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frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

Government’s in freefall, and Muscat has no guts to stop it

The events of the past days have undoubtedly tarnished the government’s credibility but instead of automatic support for the PN they might have resulted in voters’ apathy and disaffection with politics and politicians

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
3 December 2014, 7:49am
The public is fast losing its confidence in the integrity of the police force and Acting Commissioner Ray Zammit must either step up or step out. So far, he has failed miserably
The public is fast losing its confidence in the integrity of the police force and Acting Commissioner Ray Zammit must either step up or step out. So far, he has failed miserably
If Prime Minister Joseph Muscat were truly “angry and disgusted” with last week’s shooting incident, he should have sacked Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia, and apologised for allowing this man to form part of his Cabinet of Ministers in the first place.

The Prime Minister may not have grasped it yet, but after barely 20 months in office he’s got a serious credibility problem. He failed to deliver a gas-fired power station, the kernel of Labour’s electoral programme, on time, while accountability has been thrown to the dogs.

Muscat risks undoing the positive results – not least encouraging signs of unemployment ticking down with remarkable consistency – derived by his administration. He’s got only himself to blame.

This has been the worst week for the Muscat administration, after barely 20 months in office. The 2015 budget, which was well received by social partners and trade unions, has been overshadowed completely by the Manuel Mallia fiasco. That’s a nightmare for every government, but the astonishing thing about it is that the Prime Minister is unwilling to put things right. His government is in freefall, and he doesn’t have the guts to stop it.

Muscat has got only himself to blame for this mess. He should have sacked Mallia the minute it transpired that his office issued a press statement giving a completely different version of what happened on the night of the shoot-out. Instead, the Prime Minister defended his man – with many questioning whether the Prime Minister is unable to take action against the Minister and if so why.

Muscat’s fatal mistakes      

Up to a few months ago, the general perception was that Joseph Muscat had a strong hold over his party and MPs. He often came across as a ruthless leader. On the eve of the general election, polls showed that his deputy leader, Anglu Farrugia, was a ‘liability’. Muscat sacked him. A few months later, Health Minister Godfrey Farrugia erected a tent outside the Mater Dei Hospital; it got wall-to-wall coverage in the media for the wrong reasons. Muscat sacked him.

Things have changed dramatically in the last few weeks. Ministers Manuel Mallia, Helena Dalli, Chris Cardona and Anton Refalo together with Labour MP Luciano Busuttil were embroiled in controversies of their own making. The media hounded them and rightly so. The ministers stayed put – finding solace in the Prime Minister’s defence of their actions. Muscat got the flak as he was accused of being strong with the weak and weak with the strong. It will take time and a lot of effort to turn things round and whether Muscat will manage to do that is anybody’s guess.

In his budget speech, on Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister tried to give the impression that it’s business as usual and that people are optimistic about their future. They are not. People are angry and disgusted with the Prime Minister’s inability to stand up to one of his ministers and show him the door. The silent majority are worried because the government’s couldn’t-care-less attitude is reaping mediocrity and lawlessness.

The Prime Minister needs to take a step back, realise that his government is in freefall and decide whether he’s got the guts to stop it.

Step up, or step out

Surely we deserve some straight answers, from Acting Police Commissioner Ray Zammit, to questions by the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Jason Azzopardi [the most effective MP on the Opposition benches], namely to tell us why:

1.            No gunshot residue was collected from Mallia’s driver and his car.

2.            The Briton’s car was moved by the police before the arrival of the duty magistrate.

3.            It took the Police six days to arrest and arraign the minister’s driver.

The public is fast losing its confidence in the integrity of the police force and Mr Zammit must either step up or step out. So far, he has failed miserably. 

Beware of misplaced confidence

 As PN Leader Simon Busuttil addresses the PN general council this morning, it is hard not to feel that there is a growing sense of optimism within the party, thanks to the Prime Minister’s inability to put a stop to the likes of Manuel Mallia.

This mood could well be shattered if the PN thinks that the public anger with the Prime Minister’s inability to sack Mallia would automatically translate into support for the PN.

The events of the past days have undoubtedly tarnished the government’s credibility but instead of automatic support for the PN they might have resulted in voters’ apathy and disaffection with politics and politicians.

Simon Busuttil needs to demonstrate how people will be better off under a new Nationalist government. He needs to present a blueprint for Malta.

Busuttil can’t do that in one speech, but the coming weeks and months are crucial if the PN wants to be seen as the real alternative to a government in freefall. 

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