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From Lima with love

The name of the game is survival, and everyone should say it as it is.

Saviour Balzan
18 July 2012, 12:00am
When Censu l-Iswed waved his PN tattoo for all the world to see, he made sure he was also seen ‘greeting’ Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando at the doors of the entrance to the Nationalist Party headquarters. 

And as the same man waved his hideous stained arm, the President of the Republic was heading to Lima in Peru, fully aware that he was leaving behind a political crisis.

Inside the Nationalist Party’s HQ, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando was greeted by yet another colourful figure: the lawyer George Cutajar. Cutajar was surprisingly given access to the PN HQ lobby. Inside, Cutajar did not embrace JPO – quite the opposite happened.

The last time I met George Cutajar I recall him grumbling and groaning against his own party. However, times change: Cutajar is now a born again Nationalist. Born again creatures tend to be very unsightly beings.

That scene in front of the PN takes me back to the days at Il-Macina, when the Labour Party HQ was ‘guarded’ by the Praetorian guards: headed by Il-Qahbu, Il-Qattus and Il-Pupa.

Inside, Pullicino Orlando did not expect otherwise. But Jesmond Mugliett made a valid point when he said that he was surprised at the party executive’s decision to ban the three MPs from re-contesting with the PN: considering that he had voted so many times against his own wishes, mentioning the case of the power station as one example.

No one was impressed – not even FenechAdami, whose surprise attendance reminded me of his subtle way of saying: “Hey guys, you are screwing up all I built, can we please stop this haemorrhage?”

There is little doubt in my mind that the party is now being run by the hard line faction. Those that think that being ‘tough’ will get them places.

As Mugliett talked, everyone listened carefully, and the rebels that we once knew – namely Jean Pierre Farrugia, Robert Arrigo, Stephen Spiteri and others – had obviously lost their tongues.

The vote was of course taken by a show of hands.

Show of hands is of course a procedure which started off in Kim il-Sung’s days. It allows people to take a decision which they have no control over whatsoever.

Considering the siege mentality that exists in the Stamperija (as it used to be affectionately known) anyone who did not dare to raise their fingers would have been offered up as breakfast to Ernest Tonna… the man who reminds us what humility is all about.

Gonzi will, of course, demand that he has the high moral authority. The PN has lost its moral authority.

The name of the game is survival, and everyone should say it as it is.

Gonzi is only interested in hanging onto power.

In assessing Pullicino Orlando’s reaction, one should perhaps ask why he has come to this.

It has to do with his realisation that after the Mistra saga, he was fodder.

The thing that saved him from extinction was the fact that his seat was crucial for Gonzi’s survival.

So he returned to claim his pound of flesh.  Some people call it revenge, and yet I have not seen or known one person who would not have acted in the way Pullicino Orlando acted, after he had been taken to the cleaners… along with his family. 

The very fact that he hit at the nerve centre of the Nationalist Party – represented by Richard Cachia Caruana – is enough of an explanation of the magnitude of the party’s reaction (or rather, over-reaction).

Cachia Caruana is not the run of the mill guy you take to the cleaners.

Throughout the past few weeks, he has been lobbying with everyone to stand up for him. And most have accommodated him, though not all.

John Dalli, we are told, is a witness on Pullicino Orlando’s list. Strangely enough, nobody has asked him whether he has any evidence.

More interestingly still: Tuesday’s meeting comes when everyone at the PN HQ knows that John Dalli will be busy on EU Commission business.

This is public knowledge, as Commissioners have their calendars published on the web.

But does that mean that Dalli will not testify?

Dalli, more than Pullicino Orlando, has a lot to say about the way he was treated in the leadership and post-leadership campaign. 

And very interestingly, I am told that there are four prominent Nationalist officials and ex-officials who leaked to the Labour media in that dirty war with the full cognisance of senior officials.

It is only a matter of time before their names surface.

Yesterday was, of course, quite a farce. Marthese Portelli had to leave Paris and return, while Pullicino Orlando let another cat out of the bag with a statement by Joe Mizzi with an allegation about Cachia Caruana.

A serious one, if you ask me. True? I can’t say.

Cachia Caruana’s reaction was predictable. But in other countries, such allegations or accusations are followed up by resignations.  I’m not too sure that there is anything else to resign from for Cachia Caruana.

Well, Joe Mizzi may look like a Romanian gypsy but unlike some Romanian gypsies he is not a liar. 

And with such an allegation, Cachia Caruana should start wondering whether he is a match for Pullicino Orlando.

Pullicino Orlando has nothing to lose. He knows what he wants. His silver plate is specifically designed for three heads, and he will not rest before he sees the three heads resting ungracefully next to each other.

The longer this takes, the worse it will be for the PN.

Surely, someone must be asking if the only solution to avoid a landslide defeat is a change of the leader himself and his entourage.

Many at the top concur that this is the only way forward.

But none has the gall to say it, lest they end up like the three MPs.

When JPO and Franco Debono suggested that the President should call on the PM to ask him if he had a majority, they were hinting in no uncertain terms to both of them that the government did not have a parliamentary majority.

Gonzi can drag on, but he cannot hide. Sooner or later, he will face the music.

***

The other day a minister wrote me an email and told me to smile, because la vita e bella.

You really have to hand it to him. I’m smiling, and no matter what they think, I will be smiling when they won’t. Even this week’s €18,000 fine by magistrate Francesco Depasquale will not dampen my mood. I will only kindly remind him that his definition of a public official is slightly different from what the rest of the world considers to be a public official.

He said in his judgement that Peter Fenech was not a public official. It is also pertinent to point out that Fenech was a director, company secretary and legal representative in the company that claimed it did not have a dime to pay government to pay for rent. A cursory look at Peter Fenech’s lifestyle will prove that fiscal deprivation is not on his agenda.

Neither was it important for the Courts to note that while Fenech’s company was insisting that it could not pay, it had won a suit against someone who had been subcontracted to run Jumbo Lido. The unfortunate person was ordered to pay Lm120,000: but the government agreed to waive the rent owed by the company in question on the premise that they did not have any money!

It is a well-known fact that Fenech was close to Louis Galea, the man who last week found the time to entertain all of us by supporting Cachia Caruana and writing a letter in The Times stating that he knew Cachia Caruana to be a gentleman.

The Times, by the way, gloats whenever a newspaper not in their stable gets libelled or fined.

Fenech was so comfortably close to Dr Galea, that in the last leadership battle, which Galea lost, he stood in as his chief canvasser privately and publicly. Peter Fenech was not only rewarded for his loyalty by being appointed and remunerated on boards but so was his wife. She was, by the way, chairman of OHSA which also fell under Louis Galea. Political patronage and the choice of public officials is of course not appreciated by the judges and magistrates – who are themselves chosen by politicians and promoted by politicians.

But enough of this. The courts have a right to pass judgement and we have a right to appeal and fight the sentence within the rights given to us in the local judicial and European systems.

Hence the setting up of a libel fund.

Saviour Balzan is the founder and co-owner of MaltaToday. He has reported on Maltese poli...