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michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon

The AUM debacle: panem at circenses?

The AUM dream seems to have vanished into thin air and the campus at Bormla is certainly not flourishing

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon
9 January 2018, 8:12am
Why should AUM keep holding on to its land at Zonqor, when the use of this land as originally projected has become unrealisable – a political mirage that is destined to remain a mirage?
Why should AUM keep holding on to its land at Zonqor, when the use of this land as originally projected has become unrealisable – a political mirage that is destined to remain a mirage?
The phrase “Panem at circenses’ which is attributed to the Roman satirical poet Juvenal (circa AD 100), emphasises that bread and circuses were the only remaining concerns of a Roman populace that no longer cared for its historical birthright of political involvement or anything else, for that matter.

I recalled the phrase while following news of the massive – although somewhat oversestimated – crowds that went into Valletta to celebrate New Year’s Eve a few days ago.

The economic boom that Malta is experiencing no doubt provides more than bread to the Maltese people. Add some entertainment and the great majority of the Maltese seem to be satisfied with the way things are going. And this year we are being promised so much entertainment, courtesy of Valletta being one of the 2018 European Capitals of Culture.

Nothing wrong with that – except that many are being tempted to believe that they live in a paradise where the existence of wily serpents can be ignored. To the extent that many are also being lulled to believe that, perhaps, these serpents do not exist after all. Or if these serpents are actually lurking behind tree trunks, they do not really care – enjoying, as they are, a bonanza of bread and circuses, courtesy of the current administration. This is a situation that puts the relevance of a serious Opposition in jeopardy. And as has been said ad nauseam, the country’s democratic credentials need a serious Opposition. For this is also a very important institution that is inherent in a democracy where the rule of law is a way of life and not some convenient phrase, a mantra that some keep on repeating when it suits them.

"How many points is the Opposition going to win as a result of this motion? Probably, zilch. While the Opposition’s move makes sense, it certainly does not make it more relevant than it is today. Meanwhile the people keep enjoying their bread and circuses."
Now that the internal rifts within the PN seem to be healing, the Opposition needs to become relevant again. Not by repeating inanities or adopting hypocritical stances but by positively criticising the government of the day and by being perceived as permanently prepared to take over the country’s administration whenever needed, particularly after an election.

Blaming the electorate for choosing bread and circuses, rather that the alternative that was touted as being serious – and promising to do everything above board – is certainly the wrong approach. The PN must acknowledge that the electorate was correct when it decided not to change horses in mid-stream, so to speak. This was a conscious decision taken by many and the reason behind it cannot be dismissed by the claim that many voters simply chose convenience and selfishness over what is right and proper.

The truth is that the PN did not project itself as the image of a party that is prepared to take over the administration of the country and improve on Joseph Muscat’s performance.

That is the ‘new’ way that the current PN leadership – that took over from the fracas left behind by an obviously sore set of losers – must start seeking. Admittedly, this is no easy task. But it is the only way that can make the PN relevant once more.

"The economic boom that Malta is experiencing no doubt provides more than bread to the Maltese people"
Adrian Delia is walking a tight rope. When he criticises the current administration, Labour quickly dismisses him as an extension of the negative approach of his predecessor – a perception that he must shake off. If, he says nothing, those who are still sore that he won the PN leadership contest will quickly accuse him of being in cahoots with Joseph Muscat.

The Parliamentary motion calling on the adminstration to take back the undeveloped land at Zonqor point that was ‘donated’ to the American University of Malta (AUM) is a case in point. Labour says this proposal is premature and that Delia is simply following the footsteps of Simon Busuttil.

Obviously, it is not. Had the AUM been the success it was touted to become or even managed to entice a respectable share of its declared target of students, the motion stood to be considered as the action of a desperate Opposition undermining an interesting and promising project in the south of Malta.

But the AUM dream seems to have vanished into thin air and the campus at Bormla is certainly not flourishing. Why should AUM keep holding on to its land at Zonqor, when the use of this land as originally projected has become unrealisable – a political mirage that is destined to remain a mirage? This is, of course, tending to become simply an academic argument – pun unintended. How relevant is this issue to the current poltical situation?

The answer is zilch.

How many points is the Opposition going to win as a result of this motion? Probably, zilch as well.

From this point of view, while the Opposition’s move makes sense, it certainly does not make it more relevant than it is today.

Meanwhile the people keep enjoying their bread and circuses.

Meritocracy – my foot!

The resignation of an Assistant Commissioner of Police – Mario Tonna – after he was reported for domestic violence was the talk of the town in the first week of the New Year.

This resignation should never have happened because the man in question has a very shifty record and should never have been promoted to the post that he occupied when he resigned.

The Police Force has been in the doldrums for a long time – even before Joseph Muscat became Prime Minister in 2013. Giving promotions to unworthy individuals just because of their political beliefs has made things worse.

Apart from the fact that it flies in the face of the promise of meritocracy that was banded about so much in the run-up of the 2013 election, this case should be an eye-opener.

In 2011, the then Inspector Tonna was found guilty of various criminal offences, including intimidating and harassing his superior, Superintendent Carmelo Bartolo.

In spite of his despicable record, he was first promoted to the role of superintendent in the summer of 2015 and then given the role of assistant commissioner last June.

His resignation just closes the case and allows Tonna to receive a pension in line with his last grade. I don’t see any punishment here.

Meanwhile, those who were responsible for his unjustified meteoretic rise in the Police Force also go unpunished.

Enjoying bread and circuses – rather than promoting discipline – seems to be everyone’s priority nowadays.

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon is a former government minister who served under several Nationalist admini...
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