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The real world

The island is under siege and politicians have only themselves to blame

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan
8 May 2017, 7:54am
Those of us with any sense realise that the sacrifice of being taken to the cleaners and laid bare for all to see in public, is not worth the cost. Tonio Fenech is a case in point
Those of us with any sense realise that the sacrifice of being taken to the cleaners and laid bare for all to see in public, is not worth the cost. Tonio Fenech is a case in point
It has been a clamorous week, one which has been dominated by the Opposition’s unsparing onslaught on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff, Keith Schembri.

In just four to five days of campaigning the attack has been relentless. In response, the Labour Party has retorted with a set of proposals and slick messages. But the upshot of the attack is not without casualties.

The atmosphere in the country is incredibly tense and stifling. Social media has become a reality horror show for abuse and accusations with an unfair share of fake news. The divide between friends and family is so harsh and distinct that one starts to wonder how one can survive in such election fever. 

The island is under siege and politicians have only themselves to blame. The writing is on the wall: this country needs healing. 

And I cannot see anyone in a position to immediately address this malaise. I thought that we had moved on. The bloggers and the social media, and the association with ‘news’ that is not always researched and proven by facts, and the politicians themselves, make this so much more sinister.

The barograph for hate and fear is so high, that one cannot just point a finger at one side. Intelligent arguments are being lost in the shouting and bias. 

Once again, taking a cue from the number of high-profile politicians who have decided to call it a day and not stand for election, it is abundantly clear that many of them do not see a good enough reason to continue in politics.

I guess most of those with any sense realise that the sacrifice of being taken to the cleaners and being laid bare for all to see in the public domain is not worth the cost. 

Tonio Fenech is a case in point. 

He was a high-ranking politician, Gonzi’s star minister, a former finance minister who featured in this newspaper on several occasions, in more than one or two controversial news stories. And yet, I have to say that I admired the man for his lucid and eloquent responses. I may have undermined him on many occasions with the stories that made news sense, but I think that he was intelligent, sharp and effective.

When he lost the deputy leadership contest to Simon Busuttil in 2012, it was clear that things would not be the same and he was slowly edged out and moved to the sidelines.

The politicians I see today are not of the same mettle and substance of yesteryear, though there are a few exceptions. There is also little ideological depth and the real inspiration is indeed only tribal loyalty.

Tonio Fenech was truly Nationalist in morphology – family first, conservative, pro-business, well-trimmed and a schemer.

***

Muscat could have walked miles had he not had the Panama Papers question hovering over him. He underestimated the belligerence of the Opposition and he thought that Panama would go away. And of course, with everything else on all fronts going better for Muscat than anyone could have expected, things were made unreasonably difficult for the Opposition to find meat in which to sink its teeth. So corruption became the battle-cry. Such are the turns of the screw.

Having said that I am not too sure that everyone feels comfortable with the other side. 

Younger people or individuals who have been hurt have every reason to give their trust to the PN. But when they see Beppe Fenech Adami and Wayne Hewitt presenting themselves as they did in front of Castille as an alternative to what they describe as the most corrupt government ever, some people do start to wonder if they were hearing right.

The same consideration applies to the fact that over the years, the real news has been mixed with the fake news and the Opposition’s political agenda has been dictated by blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, a most divisive and hateful person (and tax avoider), for want of a better word. Her one-sided political critique, in which the left stinks and the right is angelic, turns stomachs. Yet the Opposition swears by her.

So everyone talks about tomorrow and yet tomorrow does not seem to be looking so great. Because if things stand as they are, both sides either way are going to be very bitter and I really think that the ramifications of what is happening now are going to spill over and beyond June 3.

Neither of the leaders is talking of reconciling differences, or toning down, for the sake of the country. There is a serious problem and we should not underestimate it.

We can blame Joseph Muscat for not having addressed the Panama question last year. That was a serious failure as many people of different hues would agree. But Simon Busuttil cannot pretend that he is not part of the show. Politics and political statements leave turbulence in their wake. 

Declaring that he will be dismissing the Commissioner of Police if elected and questioning the Attorney General is not entirely helpful. These are things one should be circumspect about airing in public.

Is it not obvious that if elected Busuttil would want his own men? It would be naïve for anyone to really believe he is any different from Muscat in that respect. But justice is not served by having yes men, but by having equal justice for all.

***

If there was something striking about the episode that surrounded the revelations of my private mobile phone logs by Caruana Galizia, it was the ubiquitous silence that followed. First of all, the police’s total silence on the matter, secondly the total absence of the IGM, the Institute of Journalists, who did not even utter a word though they are voluble on minor matters, and thirdly the absolute silence from both sides of the political spectrum.

And lastly and fourthly the incredible unofficial declarations by Vodafone and GO mobile that they are not to blame.

The truth is that it had to be someone from the service providers, no matter what they say. Or else, someone with more ominous connections to the back-end of the system. Some people with an endless cash vault to pay for their court litigation think that the story ends here. It surely does not for me. 

***

I will not repeat the mistake of shooting the messenger, even though it is clear that the messengers are not always right.

We can all publish FIAU reports that indicate compliance; or emails of bloggers about their personal and not so personal issues, which reveal the way they think, their connections, and more importantly the truth behind certain matters; or publish the meetings of former FIAU officials with politicians and their minions.

What is quite incredible to see are news stories being scripted with headlines that do not reflect the spirit of the story being reported.

The only antidote to this is transparent politicians, who simply cannot afford to be embarrassed by speculation about actions that are not even illegal or criminal. Even critics should steer clear of statements that are just based on pure conjecture. Instilling fear is not the way to conduct campaigns.

There are still many, many virgins in the world, but surely, they are not to be found among politicians, journalists or those who pose as harbingers of the truth.

***

I am not sure what to make of this: Simon Busuttil said that Labour in government would mean the end of the construction and financial industries. Did I hear right? And would that mean that the PN wants to better Labour when it comes to worshipping the financial services and construction industries? If that were to be the case, all Malta’s environmentalists and tax justice campaigners would be rushing to Muscat. If there is one thing the two major parties will never do, it is to destroy these two industries.

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