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You can tell a big liar from the small lies | Ryan Callus

PN candidate Ryan Callus writes: Given that this is about the reputation of this country, whose economy depends on its integrity and of a serious jurisdiction, it is a tragedy

12 May 2017, 1:20pm
Starting from when it all started in March last year when hell broke loose with the Panama Papers revelations, the Prime Minister told us that Konrad Mizzi had given him a draft declaration of assets listing his company in Panama before the news broke out
Starting from when it all started in March last year when hell broke loose with the Panama Papers revelations, the Prime Minister told us that Konrad Mizzi had given him a draft declaration of assets listing his company in Panama before the news broke out
Apart from the political programmes which should be the focus of our attention in the coming days, the outcome of this election depends on whether the electorate believes that the Prime Minister and his family are the ultimate beneficiaries of Egrant.

The gravity of this matter is such that one can hardly expect anyone who let himself go down that route admit in public to such an offence. It is therefore useless to expect any admission or any other signal which would help us decide on this million dollar question, if you pardon the pun, from the Prime Minister.

A series of other events may however help us make up our mind to this effect. In particular, it is well known that anyone who has to lie on any given thing will then find himself in a situation of having to lie on a series of others to cover the tracks of the first lie. Another rule of thumb when it comes to lies is that he who is capable of lying small will surely be capable of lying big.

Let us try to apply these rules to the recent events and the Prime Minister’s statements. Starting from when it all started in March last year when hell broke loose with the Panama Papers revelations, the Prime Minister told us that Konrad Mizzi had given him a draft declaration of assets listing his company in Panama before the news broke out. 

Go tell that to the marines! Who on earth would open a company in a secret jurisdiction and prepare to hide its assets through nominee companies and trusts to declare it afterwards in the parliamentary declaration? 

That declaration of assets was a small lie opening the season for more to come. 

When the alleged Egrant link to Michelle Muscat broke out Muscat told us that any banking transaction will leave a digital record. Another small lie. Way before we had internet banking we had paper banking. Remember that good old bank account booklet? Well, while the banking and internet evolution conquered the world, it still left a few loopholes for the old-fashioned. Nothing will replace good old trust in your banker. In fact, bearer accounts and other non-digital transactions although unadvised and rare, remain possible. And as we know, extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. Another small lie conveniently making up for something bigger.

The Prime Minister’s vital need to distract us from the path to Egrant is leading him to use this skill more and more often, until just last week with the news that his right hand man Keith Schembri will be the subject of a criminal inquiry. 

The Prime Minister’s incredible spin to this news was that the magistrate found no blame with him and his link to Egrant given that the magistrate sent the case for inquiry to another magistrate. Confusing the preliminary attestation of a crime by Schembri to the purported and the supposed innocence of the Muscats can only be done with the intention to confuse matters in the minds of the electorate and distract us from the truth.  

The fact that he does so well on the small lies tells us only one thing - he can do it even better with the big ones, and he does it brilliantly.

He does it so well that he can normalise the Panama Papers scandal with all its gravity as a minor mishap of minor misjudgement. This is Muscat’s line on Panama Papers: “it is true that we might have handled it better”. While saying this, Keith Schembri is still chief of staff at OPM and Konrad Mizzi is still Minister and the star candidate on Labour’s list for the fourth district.

The Prime Minister’s skill in deceit is such that he can admit to a serious misgiving while proceeding scot-free to respond to the natural sequence of action expected from such a misgiving.

In any other democracy in Europe, any of the incidents or so called “small lies” described above would have led to a resignation of the Prime Minister. 

In our kind of democracy where the President has virtually no executive powers and parliament ruled by one party, the figure of the Prime Minister becomes our utmost safeguard to ensure that the rule of law is applied. The fact that the Prime Minister is, for instance, reposnible from hiring and firing both the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General goes to show the central character of the premiership in the defence of the rule of law in Malta.     

And yet, in this kind of Malta, the Prime Minister looks on as the Police Commissioner resigns over a damning FIAU report and his successor sits on those reports for months, while the Attorney General who chairs the same FIAU proceedings denies knowledge of quoted reports.

Had this been a novel, it would have been captivating. Given that this is about the reputation of this country, whose economy depends in large part on its reputation of integrity and of a serious jurisdiction where rule of law prevails, then this becomes a tragedy. 

We are all actors in this tragedy. The only remaining question is how many of us will sleepwalk into the final act of self-destruction.

Ryan Callus is a PN candidate on District 6

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