The role of useful fools

In this case, the easiest way out would be for the authorities to publish the Attorney General’s actual minute rather than allowing yet another controversy based on different interpretations of what the minute actually said and implied

A 2010 BBC radio documentary titled ‘Useful Idiots’ listed among the “useful idiots” of Joseph Stalin several well-known writers, including H.G. Wells, Doris Lessing and George Bernard Shaw, because by exposing the social problems inherent in western democracies, they unwittingly helped Stalin in his endeavours to promote communism.

The phrase is also currently being used by self-styled ‘patriotic’ populists when describing those who consider the African migrant crisis from a humanitarian aspect. Those who defend saving migrants at sea as a matter of principle are considered to be ‘useful idiots’ who unwittingly help human traffickers making money from the migration phenomenon.

Sometimes, to be honest, the line between actually behaving like an idiot and purposely pretending to be an idiot is very hazy. But, as the saying goes, ignorance is not an acceptable excuse. It is an established principle that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law, merely because one was unaware of its content and implications. Moreover, persons engaged in any activities that are not common for normal persons are expected to become aware of the laws necessary to carry out the activities. If they do not they are fools - who could become useful to others with more despicable intentions.

In the current Maltese political scenario, the contribution of ‘useful fools’ who - directly or indirectly - unwittingly helped the illegal and criminal activities of politicians who abused power for their own advantage is very important. Those who helped the abuse by reneging on their duty should also be held accountable.

The former Police Commissioner, Lawrence Cutajar, has been described as a ‘useful fool’, precisely because his way of doing nothing was indirectly abetting the cause of those who were doing many things for which they should have been investigated.

Following his example, most of the top hierarchy of the Police Force proved to be ‘useful fools’ not by breaking the law but by ignoring those who were breaking the law. Testifying before the public inquiry on the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Assistant Police Commissioner, and former head of the Economic Crimes Unit, Ian Abdilla, last Wednesday had no reply when repeatedly asked why the police had not taken steps to question Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi after the Panama Papers revealed that they had opened accounts in that secret jurisdiction.

It results that no one mentioned in the Panama Papers was ever investigated, with the Police force acting as useful idiots, albeit there were some who decided to resign from their posts so as to avoid being indirect accomplices.

Abdilla complained that the Dubai authorities had not co-operated with the Maltese Police by not even bothering to reply to their queries. On the other hand,  a foreign journalist and Daphne’s son had gone to Dubai and obtained the information. This raises another question: was the information that revealed that Yorgen Fenech owned the Dubai company, 17 Black, obtained in Dubai through normal channels in a way that could be described as being ‘above board’? The already thick plot continues to thicken.

The story took yet another twist when towards the end of last Wednesday’s inquiry hearing, when Judge Said Pullicino referred to a file at the Economic Crimes Unit in which there is a minute written by the Attorney General, Peter Grech, advising the Unit to tread carefully regarding the Panama Papers because there was trouble brewing in the country. Abdilla said he did not recall this advice.

Sure enough, ever eager to show that he is the loosest cannon Malta has ever seen, Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi immediately recorded this claim on Facebook. He actually recorded, in his own words, what he recalled the Judge saying when he referred to the minute.

This means that no one knows what the exact words of the minute were and perhaps explains why the Attorney General immediately issued a statement saying that Jason Azzopardi had lied when he accused him of advising the Police not to investigate Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.

Sadly, even the Attorney General seems to qualify as yet another ‘useful fool’, but writing such a minute as described by Jason Azzopardi would be much more than that.

Alas, some seem to be enjoying these episodes in Malta’s current never-ending soap opera about a tragedy that revealed the shocking abuse of Malta’s rule of law that undermined our democratic credentials.

In this case, the easiest way out would be for the authorities to publish the Attorney General’s actual minute rather than allowing yet another controversy based on different interpretations of what the minute actually said and implied.

And so, it goes on and on...

Another useful fool

I do not pretend that I can form a valid opinion on the academic prowess of Professor Edward Scicluna who has served as the minister responsible for finance ever since Joseph Muscat’s first Cabinet after the 2013 election.

But I have no doubt that Scicluna has failed the test as a valid politician - and is proving that he is yet another ‘useful fool’ manipulated by the criminal clique that had the real power behind the facade presented by Joseph Muscat.

His defence of his role in the Montenegro wind farm scandal is pathetic. He ‘explained’ that whatever happened was the responsibility of Enemalta’s board of directors and that there was no input coming from the finance ministry.

Then he even went to assert that the Auditor General has every right to investigate the story as the government owned 66% of the company.

Ironically, this is the exact reason why, as finance minister, he had the duty to monitor what the company was doing - a duty that he flagrantly disregarded.

He also had the duty to monitor the scandalous Vitals contract that involved the government’s coffers directly. In that case, again, he proved to be a ‘useful fool’ manipulated by a cunning con man called Konrad Mizzi. His ministry should have monitored Konrad Mizzi’s pseudo-tenders and the processing of their ‘award’ as well as the wording of the eventual contracts, but it preferred to do nothing.

I do not believe that Scicluna has personally pocketed anything from these shady deals but he is as guilty as hell for letting them happen when he had the power and the duty to stop them.