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Politicians cannot reopen old wounds

We need our leaders not just to find the solution to our ills, but to also remind us of our humanity and compassion at times of collective grief and crisis

Alex Sciberras
25 October 2017, 8:52am
Martin Luther King once said: 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy'.

The brutal, heinous and despicable murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia is surely one of the most challenging and controversial events in our nation’s history. It has rocked our foundations and forces us to ask very serious and sombre questions about ourselves and the country we want to live in. It brought out the best and the worst in us, with deep feelings of sadness, anger and confusion all mired in the murky spitefulness that can be seen across social media. 

It is in times like these that people turn to their leaders. Not for direction, but inspiration. Not to be told what to do, but to find some measure of solace and comfort that we are and can be better. We need our leaders not just to find the solution to our ills, but to also remind us of our humanity and compassion at times of collective grief and crisis. 

In ordinary circumstances, Adrian Delia may have been forgiven for fumbling his first official address to our highest institution. But in times of crisis, we expect to see the measure of the man, not the measure of his politics. The sheer ineptitude and complete misunderstanding of sense of occasion was not only disappointing, but worse still, dangerous. 

In his reaction to this most gruesome tragedy, Delia showed us that he’d rather play petty politics than statesman. He was more keenly interested in attempting to unite behind him his parliamentary group, which has very publicly shunned him, rather than trying to unite a nation that’s hurting. 

None of this bodes well for any of us. 

The election of Delia should have heralded the start of a better, more mature politics. For too long have we taken our political allegiances too seriously in this country, and we all ache for a time when those allegiances do not consume the lion’s share of our conversations, drive our bickering, or determine choices in our private lives. 

"We haven’t managed to shun the shadow of our political past. Old hurts, passed from one generation to the next, still rear their heads"
We have come far as a country and people, but we have not managed yet to shun the shadow of our political past entirely. Old hurts, passed from one generation to the next, still rear their heads come election time. Old friends stop talking, and families go quiet. The events of the past week could have been cathartic, allowing for a collective healing and a break from sins of the past that we still carry with us. Instead, Dr Delia came up very short, deciding that reigniting old divides served him better. 

I would usually say it is way too soon to measure a leader and what effect they may have on our politics. But considering the importance and permanence of these events, Dr Delia’s grave miscalculations have already irreparably marked his leadership. 

Despite having been elected on the cry of ousting the hidden establishment that has held the Nationalist Party hostage for the last decade, which has led it to catastrophic results, he has himself, in less than a month, become its captive. Like his predecessor, he has rehashed the mantra that our institutions are rotten and failing. Just as we have unfortunately grown accustomed to over the last few years, he chose to attack people who hold important constitutional roles, as if our shortfalls lie in those same people rather than the ineptitude of those institutions in these changing times.

What Delia, like his predecessor, fails to understand is that the Opposition is also an institution, which has been gutted and rendered barren by a small core of people whose thirst for power knows no bounds. 

If there was hope that the election of Adrian Delia could have been the start of a new politics in our country, that hope disintegrated this week. The opportunity to open a debate on constitutional reform, which we desperately need if we are to see our institutions regain their standing, is gone and is once again deferred to another generation. And with it too, we have lost the chance to see an Opposition that is an alternative to the government of the day, having the moral authority to hold it to account. Unfortunately the days in the wilderness for the Nationalist Party are here to stay.

Unfortunately for us all, Delia’s new politics has too quickly proven to be a very old one. His leadership will further entrench our politics, perpetuate old hurts and stultify the progress that our country needs.

Alex Sciberras is a former Labour mayor of Msida, and Air Malta director
DealToday
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