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michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon

Patriotism revisited

What was once considered as a good anti-Imperialist policy no longer holds water in this day and age

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon
12 October 2016, 8:39am
The Leo Brincat saga gave rise to an old Labour government chestnut when it comes to dealing with the Opposition
The Leo Brincat saga gave rise to an old Labour government chestnut when it comes to dealing with the Opposition
Leo Brincat’s tribulations are over and he now finds himself settled comfortably in Luxembourg as a member of the EU’s Court of Auditors. 

So far, so good. Or is it no good at all, as some commentators are still insisting? Time will tell, of course.

Unfortunately the Leo Brincat saga gave rise to an old Labour government chestnut when it comes to dealing with the Opposition. The GWU and Labour Party media have used the anti-Leo Brincat vote in the European Parliament to attack the Opposition MEPs and the PN as being anti-Maltese and unpatriotic. This is utter nonsense, of course.

The idea that a Labour government is synomymous with Malta is a relic of Mintoffian days when Mintoff used the word ‘Malta’ when talking about himself! In those days, Dom Mintoff would say ‘The people want this’ or ‘Malta disagrees with that’ instead of ‘I want this’ and ‘I disagree with that’. Apparently he saw no difference betwen himself and the ‘people’ or with the ‘Malta’ concept – a trait shared by many others with a dictatorial bent. I once wrote that Mintoff was acting as if ‘Malta’ or ‘the people’ were his ‘alter ego’! You see, Mintoff was Malta and Malta was Mintoff. 

After making such a ridiculous assumption, the logical conclusion that Labour used to arrive at is that anyone who disagreed with Mintoff disagreed with ‘the people’ and with ‘Malta’. They were therefore unpatriotic and anti-Malta.

I thought that this nonsense had been put to bed many moons ago, but – alas – the Leo Brincat saga revived the idea and, hey presto, editorials in ‘l-orizzont’ and ‘Kullhadd’ started to repeat the nonsense of old, attacking the Opposition as anti-Malta.

Joseph Muscat has managed to rebuild a Labour Party that has shaken off many Mintoffian attitudes, but old habits die hard and his party’s media quickly reverted to the old unacceptable accusations about the PN ‘conniving’ with the EPP not to agree with Leo Brincat’s nomination.

The saga gave rise to another chestnut: The idea that in Malta we can have differences ‘between us’ but when we deal with foreigners, we must show a united front... and the PN ditched this ‘golden rule’ in the case of the Panama papers and Leo Brincat’s nomination. How unpatriotic, the Labour argument goes...

There is no such golden rule, of course. It is a hang-up from our colonial days when the British Colonial Office followed the old Roman maxim ‘Divide et Impera’ (Divide and rule) when dealing with its colonies. Showing a united position when dealing with British imperialism made sense, even though this so called rule was more honoured in the breach than in the observance. But what was once considered as a good anti-Imperialist policy no longer holds water in this day and age. Today we are a fully fledged independent EU member state and not attempting to overcome British Imperialist strategies any more, as it were. 

As the irony of fate would have it, our former colonial master, Britain, is to apply to leave the EU under Malta’s presidency of the EU. Apparently many cannot even start to fathom the historical implications of this incredible turn of events. Instead some still wallow in colonial hangovers! 

Incidentally, this week, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the Polish Law and Justice (PiS) Party, currently in power, hinted that former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, may not get the support of the current government in Warsaw for a second term as President of the European Council, saying in a published interview: “I imagine that the Polish government will not support Donald Tusk’s second term in the European Council”.  This when, ideologically, the PiS is a right-wing nationalist political party. Gauged by Labour’s yardstick – as used in its short-sighted attacks on the PN – this makes the nationalistic Polish government anti-Polish!

And in the US, a controversy has erupted after San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt down instead of standing up straight when the US national anthem was played before a game of what the Americans call football. He did so to protest against the racism that is prevalent in many parts of the US. Some have called him ‘unpatriotic’ but many others felt it was their patriotic duty to copy his stance...

It seems that other countries have no ‘patriotic’ hangovers from their past and consider the issue as one dictated by current circumstances.

Yes, but not in Malta.

Time is money

A few days ago, I was in Court at 9am as requested after I was summoned as a witness by one of the parties in a civil case involving a client of mine. To do so I had to leave home at 7.50am because of the heavy traffic.

The judge entered the Hall at about 9.05am – which is very fine by Maltese Court standards. The lawyer who had summoned me to be present at 9am arrived at about 10am while I was called to give my testimony at 10.45am. My testimony lasted all of two minutes. I had to confirm under oath my reports on a property that were already in the court file. No more questions.  

In essence, I had wasted almost three hours for a two-minute appearance in the witness box. I don’t think anyone would not agree that, as far as I was concerned, this was a laborious time-wasting exercise, albeit my confirmation of the reports under oath was undoubtedly required by Court proceedings.

I recalled that some 56 years ago, when at the age of 15 going on 16 I was preparing for my ‘O’ levels, my class was asked to write an essay entitled ‘Time is money’. Were Maltese lawyers ever given this task, I wondered.

In other countries the courts deal with civil suits in a different way. The judge first summons the lawyers of both sides. When the issue being argued about is identified, a programme of hearings is planned with all timing and witness details. Three or four full sessions normally suffice for the Judge to be able to arrive at a decision and deliver his or her judgement.

But then, everyone thinks that time is money.

Yes, but not in the Maltese courts.

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