The Malta Independent 30 May 2024, Thursday
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TMID Editorial: Sour grapes

Monday, 8 April 2024, 12:59 Last update: about 3 months ago

There’s a phrase in Maltese which reads ‘Min ma jilħaqx l-għeneb jgħid li hu qares’- which can roughly be translated to ‘sour grapes’ in English – which can be used to convey bitterness with something.

And it was in fact bitterness on show when European Commissioner Helena Dalli was brought onto a panel by the state broadcaster to discuss the appointment of new President Myriam Spiteri Debono last week.

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Dalli who, when asked about the importance that Spiteri Debono was the first President to be chosen after a Constitutional requirement for there to be a two-thirds majority in Parliament for her appointment and the political maturity on show to reach such an agreement, went off on a tirade criticising the Nationalist Party’s decision to not want to accept anybody from the Joseph Muscat-era as a potential candidate for the role.

“This conversation is not over because there was a small nucleus of people in the Nationalist Party which excluded certain people for very unfair reasons, and reasons which are not serious to be considered,” Dalli said when asked about this subject.

It is an open secret that Helena Dalli was being considered as one of the frontrunners to become Malta’s 11th President – that was until the PN said that they would not back anybody who was a part of Joseph Muscat’s Cabinet in the past.

“Certain accusations were made on people… they said that they have blood on their hands because they were in Cabinet in a certain period of Maltese history,” she said.

“On the two-thirds, we saw that it can work when there is good will – yes it results in political maturity, but it has not resulted in political maturity in our country because up to the point that we got here, there was a lot of unjust discourse on many serious people, who gave their lives and time for their country and its people – all their time to the country, politics, and people – but that can be discussed another time,” she continued.

There are several things to consider in this matter.  The first is the irony of Dalli’s comments.  In her televised rant, she said that there wasn’t political maturity on show in this agreement because the PN excluded a certain group of people (which just so happened to include herself) from the equation.

Conveniently, she failed to make any mention or reference whatsoever of what happened the last two times a two-thirds majority was required for an important appointment.  In the case of the Ombudsman, an extremely important post, it took some 18 months for a cross-party agreement to be reached.

Worse still, the government obstinately refused to consider anybody who was not their favoured candidate – retired judge Joseph Azzopardi – for the post of Standards Commissioner.  So much was this the case that the government went as far as changing the law to introduce an anti-deadlock mechanism which basically meant that it could push through any candidate it likes.

How’s that for political maturity, Commissioner Dalli?

Another fact to take into consideration in this matter is that the President – by both the admission of the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader – is there to unite the country. 

There is no realistic way that anybody who has served in the Muscat Cabinet can do that.  Let’s take Dalli herself: she voted in favour of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri in the midst of the Panama Papers scandal, effectively saying that she is perfectly fine with whatever the now-disgraced duo had done

So if the PN’s decision to put its foot down and say that it won’t accept anyone of that ilk meant that we got a President in Myriam Spiteri Debono who has been welcomed by everyone – Labour, Nationalist, and even the ardent followers of civil society NGOs – then the country is all the better for it.

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