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frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

The untouchables

Under both Nationalist and now Labour administrations blue-eyed boys and girls have been appointed to positions of trust just because they happen to be card-carrying members of the party in government.

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
19 November 2014, 8:07am
Mallia refuses to publish inquiries concluded months ago, while Mizzi has made a mess of his transport portfolio. But the PM seems unwilling to do anything about it
Mallia refuses to publish inquiries concluded months ago, while Mizzi has made a mess of his transport portfolio. But the PM seems unwilling to do anything about it
Under both Nationalist and now Labour Party administrations, blue-eyed boys and girls have been appointed to top positions of trust within the public sector just because they happen to be card-carrying members of the party in government. They are often a source of embarrassment to their government because they are not fit for purpose. Both the PN and the PL lack credibility on this matter.

According to Mario Cutajar, Principal Permanent Secretary, people of trust are necessary within the civil service, “especially after spending 25 years in opposition”. He didn’t need to spell it out. It is pretty obvious that a change in administration has led to a change of staff loyal to it – his appointment is a case in point.

The Nationalist Party, on its part, cried foul and lashed out at the Head of the Civil Service, accusing him of being a political stooge who favours people from his party’s ranks for appointment within the public service. In truth, both parties lack credibility on this matter.

True, Labour unashamedly continues to favour people from its own ranks to top positions of trust within the public service – the chosen few now commonly referred to as ‘Taghna Lkollers’. 

However, successive Nationalist Party administrations too appointed people within the party’s own ranks to top positions of trust – a mix of capable people who deserved their position and from whose acumen and experience the service benefitted greatly, while others were appointed just because they were close to the party in government. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong in appointing people you trust to top, sensitive, positions – however this should not happen at the cost of losing some of the best brains within the service just because they happen not to support the government of the day. Unfortunately, this practice has been going on for a very long time, and the Muscat administration has now intensified this practice.

However, if the Nationalist Party really and truly wants a reform in the appointment of people to top positions of trust, it needs to show moral direction. Ombudsman Joseph Said Pullicino referred to the vague definition of ‘position of trust’ in a report recently. The PN should take this up and put forward suggestions for this matter to be resolved – with accountability, fairness and non-discrimination in recruitment process being the key for this to happen.

Under both Nationalist and now Labour administrations blue-eyed boys and girls have been appointed to positions of trust just because they happen to be card-carrying members of the party in government. They caused and shall continue causing untold harm to Malta’s public service while being a frequent source of embarrassment to their government; the untouchables within the public service at the taxpayers’ expense, of course.

Muscat’s list of shame

Closing the Opposition’s contribution to the debate on the party financing Bill, Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil lashed out brilliantly at the Labour government. He called their bluff and did so persuasively.

Busuttil insisted on a level playing field in party financing and objected to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s decision of not wanting to include State financing of the parties in the Bill.

Busuttil is right. State financing for political parties already exists – a right that is reserved exclusively to the Labour Party. For years, successive Labour Party administrations, through notorious politicians known for their shady dealings – the well-known 1980s Labour untouchables, requisitioned public and private property and converted them into Labour Party clubs. These clubs are worth millions and, most probably, make up for a huge chunk of Labour’s income.

Simon Busuttil and PN Secretary General Chris Said, the latter proving to be one of the best assets for the Nationalist Party, insist that Labour should give back the properties it had “stolen” from public and private hands. Short of that – should Labour refuse to accede to its request, the Opposition suggested that all parties should be bound to declare, annually, any income from any public properties they may be using.

Simon Busuttil went one step further, stating that if the PN’s proposal was rejected, his party would look into human rights laws and seek redress. The following is a list of public and private property which [according to news reports and information tabled in Parliament] successive Labour administrations took over and which, more than two decades later, it refuses to give back to their rightful owners.

Store in the Floriana Granaries; Store in Birgu; Two properties at the Verdala Barracks, Bormla; Shop in St Anne’s Street, Floriana; PL Club, Ghaxaq; PL Club, Gudja; Store in Isla; PL Club at Ta’ Farzina, Qormi; PL Club, Rabat; Macina, Isla; Property and land in Ghajn Tuffieha; Store at the Isla Bastions; PL Club, Kirkop; PL Club, Santa Lucija; Hall at Fort St Angelo, Birgu; PL Club, Ta’ Xbiex; PL Club, Naxxar; PL Club, Paola; PL Club, Sta Venera; PL Club, Pietà; PL Club, Kalkara PL Club, St. Julian’s.

This is Joseph Muscat’s list of shame. If the Prime Minister wants to come across as genuine in his attempt to regularize party finances he needs to walk the walk and return Labour’s ‘stolen’ property to its rightful owners. Only then can he be taken seriously.

The Untouchables

In a talking point article in Times of Malta last Tuesday, I pointed out that the byword for ministers Anton Refalo, Manuel Mallia, Joe Mizzi and Konrad Mizzi is arrogance. I argued that the Prime Minister would better watch out because these ministers may well prove to be his downfall, and then he will have only himself to blame.

Apart from the usual feedback from Nationalist Party supporters, I was astounded by the feedback I got from Labour Party supporters. From what I gather, within the Labour Party camp there is huge disappointment with several ministers, especially with Manuel Mallia and Joe Mizzi. No wonder that a recent survey by Maltatoday revealed that the popularity ratings of these ministers has hit rock bottom, notably those of Mallia and Joe Mizzi.

Manuel Mallia has to date refused to publish inquiries, concluded months ago – one of them about a decision made by former police commissioner Peter Paul Zammit not to press charges against a person who allegedly assaulted four officers at the Zabbar police station. This is a very serious shortcoming, but the Prime Minister seems unwilling to do anything about it. Minister Joe Mizzi has made a mess of his transport portfolio, but continues to occupy his post notwithstanding the stark fact that he is unfit for purpose.

Genuine Labour Party supporters seem resigned to the fact that the Prime Minister will do nothing about the situation and that they are there to stay. Someone aptly described them as ‘the untouchables’ – which is a very fitting description for these ministers.

The fear of making decisions

According to Apostolic Administrator Charles Scicluna, the Church’s Response Team that investigates claims of sex abuse will be overhauled by the end of the month. His statement follows accusations of sexual abuse levelled at Dominican Friar Charles Fenech, which rocked the local Catholic Church.

Now we learn that one of the two response teams of the Church has been investigating allegations of criminal sexual behaviour by Fenech for the past eight years.

What a shame. Why on earth it took so long and yet another scandal to surface, for Bishop Scicluna and his Curia to overhaul the Response Team, is beyond me, honestly; and by ‘overhaul’ I understand a clean sweep of all those involved. The lack of immediate action by the Church’s Response Team all boils down to the fear of making decisions.

Archbishop Paul Cremona was a good man, but his leadership style, or the lack of it resulted in procrastination being one of the hallmarks of the Church authorities in Malta and the reason why we have a defunct Church. It is screamingly obvious that there needs to be a clean sweep at the very top within the Archbishop’s Curia. The Archbishop has left, now it’s time for his team to follow in his footsteps. No current untouchable should be left standing if the local Church is to regain its credibility.

The vulnerable

On Thursday, reformed cocaine user Paul Philip Caruana, 44 was jailed for three years for a crime committed a decade ago. Ten years ago Mr Caruana was caught in possession of cocaine. Since then he has reformed and kicked the habit. He’s now behind bars – a cruel slap in the face for his efforts to kick the habit and start afresh.

This is truly shameful. It took the courts ten years to hear this case. This is not on; this is a very cruel system. How cruel and what a shame.

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