For the greater good

When Joseph Muscat fell from grace, those that believed in him and stood by him, cried not because he left; but because they suddenly realised to what extent they had been used and deceived

In the last six months I seem to have learnt more about this country than I could ever have in my long years of journalism.

The allowances you make for people, the belief that people are sincere at face-value, or just only remotely motivated by a greater good, came tumbling down all of a sudden.

I really thought that in 2013 my kind of politics had somehow returned to where it had originally kicked off, and that my political experience was reaching a full circle. As a young activist, I followed an ideology that upheld social justice, liberal ideas and the protection of the environment. I secretively rooted for Dom Mintoff’s strain of anti-clericalism, class struggle and anti-colonial streak.

That was obviously very naïve of me. The 1980s, during my coming of age, was a sad time for Maltese socialism. Worse: it was an ugly time. Violence, thuggery and corruption was palpable, right in your face.

So third-party politics and the media gave me a choice and an alternative home when the Nationalist Party was elected to govern (for the next 25 years as it happened…).

Joseph Muscat’s success in 2013 was not simply a victory for Labourites. It seemed that finally, a decent social democratic party had been borne from the ashes of what had once been the Labour Party as we knew it. Muscat was no Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, and neither Alfred Sant. He appeared bright and modern, with a willingness to have Labour navigate new waters and embrace a warmer, more inclusive form of politics.

And yet, I simply did not see then that there had been a deep-rooted plan anchored in self-interest. I doubt anyone would have seen back the how corrupted that project turned out to be.

And I have to return to what I wrote back in December 2019. That after the revelations showing to what extent Muscat knew (after October 2017) about the plot to kill Caruana Galizia and the implication of his chief of staff Keith Schembri, this country deserved to have a clear, unequivocal riposte to this national calamity.

It needed a fresh, national election with new faces and political leaders.

Instead we got the election of a new party leader, and it was straight to business as usual after that.

But with what have we learnt since November 2019, we now know this government has lost much of its legitimacy and any new leader in his right senses would need to turn to the electorate for a mandate. Even though most of the Muscat Cabinet and others were possibly deceived, it is clear that this democracy deserves a fresh start.

Today’s MPs owe all their positions to Joseph Muscat. If Muscat were to face criminal investigations, their continued existence as representatives of the people would be in question.

It is even more complicated than that. Apart from a plot to deceive the media on the Caruana Galizia investigation and on so many other multi-million euro government projects, it was Muscat who decided to hand that lowlife loan shark Melvin Theuma a pardon. And this when recordings, albeit by Theuma himself, show how close Theuma was to people close to Muscat in Castille and to the Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar.

If – and only if – Muscat does face judicial procedures, then I would not hesitate in saying that Robert Abela would have no choice but to turn to the electorate and call for a new mandate.

That should have been the battle-cry of the Nationalist Party in December, but with Adrian Delia at the helm as leader, the PN lacked the guidance and capability to even stand in the political arena and call out for justice.

For this country not only lacks self-respect, but also an opposition with a soul. And I am not too sure that Bernard Grech will fix this perception with his clear vegetable broth of politics.

It is Muscat who gave the Labour Party two earth-shattering electoral victories; it was Muscat who demolished the Opposition; who constructed a bogus ‘movement’ of willing allies and unquestioning adulators; who weaponised their weaknesses so that they could do his bidding.

When he fell from grace, those that believed in him and stood by him, cried not because he left; but because they suddenly realised to what extent they had been used and deceived.

I am even more shocked when I am told that Muscat’s spouse Michelle Muscat makes it a point to remind anyone with a link to her husband’s administration, that they owe their position to the Muscats. It’s an incredible utterance considering how many people stood by them when the proverbial ‘shit’ hit the fan early on in the Muscat administration.

The great pity is that Melvin Theuma is only saying part of the whole story here. You could argue that with his contradictions and lies, his pardon should be withdrawn. But if it is withdrawn, the whole case risks collapsing. And are we in a position to see the investigations crumble? Certainly not. And would that be followed by some plea bargaining with any of the accused to bring down more politically exposed people? One wonders.

In the last six months, I have had to review my esteem for many people I once considered more than simple acquaintances. I believe many people share this same opinion. I revisited many of the stories I have written; the opinions I penned; the arguments I put forward. I spent long nights defending people like Muscat and Keith Schembri.

Like most Maltese I want closure for this heinous crime. But it cannot be a piecemeal approach. It must ensure that all the culprits are apprehended and everyone made to pay the price they deserve.

Everyone who is culpable must be brought to justice.

And it cannot stop with the murder. It cannot stop with the other murders, the bombs and the heists. It must get to the economic crimes, the ones that will uncover the wider web of corruption that exists in this country.

And that it is why, Robert Abela needs to call an election.

How can he govern, if his legacy is not his, but that of Joseph Muscat? He needs a new manifesto, a new direction. One that inspires and raises people’s hopes, not one that is shaped to win votes only at all costs.

Abela needs to understand this. His brand of politics cannot be some Giovanna-Debono-type of politics. A new administration needs to engage with leaders, with people who are ready to engage, businesses that want to invest, and which embraces civil society.

I cannot see it happening with the Cabinet we have today. We need to see the bigger picture for the greater good. And for that to happen we need a fresh start.