Time to send in the clowns

To be considered as a serious contender for power, the Labour Party has to come clean on its past.

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca did not find anything positive in the PN’s performance in government since 1987, ignored the Sant interlude and even emphasised the positive aspects of Labour’s 16-year stint.
Marie Louise Coleiro Preca did not find anything positive in the PN’s performance in government since 1987, ignored the Sant interlude and even emphasised the positive aspects of Labour’s 16-year stint.

Last Tuesday I participated in Joe Grima's 'Inkontri' on One TV. When I was invited to take part, I was told that the subject of the discussion was to be '25 years of Nationalist governments'. I actually wondered why this topic was chosen and I assumed that the thrust of the programme would be to push the idea that the PN has been too long in government and that it was about time for a change at the top.

There are of course, many aspects to this notion. Sweden, for example, had a forty-year spell during which it stuck to a Socialist-led government, and this situation eventually changed as a result of altered circumstances that had nothing to do with the fact that the Socialists had been in power for four decades.

I thought that the idea behind Grima's choice of topic was whether the PN today is a spent force - a notion that would have given rise to a very interesting discussion. Even so, this would have pushed the argument that come the next general election, the country should opt for Joseph Muscat's Labour by default. Although this might actually happen, electing someone in government by default is hardly inspiring: as uninspiring as the PN trying to be re-elected by default, by fomenting the assumption that the other side are worse.

In any case, I was to be disappointed.

The programme set off on - what I would have thought - was the wrong foot (from a Labour Party point of view), courtesy of an interview with Labour MP Marie Louise Coleiro. She did not find anything positive in the PN's performance in government since 1987, ignored the 1996-98 Alfred Sant interlude in government and even emphasised the positive aspects of Labour's 16-year (1971-1987) stint in government. This, not so incidentally, includes a number of years when she was the MLP's general secretary. In short, this interview set the tone of the programme to a discussion on the Mintoff/KMB era and how this compares with the PN's performance in government.

How's that for strategy? When I protested that a discussion on the past was a useless one that led to nowhere, Grima replied that this was all the Prime Minister's fault, for it was Lawrence Gonzi who was continually making reference to the past.

I could not believe my ears. Any streetwise six-year old with a notion of strategy would have immediately realised that in consistently referring to the past, the Prime Minister and the PN were consciously opting to 'do battle' on their turf. And the Labour Party is swallowing the bait, hook, line and sinker, by rising to the 'challenge' and defending what is considered to be indefensible by so many and what has, in practice, led to so many Labour defeats at the polls.

A large plank of Labour's electoral strategy seems to be to accept to debate with the PN on issues on which they have lost before even starting to discuss them - such as Mintoff's polices on tertiary education and his 'solving' the unemployment problem by enlisting young people in military corps.

I could go on and on, suffice to say that I did not hear one good argument listing any gaffes or errors of judgment of the different PN administrations since 1987 and that lead one to conclude that the PN does not deserve to be re-elected.

To be considered as a serious contender for power, the Labour Party has to come clean on its past, admit its mistakes and promise a bright future based on an inspiring new vision of how they want to see Malta develop and keep progressing. The PN has realised that Labour are not capable of shaking off the past and keeps on taunting Labour's old guard, provoking them to defend their record of the seventies which is more miserable than inspiring.

I have never seen anyone walking straight into a trap with such naïveté, oblivious of the perils they are foolishly rushing into.

***

A report in The Times last Monday about the teething problems being encountered by Enemalta Corporation with the emission system filters at the new Delimara Power station extension should have raised eyebrows.

When I wrote first about the decision on the award of the tender in The Sunday Times, way back in May 2009 I had said that 'it is obvious that the protection of the environment was not anywhere in the minds of whoever was behind the decision' adding that 'the proposal includes a complex system of filters' and that 'this filtering system gives rise to a number of environmental problems that can hardly be ignored'. On another occasion, I had pointed out that this filtering system had never been used on the scale proposed for Delimara and that, therefore, this was not proven technology; and hence in breach of one of the tender conditions.

A spokesman from Enemalta Corporation promptly rubbished me, followed by Austin Gatt whose frame of mind led him to believe that all objections to the award were simply in the service of a losing bidder; a frame of mind that hindered him from looking at the issue objectively. The Prime Minister then had the temerity of assuming the political responsibility for this highly complicated technical decision! Talk of fools rushing in!

The report in The Times last Monday explained that the filtering system included 2,200 bags that were to be replaced every two years and that the system 'is a prototype because it combines air filtering equipment with diesel engines run on heavy fuel oil'. And so the clause about proven technology in the tender conditions was put to rest - without nary a whisper!

This contract is the biggest blot on the environmental credentials of the current Lawrence Gonzi administration. Yet, when push came to shove, Labour opted to promote the allegation that the decision was prompted by corruption on the part of the politicians in the executive, rather than opposing it headlong as a terrible decision from the environmental perspective.

And so last Monday's report in The Times was given short shrift. The Labour Party leader was busy hosting the reception of a show in Dubai, his acolytes in Malta were busy defending Dom Mintoff's 'glorious' years and our so-called environmental organisations were busy colluding to choose who will be the next developer in their sights.

Perhaps it is time to send in the clowns!

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