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michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon

The charlatan threat

Guido de Marco used to converse privately with so many Labour personalities as if they were his bosom friends. Some of them were actually friends of his, I later discovered. Guido was right, of course. And I was wrong.

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon
10 May 2016, 9:01am
Guido de Marco (centre used to converse privately with so many Labour personalities as if they were his bosom friends (pictured are Daniel Micallef, left, and Agatha Barbara, right). Some of them were actually friens of his, I later discovered
Guido de Marco (centre used to converse privately with so many Labour personalities as if they were his bosom friends (pictured are Daniel Micallef, left, and Agatha Barbara, right). Some of them were actually friens of his, I later discovered
One cannot but agree with a point made by PN Deputy Leader Mario de Marco in an interview he gave recently to another paper: “If we continue down this route, nobody will be interested in giving their share to this country and becoming part of the political crowd. All that is going on now will disincentivise anyone from wanting to remotely have a part in politics. Politics is not necessarily dirty and can be a way of trying to do some good for the country we believe in. If we continue this way we are going to lose the next political generation which could be ruinous for the future of this country.”

The cynicism with which the ordinary man in the street is looking at politicians and politics is the worst effect of the way Joseph Muscat’s administration has betrayed his promises on transparency and good governance. It could have a devastating effect far beyond the polls that newspapers organise or commission or even the results of the next general election.

Malta is risking pushing away from politics the highfliers of the generation that is currently in tertiary education, leaving the field only for charlatans. Not that charlatans are not part and parcel of the political scene whether in Malta or abroad – but most people can separate the wheat from the chaff. This can only happen if the stuff in front of them is not all chaff.

Malta has been lucky in that the great majority of its politicians were serious persons – irrespective of the ideologies they embraced and the party in which they militated. Many went into politics out of love for their country, even if some of these later made mistakes they should have avoided. But the way people look at politicians has never been as bad as this. 

It seems as if the whole political class has disappointed everybody. Today there is a tendency not to discern between serious people and charlatans while making sweeping generalisations about all politicians. This is risking deterring serious people from venturing into the political minefield. 

Sure enough the media has a lot to do about this. Not the social media where one can find as many charlatans as one wishes, all stuck in a box outside of which they cannot think; and all pontificating that every politician is a charlatan! It is the press and the broadcasting media that must guide the general public into discerning between the wheat and the chaff. 

Unfortunately the media owned by the two main political parties are doing untold harm by the way in which they criticise ‘the other side’. Many times this is unjust and misleading criticism, tarring everyone with a black brush as if the black sheep are only on one side.

When I first entered Parliament way back in 1976, I remember a late Gozitan MP reacting to every fracas that now and then erupted in Parliament by saying in Maltese (actually Gozitan): ‘Dawn kollha boton wieħed’, meaning Labour MPs were all from the same litter. Although the word litter (boton) could refer to any kind of animal I somewhat thought he was referring to a litter of pigs all sucking the wrong kind of milk from the grand old sow. That would be Dom Mintoff, of course.

This sort of imagery stuck in my mind for a long time until experience told me that in politics there is no such thing as ‘we are all white and the others are all black’.

Way back then, Mintoff was at the peak of his political career and one could sense the threatening atmosphere in the House. I could not understand how Guido de Marco – Mario’s father – used to converse privately with so many Labour personalities as if they were his bosom friends. Some of them were actually friends of his, I later discovered. Guido was right, of course. And I was wrong.

Today the situation is quite different. Over the years, I have not only realised that I started off on the wrong foot in my relations with ‘the other side’ but have also somewhat mellowed, probably also as a result of my age. My rabid hostile political attitude is no more. This does not mean that I have forgotten what happened in the past or that I now believe that Malta can afford to ignore the lessons of history. 

My experience – some time ago – of cooperating with people with whom I shared a common position in the divorce referendum campaign, but with whom I disagree on political grounds, was a very important eye-opener for me. More than ever before, I realise that ‘the others’ are mostly decent human beings with their own foibles and baggage and the character that makes each of them tick in a particular way. 

This makes me also very much aware of the importance of respecting all respectable politicians from all sides of the political spectrum.

And makes me seriously troubled with the notion that we are risking decent people being scared from venturing into politics, leaving all that space to the charlatans.

Police Corps in crisis

The resignation of Police Commissioner Michael Cassar means that a fourth commissioner has to be appointed by the current three year old administration.

Irrespective of the reasons why this has happened, I do not doubt that an organisation cannot take such frequent changes at the head without risk of serious malfunction. 

The Commissioner should be a person with a strong personality who imbues the force with a sense of duty and a person who refuses to take any nonsense either from the administration (of whatever political hue) or from the media, especially that part of the media with a declared political agenda.

Finding such a person from within the ranks is becoming always more difficult, with too many serious officers leaving the force as soon as they have a right for a pension.

Politics have always been the curse of the Police force in Malta – whether it is the politics of the two main parties in Parliament or the internal politics (with a small ‘p’) of the different cliques within the force.

I agree fully with the proposal mooted by the PN that the Police Commissioner should be appointed with a two-thirds majority approval of the House of Representatives. This may make it more difficult to find the right person but it would lead to the appointment of a better person whose independence is respected by all.

Perhaps one should look beyond the actual current members of the force.

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon is a former government minister who served under several Nationalist admini...
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