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Saying it as it is: Part 2

In this great charade, anybody who questioned the veracity of these stories was called a Joseph Muscat ass licker or a stooge of the State. No one was allowed to have his own mind

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan
5 June 2017, 8:05am
Joseph Muscat still needs to have some serious checks and balances in place
Joseph Muscat still needs to have some serious checks and balances in place
I looked up the cartoon that accompanied the editorial that was written in the election special four years ago. It showed Daphne Caruana Galizia superimposed in the iconic painting by Edvard Munch entitled Scream. 

Then all fingers were pointed at Caruana Galizia for having contributed to the PN’s worst electoral defeat.  

Four years later I am tempted to re-use that cartoon, but really think that she is a diminished person with only one vocation. Should I single it out?

What hurts me most is that Simon Busuttil and Beppe Fenech Adami embraced her together with all the other PN MPs, using her as their reference point and building their campaign on her passion for vitriol and imaginary stories. Even Mario De Marco embraced her, even though she had only shown him disrespect, spite and disdain.

They ignored all warnings that for every singular truth she spoke, she spewed tonnes of imaginary gossip and lies.  

And worst of all, she was followed by a posse of loyal English-speaking loyalists who raised her to the seven heavens on social media and praised her as the best thing that hit the Maltese media.  

Her profile was so inflated that foreign journalists with little appreciation for her cruel history taught they had just stumbled on Malta’s version of Bob Woodward.

So when she came out with the Acapulco and Chris Cardona story, everyone believed her, even though there was no proof. Just detto del detto. And when she came out with Egrant, the same thing happened.

When it came to Brian Tonna and Keith Schembri, even though there were valid questions to be made, she postulated together with Simon Busuttil that the loan was a kickback related to the citizenship scheme. Even though there was no solid proof.

We stood by and refused to pressure ourselves to ask the valid question – but where is the proof?

It was like a scene out of a Colombo detective episode, a bonanza of speculation but no solid proof.

The same happened again with the FIAU reports, extracts which were selectively published without showing the final conclusions. A diabolical piece of journalism that was unashamedly digested by all those who wanted to believe Caruana Galizia.

Yesterday, instead of offering his resignation, Busuttil spoke on NET TV. In Maltese, we call it a pastazata. We followed Busuttil everywhere in the last four months, and now what does he do? He runs away. 

In this great charade, anybody who questioned the veracity of these stories was called a Joseph Muscat ass licker or a stooge of the State. No one was allowed to have his own mind.

The same happened when reports were specifically reproduced on The Malta Independent website minutes before the Peppi Azzopardi show on TVM (with no audience), purporting to show that Konrad Mizzi was on the take and that there were transfers from a Maltese company to a company in Dubai together with visits to Shanghai. No questions were asked, no individuals asked for comments. Just blatant accusations, with not one iota of proof. And then, if anyone questioned Pierre Portelli on his journalistic wisdom, he would resort to his Facebook page to regurgitate his venom back at them.

It got worse.  

On social media, anyone associated with those who did not share the enthusiasm of Simon Busuttil, Daphne Caruana Galizia and Matthew Caruana Galizia, were taken to the cleaners and called all sort of names.

Some audit firms (I’d rather not mention them but I could) and some real estate big boys were the first ones to jump on Busuttil’s bandwagon of fear.  

The poison that prevailed in the last weeks was unbelievable and shocking.

It shook people to the core.  People would remain silent and say nothing; keeping their ideas to themselves and promising themselves to exert their last form of influence – the vote.

When my private telephone logs were leaked on Caruana Galizia’s blog, there wasn’t solidarity but shock that I could have had such phone calls from such people. And accusations that the telephone call had led me to put pressure on my staff to censor or change stories. 

It was of course not true. In fact – the very next day, after this alleged phone call –MaltaToday carried an editorial on its front page calling on Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi to resign. It was the umpteenth time that MT had asked for their resignations after the Panama revelations but that did not matter.

In the last four weeks – as I have written – I chose not to post any tweets or comments to avoid unnecessary conflict.

But I had my views on the hypocrisy of Marlene Farrugia and Godfrey Farrugia. I also had my own opinion on Michael Brigulio’s stand in favour of the PN. Now it is rather irrelevant. PD's future is unclear, and all those who did not vote for AD simply voted for PL. 

It was not about what they had to say but rather about where they were coming from and what they were requesting.

They were asking to embrace a party that for 25 years had its own sordid proven history of corruption, decimation of the environment, nepotism and bad governance.

Most people would agree that governance is not exactly Muscat’s priority and that he failed in this department. But asking people to choose a kettle instead of a pot was not taken up by people.

This was the point.

Most of the pundits underestimated the intelligence and self-respect of the electorate.  I was surprised.  Most people cannot forget what it was like to be under a Nationalist administration. 

And I guess we needed the last reminder before election day when incredibly the new board of directors of the Today Public Policy Institute headed by Joe V Tabone and Petra Caruana Dingli disassociated itself from a newspaper column penned by the TPPI’s former chairperson, Martin Scicluna.

Scicluna had written in The Times: “The choice is between an untested, weak if likeable leader of the Opposition. And a flawed, but experienced, more politically savvy incumbent Prime Minister… Busuttil or Muscat? Both PL and PN have let Malta down. I would be sorely tempted to write ‘none of the above’ on the ballot paper.”

They went on to state, the ‘respected’ board of directors of the Today Public Policy Institute that they wished to unequivocally say that the author of that column was no longer associated with TPPI and that the Institute neither shared the writer’s sentiments or reflections on the electoral options nor his logic in reaching his voting conclusion.  

It was like a chapter from Charles Dickens.

It was perhaps a reflection of how ‘old PN’ looks at things. An intolerant posse of upper middle class self-conceited individuals who cannot pronounce skansafaċendi in Maltese and quite understand how people can have a different opinion and question the PN.  

Which is why the Nationalist Party needs a complete revamp: that is a new leader, new deputy leaders and a new secretary general and a new administration composed of people who look at people with some humility. But more importantly a party with a purpose.

Having said that, Joseph Muscat still needs to have some serious checks and balances in place. If, as expected, he will not learn from his previous self-declared mistakes and reappoint the same people, it is obvious that all that was said was simply worse than rhetoric.

This is also an administration that has an abysmal attitude towards giving business a green card to getting on with basically everything, in ignoring environmental considerations and a low public involvement in decision making process. This needs to be carefully monitored by the media. 

And more importantly, the level playing field that should exist for all citizens alike should be a reality not simply a boastful promise.

It is not going to be easy. With The Independent and The Sunday Times having solidly and blindly backed the PN and declared unwavering allegiance, MaltaToday remains the best placed to offer an independent and incisive outlook for readers blue, red, green and yellow.

Yes, we are the best placed to do real journalism without fear or favour. So stay with us for the next five years!

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