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Stories from another world

What is clear is that the aides around Simon Busuttil are clearly not on the ball, and are not used to buffering their leader from embarrassing moments and persons

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan
10 April 2017, 7:49am
Discredited supergrass Mario Portelli (left) with Marlene Farrugia. Portelli had the privilege of being in attendance during the historic coalition agreement that Simon Busuttil sealed with Farrugia’s PD
Discredited supergrass Mario Portelli (left) with Marlene Farrugia. Portelli had the privilege of being in attendance during the historic coalition agreement that Simon Busuttil sealed with Farrugia’s PD
By the time I started writing this article, the inquiry on the meeting in the Gozo ministry in relation to drug trafficking charges had just been released to the press.

Of course it was timed by Joseph Muscat purposely for Saturday evening to set the ‘journalistic’ agenda. I am not impressed, but I will not comment on that today. 

All I can say is that the inquiry shows that lawyer and Labour candidate John Vassallo, the sole member of the inquiry board, did not understand what the story was about. He accepted at face value the statements by a police inspector and the Police Commissioner. 

But did he see the files? Did he call in all the people I listed when I broke the story? No.

Our job is to report, not to prosecute. If subsequent inquiries have been half-baked affairs it does not mean that our work is useless or unnecessary. With the state of secrecy and omertà in Gozo, it is very unlikely the facts would have ever surfaced.

Apart from the fact that inquiry boards are not really investigative bodies but rather question and answer sessions, we cannot have an inquiry that in one case is run by police officers, in another cases by retired judges, and in another by a lawyer. Inquiries need to be managed by investigative officers who can look into allegations and dig deeper and not only wait for viva voce declarations. 

And investigations need to look into every nook and cranny and very importantly be at arm’s length from the executive.

The level of omertà in Gozo is higher than in Malta. It existed when Giovanna Debono was minister and still does with Anton Refalo, a minister who refuses to answer MaltaToday’s questions on his extensive art collection. The only difference today is that the media has better means to investigate a story. What we do not have is a definite change in culture.

When we write a story, especially about Gozo, we always know that many of those who have spoken to us will not repeat their story when faced with questions from the powers that be.

I don’t really blame them. With the level of persecution they will face, very few people are willing to be a hero for a cause. Most will willingly change their story as was the case when we reported that Xewkija Tigers striker Daniel Bogdanovic was released from arrest to play for his football club, after an inquiry came in from an Assistant Commissioner in Malta in response to a call from the football team’s coach, a personal assistant to a junior minister – apart from the fact that Xewkija Tigers has close links to the minister.

I say this with utmost sincerity. Many will hide the truth, as will be the case with the late night meeting at the Gozo ministry and the changed police statement, that meant that the young man who should have been prosecuted for drug trafficking was not.

***

The plan to have a motorsports track in a pristine locality in Malta or Gozo is a grand idea. It is even greater if it is placed in an ODZ  area or bang in the middle of our countryside. 

Yesterday, the motorsports lobby called on the Prime Minister to speed up plans for the racetrack. They said this was a smashing opportunity for foreign investment.

I am sick of hearing that something should be accepted because of foreign investment. F*** the investment. It cannot be that all the country is given up to development and rampant construction. It cannot be that just any investment is important. My children’s future and future generations’ is far more important than the dividends of some foreign company or the lure of fast cars.

It is bad enough this government has no environmental conscience and takes a Reaganesque approach to ecological issues. As if the right to have a countryside, clean air or rich biodiversity was something only freaks should be entitled to.It is about time that all of us start stamping our feet against this widespread culture. 

***

Wait. Stop. Is this is real thing?

Marlene Farrugia is welcomed by the Nationalist Party as a candidate, and somehow she will still stay on as the leader of the Partit Demokratiku. 

Well, it is not quite clear. Really and truly she will be seen as part of the PN. That seems to be OK to some.

But as we all know her decision to sleep with the PN will mean that very few Labourites will cross the line and vote for her. It is true that she has been very, very generous with her pocket, forking out thousands of euros (which she has probably made from real estate dealings or dental work) and cleverly ‘donated’ to band clubs and other related NGOs. People like Marlene do not give money away for no reason whatsoever.

Which means that she could win some Nationalist votes to the detriment of other PN candidates, such as Anthony Bezzina, who I heard was shocked to learn of the news of Marlene’s candidacy from the papers.

Some pundits believe that it is a good idea for independent candidates to orbit under big parties since this is the only way to get elected. But apart from the fact that most of these independent candidates have an ego bigger than all of Marlene Farrugia’s properties put together, everyone knows that once you work in a big party, you cease to be independent. You are part of the big system, you’re nothing but a pawn in their hands.

But the bigger question with this assimilation is the fact that Simon Busuttil kept his parliamentary group in the dark. He took a unilateral decision, consulted none of the geeks in his kitchen Cabinet and that was it.

Anyone with any grey matter would have told him three things about Marlene Farrugia.

a. That she is a loose cannon and cannot be controlled.

b. That her association with the PN will not lead to a haemorrhage of Labour votes.

c. That when it comes to public talking she overshadows him (Simon Busuttil)

These considerations were either not communicated to him or else they were and landed on deaf ears. The latter seems to be a recurring trait.

If that was not enough of a snafu for the PN, Marlene Farrugia dragged a certain Mario Portelli with him. Nobody at the PN seemed to have ensured they got some proper knowledge on who this man accompanying Farrugia was.

Somehow, this former police constable – PC 99 –ended up with the Partit Demokratiku, now firmly an appendage of the PN. PC 99 was a sort of supergrass who conferred regularly with the former Commissioner of Police John Rizzo. For reasons which are more than obvious, his testimony in two important criminal cases, were thrown out because the facts outweighed his fantastical inventions.

Rizzo, it seems, believed all that was uttered by this PC 99. Portelli was investigated by the police themselves for having slept with a prostitute while on duty. Notoriously, Portelli also concocted a fantastical story that described the former police inspector David Gatt as some sort of Mafia boss wannabe and the brains behind a number of hold-ups and bank heists. Gatt was accused of the crimes and spent a good six years in living hell before he was found not guilty.

Mario Portelli’s testimony was believed by Rizzo, but kicked out of the court and led the Magistrate to state: “… his testimony was entirely unbelievable and not only because it was coming from a person who gives the impression of self-exaltation and pride, but primarily because his testimony is contradicted by material fact.”

The court also added that Mario Portelli’s medical file speaks volumes of his mental health.

Now, somehow this man ends up in Marlene Farrugia’s party and in Simon Busuttil’s office. 

Why Marlene Farrugia should have dragged this particular individual with her is not entirely clear. I do not really expect much more from Farrugia. I really think she has taken everyone for a ride, and most of those who choose to lend her an ear should really look back an see her political career and political stands.

But what is clear is that the aides around Simon Busuttil are clearly not on the ball, and are not used to buffering their leader from embarrassing moments and persons.

The Opposition we so badly need in this country should not suffer such unnecessary embarrassments.

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