The Malta Independent 17 July 2024, Wednesday
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Robert Abela’s right: but he contributed to the problem

Noel Grima Sunday, 16 June 2024, 07:54 Last update: about 2 months ago

There are various and sometimes conflicting accounts about what Robert Abela said on Monday after Labour suffered a severe blow in the European Parliament election last weekend.

From an unassailable advantage of a 42,000 majority Labour could only muster an 8,400 one. No wonder Abela was livid.

On Monday then he let fly. Prime target of his anger was Minister Roderick Galdes, author of the Siggiewi jape of registering those who had been allocated houses in Siggiewi before they were made ready for them to relocate. Since I am writing on Friday morning I do not know if Labour has retained its majority there.

Then, according to most accounts, Abela let fly at the civil service, just a few weeks after celebrating at a great expense the Civil Service week.

Now there are many reasons why Labour lost so many votes but lack of cooperation by civil servants is endemic, as the public well knows.

Now the two main unions have spoken out in defence of the civil servants but we the public know Abela is right.

In fact the system is we first try to get the civil servants to solve our problem, then if we not get the service we expect we refer to the Customer Care. If we still do not get what we expect, we refer to the minister’s staff.

Now this EP election saw the most massive outlay of sweeteners in years – unasked for cheques, practically anything that people demanded. And yet people were not satisfied and they showed it.

Labour lost more than 1,000 votes in Zebbug, it lost its majority so far in St Paul’s Bay, San Gwann, Msida, Birkirkara, and in smaller places. And in most of the localities that remained under Labour the Labour Party lost votes.

It was in that multicultural mix that is St Paul’s Bay where the Nationalist vote was led by that veteran warhorse that is Censu Galea that the most significant victory so far was registered.

And we must not forget the significant victory registered by Roberta Metsola (although this could have been bigger had not Metsola wobbled on the Palestinian issue in an interview with a local television station and immediately lost a big chunk of Jewish votes).

Abela knows all this and has been knowing them for a long time. Hence his frustration as expressed on Monday. He could have waited, as Joseph Muscat told him, till after the local council results but the EP results showed very clearly the Labour voters’ anger.

Now how will Abela address this serious issue that can melt down the Labour majority?

He could choose the Carolingian way – a chair under a tree and an invitation to all and sundry to come forward to report their complaints and get immediate justice. But can Abela guarantee justice?

Apart from the normal civil servants who entered the service with an exam, there are many political appointees who know their position to Abela and his machine. His palpable anger on Monday was directed mainly at these, who sought a comfortable job and rode roughshod over the clients.

Let me give an example from my own home town: imagine if Abela set up a chair in Hamrun’s main square, just in front of the police station, and invites all those with complaints regarding the police to go and tell him their experiences. I bet they will be so many as to keep him there beyond midnight.

Is Abela able to do this or was Monday’s outburst just theatre?

The Nationalists need not gloat at this. They still got fewer votes than they should and people are still afraid to trust them. In two/three years’ time this may not be enough.

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