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frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

Busuttil’s ‘washing line’, Muscat’s mess and a bottleneck at the Curia

Muscat’s advisors tried to make him look like a hero, who rescued Galea from certain death, but instead made Muscat look like a reckless fool

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
13 August 2014, 7:42am
It all boils down to a choice between Muscat and Busuttil. The PN leader needs to project more strength. Blair did that with Clause 4. I am still waiting for Busuttil's 'Clause 4' moment. Perceptions of strength matter.
It all boils down to a choice between Muscat and Busuttil. The PN leader needs to project more strength. Blair did that with Clause 4. I am still waiting for Busuttil's 'Clause 4' moment. Perceptions of strength matter.
On Radio 101 last week, PN Leader Simon Busuttil told me that under his leadership the Nationalist Party was making a break from the past on various fronts, including by revamping its political structures, and restructuring its commercial arm. He also fended off criticism that he was not being assertive enough. Fair enough.

Busuttil, and his leadership team, not least party president Ann Fenech – who might prove to be a game-changer for the PN – and PN secretary general Chris Said, a doer, are doing their best to make inroads with the electorate; but much more needs to be done. Busuttil continues to trail the Prime Minister on the trust barometer, and while being highly rated as a potential Prime Minister is not, necessarily, a good indicator of electoral success, it is worrying because it all boils down to a choice between Muscat and Busuttil.

The new PN leader needs to project more strength. Blair did that with Clause 4. I am still waiting for Busuttil’s ‘Clause 4’ moment, the second one, I mean – because the Civil Unions Bill was an excellent, but, sadly, missed opportunity. Busuttil had an excellent opportunity to prove his mettle, and grip on the party and his parliamentary group; but it’s never too late.

Time to hang out his washing

Simon Busuttil will only make the PN a real alternative to the current government if it has the right policies, and the electorate knows what the PN stands for. Busuttil needs to articulate a clear alternative to Labour’s policies – or the lack of them.

The main problem with the current Labour administration is vision. It often seems that the Muscat administration has no immediate and long term vision for the future of Malta. But what does the Nationalist Party stand for, and what is its vision for Malta’s future? Ask that question to the staunchest of PN supporters and you are likely to get blank faces, let alone with middle of the road voters and the thousands who at the last general elections, and the MEP election which followed, deserted the PN in droves.

That is why the setting up of 10 policy fora “to discuss new and updated political proposals for the Nationalist Party,” is a much needed initiative if the PN wants to articulate its vision and win the  minds and hearts of voters who in 2018 would have had enough of Muscat’s Labour. Peter Mandelson, who was behind the rebranding of the Labour Party as “New Labour”, used to call it New Labour’s “washing line”. It’s time for Busuttil to hang out his washing.

From a ‘hero’ to a ‘reckless fool’

Joseph Muscat’s news conference on the airport’s apron upon Martin Galea’s arrival from Libya – a PR exercise to claim credit for Galea’s release – blew up spectacularly in the Prime Minister’s face. Muscat’s advisors tried to make him look like a hero, who rescued Galea from certain death, but instead made Muscat look like a reckless fool.

Ridiculous? Of course. And so is the mess the government has got itself into.

The Martin Galea case was, severely, mishandled by the government, and exposed a serious lack of coordination between the Office of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Office.

To make matters worse, according to MaltaToday the Office of the Prime Minister was “unaware that Maltese national Martin Galea had gone missing in Libya and was made aware of his disappearance by the press late in the week on Friday 25 July”. Later on in the week, Saviour Brincat, an oil worker who has been working in Libya for the past 25 years, accused the Maltese government of lack of support or concrete solutions from the Maltese government, and that, instead, he only received “moral support.” According to Mr Brincat the government ignored his pleas for help for three weeks. In the meantime, Mario Cutajar, head of the civil service, is briefing the media about the happenings in Libya – which shouldn’t be – he is a civil servant not a government spokesperson. Libya is burning, and the Muscat administration needs to get its act together, fast.

To reform the Church, a clean sweep is a must

I would be hesitant to ‘advise’ the Maltese Catholic Church about internal matters, were it not for the fact that a larger concern now overrides these considerations. The Church has an important role in society – especially because it serves to protect the dignity of the weak and the voiceless. A defunct Church is, therefore, not an option.

Signs abound that the leadership crisis in the local Church has come to a breaking point. Parish priests have no point of reference, and were it not for Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna, and Bishop Mario Grech, the local Church would be silent on issues that matter. Only recently, Gozo Bishop Mario Grech, spoke about the need of ‘fresh blood’ within the Church. Grech became the latest, senior, clerical figure to speak out on the need for certain changes within the institution. The archdiocese needs a leader – a reformer – to rejuvenate, and reform the Maltese Catholic Church.

Archbishop Cremona’s leadership is highly ineffective. When he ventures outside his official residence it is to deliver a homily at a pontifical mass, take part in religious processions, and meet with religious communities. Occasionally, His Grace laments about his Church not being able to express itself freely. Prominent Maltese clerics have made urgent pleas for a clean sweep within the Archbishop’s Curia. Those pleas deserve heed.

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV. He was formerly...
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