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Ghaziz Varist,

The procurement system must change, the culture of direct orders must go. And this system of persons of trust should be revisited, people at all levels must be accountable

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan
12 December 2016, 7:43am
Evarist, you must also ask your permanent secretary to go
Evarist, you must also ask your permanent secretary to go
If I could I would write this letter in Maltese. I am sure I could express myself better and with more feeling in my mother tongue. But this is an English language newspaper, one of the many incomprehensible peculiarities in this minuscule State of ours.

I have had a bumpy relationship with you. I respect you for your left wing ideas, which are hard to come by in the party I am having difficulty understanding, and I want to believe that you are not corrupt. I thought you were doing a good job, far better than many of your predecessors at the ministry. So it hurt me when I had to write a story which implicates a person who was close to you and whom you had the power to appoint (as you did) and to discharge (as you also did, albeit quite late in the day).  

Philip Rizzo, who was appointed by your government, said that he would not entertain my questions because he believed I was your friend. With friends like me, who needs enemies? Rizzo, who willingly accepted government appointments, confuses loyalty with being truthful, and a nonconformist with being self-centred. 

But let me go back to the first days I got to know you. I remember you as a teacher at De La Salle. And later as I started to read copious amounts of literature, including some of your works, which surfaced in publications, including if I am not mistaken in one named fortuitously ‘Tomorrow’. 

I recall the time you worked in the newspaper ‘il-Helsien’, and later at Super One, and the inspiration you gave to budding journalists there. Your hidden hand was everywhere to be seen, or felt.

I was on the receiving end of course.

But in this cruel world of politics I also remember the time you stood with the establishment against those who wanted to change, for good or for worse. The time in 1989 you presided the Vigilance and Discipline board of the Malta Labour Party which kicked out Wenzu Mintoff and Toni Abela, for speaking out against the corruption and violence in the MLP.

I remember hearing you hit out in parliament at my late wife’s German foundation simply because the left wing foundation she worked for would not work with the Labour party – because the foundation, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, could not have a partnership with a political party that was against EU accession.

I cannot forget the time you accused MaltaToday in parliament of being DalliToday, coined well before Daphne Caruana Galizia, aka the Queen of Bile, started her tantrum on the subject.   

And I observed as you shafted your former close friend, Alex Sceberras Trigona, when you decided after having been elected on two districts, to hang on to the Sliema district, effectively ending Sceberras Trigona’s parliamentary career (AST, as he is known, was hoping you would relinquish the other district since he was the runner up in the Sliema district).

There are, I am sure, many instances where you can quote similar episodes in my career, which I am sure would make me blush and move me to say yes I erred then.

But this did not change my way of looking at your political work. I liked your approach to reportage, your ability to convert the little resources you had and build a formidable journalistic team.

And as a politician with ministerial duties you managed to catalyse many changes that improved education for the less privileged in the 1996-1998 period and now, and as someone who genuinely believes in reforming education in Malta.

On many political fronts I found someone I could agree with, and your singular stance on divorce was unique, considering the dilly-dallying of many of your colleagues. On the Panama papers you were unrelenting but always quick to point out that you were still loyal. That was hard to understand but always justified by you on the assumption that the Opposition was still not worthy to govern.

But what was more significant was the moderate and eloquent style in your political discourse. Making you one of the most liked ministers in most of the published surveys.

So, the revelation that you had allowed Dwardu to get you into this mess surprised me. You are after all a veteran and politically savvy individual with no history of being manipulated. You knew that Dwardu was not fit to be responsible for the procurement at the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools, and you must also have been conscious that the fact that his brother was permanent secretary in your ministry did not bode well.

The very fact that you were warned about Sandro Ciliberti, a character who has been for many years intrinsically bad news at the FTS, leaves me speechless.

It was wrong and you erred. We all do, but this was taxpayer money.

The Nationalists want your head.  

They want everyone’s head of those who are in government, which is understandable, seeing that they lust for Castille.

Like everyone else they have short memories, or pretend that they do. They forget how Louis Galea in 2002 and 2003 had been investigated for crass favouritism at the FTS, after a story run by DalliToday; oh, I am sorry by MaltaToday. The magisterial inquiry had pointed to serious abuses in the direct order scheme to people who hailed from Galea’s constituency. Attorney General Silvio Camilleri, today the Chief Justice, had lashed out at Consuelo Scerri Herrera and admonished her for asking the police to investigate. But then everyone knows Silvio Camilleri.

The scandal-prone Galea, who had already been tarnished in 1992 in connection with the Auxiliary Workers’ Scheme, was politically battered and failed to get elected in 2008. He went on to be nominated for the European court of auditors, when there were no witch hunts by bile bloggers and the supremacy of the conservative EPP block paid dividends. Ironically the politician who had no respect for audits got the cushiest and best-paid job with a responsibility for audit in the EU!

The doings of the past return to haunt the present. It is a great pity. Because I believe that you had great potential and can have great potential, but you have to redeem yourself by reforming the incredible faults in the FTS system that have been there for ages, and admit to a grave error of judgement.

Surely the procurement system must change, the culture of direct orders must go. And this system of persons of trust should be revisited, people at all levels must be accountable.

You have called your critics the Nationalists: Pharisees. You are probably thinking of those situations which should have led PN politicians to go scarlet in the face and call it a day.

The Tonio Fenech episode is perhaps the best example, but there are so many more, which include George Pullicino et al.

But two wrongs do not make a right.  

Evarist, you must also ask your permanent secretary to go. You must address these matters because somehow I am still willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

For the simple reason that when I look around both parties and I see Claudio Grech, Mario de Marco, Chris Said, Louis Grech, Chris Fearne, Helena Dalli and others I do not see virginal characters but individuals who have much to contribute and make this little rock a better place.

***

Not a scumbag, not a witch, just simply a cruel and heinous hatemonger. I have decided to part with tradition, not to call her by her namesake, the queen of bile, but by her real name. I still refuse to click on her vile gossip blog, but I am told about what she is now writing. The very fact that she spends so much time spewing out hatred is enough to decipher her state of mind.

I hold no brief for anyone. But for Daphne Caruana Galizia to write (invent) simply for the fun of it, that Keith Schembri has an inoperable tumour in his head, when he does not, and that he is dying, when he is not, is simply unacceptable.

Everyone knows what Mario de Marco and Beppe Fenech Adami are going through.  None of us in our right senses would consider speculating unnecessarily.

It is not enough to say that she is cruel and abnormal in her loathing. She is a literary terrorist and the focus should no longer be about her but about those who support her and make it happen for her. That is Standard Publications, owned by Malcolm Miller and Joe Said, and of course those advertisers and persons who support her publications Taste & Flair and The Independent. And those who delight in her orgy of hate and quote her because of their political allegiances and grudges.

I also think it is high time that if Archbishop Scicluna does not wish to be openly labelled as an Opposition lackey he should also raise a voice. Otherwise he should really search in his heart for the meaning of being a true Christian, or whether he has it to be a beacon for lesser mortals.

I have every respect for freedom of speech, for diversity, for tolerance to different ideas but what Caruana Galizia is disseminating, is what insane people do when they have no control over their actions. Like rapists and paedophiles, Caruana Galizia simply acts without any consideration for others. She invents and repeats lies and knowingly spreads unfounded rumour. Not to mention her penchant for attacking people who are not in the line of fire, such as children and private citizens. If PN leader Simon Busuttil wants to win more electoral support he should dissociate himself at once from Caruana Galizia.

People may disagree or agree between each other on politics or social matters, but we must endeavour to agree that this must stop here. It goes beyond the frivolous political bickering that divides families, friends and a nation, for the gain of politicians and their chosen ones.

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan is the founder and co-owner of MaltaToday. He has reported on Maltese poli...
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