s rare insight into the operations of the Labour party or use extended pig metaphors. What is this country, indeed. Governing by gaslighting.

One healthy young woman told police she knew she was in the wrong, but she took the money anyway because “everyone does it” and said if the money comes from nowhere, there is no reason to turn it down because everyone pigs out. Corruption is not a plague that only blights our country, to be sure, but in our case institutional corruption greases the ship of state and as Caruana Galizia wrote in July 2015, “The difference is that in Malta people have a corrupt attitude towards corruption. They blank it. They tolerate it. The powers are not really separate. Institutions are weak. The police operate as an extension of the government.” Which brings me to our intrepid police commisioner Angelo Gafà. Who likes to fry the small fish and refuses to go after the big, fat, pigs, erm no, fish.

At the end of August, Gafà presided over a ceremony for new police sergeants, in the presence of the other paladin for justice, Byron Camilleri.  The Malta Police Force Facebook page reported the Commissioner’s words and I could not believe my eyes. Gafa’ reminded them to “uphold the values of accountability, fairness, honesty, integrity.” He also preached that the role of sergeant “comes with great responsibility and that it is now their duty to lead by example.” He encouraged them to be change agents, lead with vision and to inspire their colleagues. Yes, just as he does, naturally. A gaslighter in chief. What example is he providing to his underlings? That is perfectly alright to betray the oath they had just taken just as long as it’s convenient for your career and the masters who feed you? We have a leadership crisis in this country. And yet, our so-called leaders console themselves  with rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. To belabour a point, yes, pun intended, the ship of state has long hit the iceberg, we are just fortunate, for now, that it has not yet sunk with everyone on it.

Because as long as we have breath in our bodies, we and other people of goodwill, shall continue to hold powerful people to account.

Wherever they may be.


Alessandra Dee Crespo is Vice-President, Repubblika



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